The Valparaiso Crusaders defeated UIC 14-5 on Sunday at UIC’s Les Miller Field in Chicago to claim the 2012 Horizon League Baseball Championship.
The Crusaders led 6-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning when they exploded for eight runs to take control of the game. Elliott Martin opened the frame by sending the first pitch sent his way over the leftfield wall for just his second home run of the year. With one out, Valparaiso’s next five batters all reached base safely as the Crusaders increased their lead to 9-5. With two outs and the bases loaded, John Loeffler hit a double to deep left-centerfield to clear the bases and give the Crusaders a 12-5 lead. Elliott Martin singled in Loeffler and then scored when Spencer Mahoney tripled him in as Valpo exited the inning with a 14-5 lead.
After watching UIC take a 5-3 lead with a three-run fifth inning, the Crusaders re-took the lead with a three run inning of their own. Valparaiso had two-on and two-out when Mahoney singled to score Chris Manning. Tournament MVP Mark Johnson then drove in two more runs to give Valpo a lead they would never give up.
Sunday was a nice change from Saturday for the Crusaders, who scored three runs in the bottom of the 1st to take the early lead and momentum after watching UIC score three runs in the first inning yesterday.
Andrew Bain and Tanner Vavra opened the Crusaders’ half of the inning with singles. Two outs and a walk later, Valparaiso had the bases loaded and they scored their first run of the game when Mahoney walked. The next batter, Mark Johnson, gave Valpo a 3-0 lead with a double to deep centerfield which scored Chris Manning and Martin.
Johnson finished the game 3-for-5 with four RBIs. Mahoney went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and Loeffler also had three RBIs for the Crusaders as five Valpo batters had two or more hits.
Tyler Deetjen was the winning pitcher after coming on in relief and pitching 3.1 innings and allowing only one run.
The Flames got on the board in the top of the third. UIC had Alex De LaRosa on second base with two outs when Joe Betcher hit a triple to deep left-centerfield to score De LaRosa. After a walk, Jon Ryan singled to score Betcher and get the Flames within one, 3-2.
Betcher finished the game 3-for-5 for the Flames with two runs scored and one RBI. Alex Jurich, Nick Addison and John Coen all finished with two hits for UIC.
The Crusaders will find out their NCAA opponent and destination on Monday at noon ET. The selection show will air on ESPNU. This will be Valparaiso's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1968.
P – Blake Aquadro, Youngstown State
P – Tyler Deetjen, Valparaiso
C – Corey Davis, Wright State
1B – Alex Grunenwald, UIC
2B – Tanner Vavra, Valparaiso
SS – Spencer Mahoney, Valparaiso
3B – Joe Betcher, UIC
OF – Jonathan Capasso, Milwaukee
OF – Mark Johnson, Valparaiso (MVP)
OF - Alex De LaRosa, UIC
U – John Loeffler, Valparaiso