NKU Can’t Hold Lead, Drops Game 2

NKU scored 7 runs and were lead by Matt Ianni on the mound to take down Northwestern 7-1.

NKU scored 7 runs and were lead by Matt Ianni on the mound to take down Northwestern 7-1.

Christopher Decker , Assistant Sports Editor

The Northern Kentucky University baseball team fell to Valparaiso in game two of the series Saturday 6-4, after taking a 3-2 lead into the eighth inning. Trevor Haas got the win for the Crusaders while Kevin Herren took the loss for the Norse.

The Norse scored three of their four runs in the first inning, after Logan Spurlin and Trey Ganns both hit force outs to score Connor Ledger and Quint Heady. Valparaiso second basemen then made an error on a ground ball by Dominic Mercurio that plated Will Haueter, giving the Norse a two-run lead.

The Norse bats went quiet after that, only scoring one more run in the game, leaving eight men on base and only recording nine hits. The Norse could not take advantage of two more Crusader errors throughout the game.

“That was a win for them that inning,” NKU Head Coach Todd Asalon said. “We had a couple of groundouts by our big guys when they are supposed to be driving in runs. We are always one hit away from winning games but to this point we aren’t getting that hit.”

Norse starting pitcher Justin Watts started the game off slow, giving up a hit, a walk, and a run in the first inning. Watts settled down a bit after that and grinded out the rest of the game, throwing 6 innings of six-hit baseball and struck out five Crusaders. Watts did walk four batters and threw 116 pitches in those 6 innings, but only threw 71 strikes.

“It was a great effort from him,” Asalon said. “But at the same time he has to learn he can’t go full count on every hitter and he has to be more economical with his pitches. He pitched well enough for us to win the game but for him to be better he has to throw more strikes.”  

Crusader pitcher Trevor Haas also recovered well after the giving up three runs in the first inning. He did not give up a run after the first inning and pitched into the eighth inning, striking out six batters and giving up eight hits.

The score remained the same through the seventh inning, until left fielder Nolan Lodden crushed a sacrifice fly off Norse pitcher Kevin Herren to center field that scored third basemen Gio Garbella, cutting the Norse lead to 3-2.  

The Crusaders took advantage of Herren in the eighth inning when Jordan Clark doubled to begin the inning. First basemen Shea Molitor then singled to left, scoring Clark to tie the game at 3. Herren was then chased from the game after Sam Shaikin reached on a bunt.

Tyler Miller replaced Herren on the mound, but couldn’t stop the Crusader rally. The next batter Scott Kapers singled in Moliter to give Valpo the lead 4-3. After a sacrifice bunt and a swinging bunt out, Charlie Jerger replaced Miller on the mound, and proceeded to give up a run on a wild pitch, giving the Crusaders a 5-3 lead.

The Norse made a small rally in the bottom of the eighth, when Spurlin and Ganns lead off with singles in the inning. Mercurio then singled to score Spurlin, cutting the Crusader lead to 5-4. The Norse then stranded Mercurio and pinch runner Billy Marion.

The Crusaders added a run when Daniel Delaney homered to center field off of Jerger to extend the lead to 6-4. The Norse came back in the bottom of the ninth to putting a man on first base, but could not capitalize.   

The Norse once again gave up too many free bases and were plagued by mistakes. The Norse were called for interference two different times in the game. Kyle Colletta was called for interference after he slide into second base and rolled over on his back. Brad Bohlen was called for interference at the plate later in the game when Valpo tried to pick off Billy Marion in the eighth inning, which killed the Norse rally in that inning. Watts also walked four batters and the Norse threw two wild pitches in the game.

“We have to clean up some things,” Asalon said. “We self-inflict ourselves with wounds and things that just can’t happen at this stage of the game against a good team like Valpo.”  

Shortstop Dominic Mercurio had one of his best games of the season, going 2-4 with an RBI after hitting .234 through the first 17 games. Meanwhile, freshman Will Haueter extended his hit streak to 16 games with his 25th hit of the season while scoring a run and taking a walk. Logan Spurlin also starred in the Norse offense, going 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

The Norse will be back at Bill Aker Baseball Complex Sunday for the final game of the three game set with Valpo, with first pitch set for noon. The lefty Ganns will take the ball for the Norse while Valpo will send out junior right hander Mario Losi.