Dayton, Ohio -- Valparaiso scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to rally and defeat the Youngstown State baseball team 8-6 in an elimination game at the 2011 Horizon League Baseball Championship.
The No. 4 Crusaders move on to play No. 1 Wright State on Sunday in the championship round while No. 6 YSU bows out of the tournament in third place.
The Penguins finish the season 14-41, but they had a strong season this week in Dayton. Youngstown State last won two games in the Horizon League Tournament in 2007, and the Penguins finished at least third for the first time since 2005. The only better year in the postseason was 2004 when the Penguins went 4-0 and won the Horizon League Baseball Championship en route to a berth in the Austin Regional.
After eliminating No. 2 UIC Saturday morning and beating No. 3 Milwaukee in the opening round, the Penguins gave the fourth-seeded Crusaders all they could handle.
Youngstown State built a 3-0 lead after the top of the third and led 6-5 after the top of the seventh.
The Penguins got two unearned runs in the first thanks to two Valpo errors. After Neil Schroth singled, Joe Iacobucci hit a bloop single to center. Schroth hustled to third on the play, and the throw went out of play to move everyone up two bags. Iacobucci then scored the second run when Chris Mitko's grounder to short was mishandled.
Schroth then hit a one-out double in the third and scored on Iacobucci's two-out RBI single to right.
Valpo's bats woke up in the bottom of the third as the Crusaders started the inning with five straight hits. Will Hagel drove in the first two runs with a bases-loaded single to right, and Kyle Gaedele followed with a two-run double to right center to give Valpo its first lead at 4-3. Dearth got out of the inning without any further damage with a fly out, a grounder with the infield in and a pop out.
The Crusaders added a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly to go up 5-3.
Youngstown State got a run back when Jeremy Banks singled in Schroth. Schroth drew a one-out walk and moved to third on a wild pitch and passed ball. The Penguins then reclaimed the lead in the seventh when Chris Mitko delivered a two-run single with the bases loaded to score Drew Dosch and Schroth.
Valpo, though, reclaimed the lead in the seventh with three runs, two of which were unearned. Gaedele led off with a double, and he went to third on a fly ball to center. Reliever Erik Okleson then hit Bobby Martin with a 1-2 pitch to put the go-ahead runner on. Steven Scoby then hit a chopper to Banks' left, and the first baseman threw wild trying to get Gaedele at the plate. Okleson walked Corey Thibault intentionally to load the bases and put the force in effect everywhere, and Robert Switka came in. Ninth hitter Michael Morman singled in the go-ahead run in the next at bat, and Andrew Bain brought in Scoby with a sacrifice fly.
The Penguins stranded two runners in the eighth, and a double play on a hard shot to the mound hurt a rally chance in the ninth.
Schroth went 2-for-3 and scored four runs, and Iacobucci and Mitko had two hits apiece. Bain and Hagel had three hits for Valpo.
Okleson suffered the loss, allowing three runs on two hits in three innings. Only one of those runs were earned. Blake Aquadro added to his impressive tournament resume by throwing a scoreless eighth.
Kevin Wild allowed two runs in 2.1 innings of relief for Valpo to earn the win. Steve Godawa worked around a leadoff walk to earn the save in a scoreless ninth.
YSU's Tournament Recap:
- #6 Youngstown State 4, #3 Milwaukee 2 (May 25)
- #1 Wright State 12, Youngstown State 0 (May 27)
- Youngstown State 12, #2 UIC 7 (May 28)
- #4 Valparaiso 8, Youngstown State 6 (May 28)