Valparaiso evens series with Salukis


Corrin Hunt

Southern Illinois infielder Connor Kopach (7) bunts the ball, Saturday, April 7, 2018, during the Valparaiso University Crusaders 6-2 victory against the Southern Illinois Salukis at Itchy Jones Stadium. (Corrin Hunt | @CorrinIHunt)

By Nathan Dodd, Sports Editor

On a cool day for a baseball game at Itchy Jones Stadium in Carbondale, runs were surprisingly not at a premium.

In the second matchup of a three-game series, the Valparaiso Crusaders (9-17, 2-3 MVC) put themselves in prime position to even the series with an offensive breakout and a stellar pitching performance.

Led by a complete-game gem from senior starting pitcher Trey Ferketic, the Crusaders claimed a 6-2 victory over the Salukis.


“Just a bad day,” head coach Ken Henderson said. “We weren’t very good in any area of the game. If you’re going to play baseball, you’re going to have a bad day every now and then.”

After an error on freshman center fielder Brad Hudson and a single, the Crusaders struck first on a two-out RBI fielder’s choice by senior designated hitter Giovanni Garbella for a 1-0 lead.

Held scoreless in their half of the first, the Salukis opened the second inning with a double by senior first baseman Logan Blackfan. Senior designated hitter Drew Curtis then muscled a two-run home run through the brisk, 40-degree air for a 2-1 lead — his second straight game with a homer.

Blackfan and Curtis each had one hit and one run scored in the contest.

Down a run in the third, Valpo rattled off two straight singles to lead off the inning. However, SIU senior starting pitcher Jamison Steege buckled down and recorded three consecutive flyouts to end the rally.

After they were held scoreless for three innings, the Crusaders got to Steege in the top of the fifth. Following a double and a single, Garbella cranked a three-run homer to right field and earned Valpo a 4-2 advantage.

Valparaiso continued its fifth-inning rally after Steege walked two and surrendered a single. With the bases loaded, senior center fielder Jayden Eggiman drew an RBI walk and knocked Steege out of the game.


In relief, senior reliever Allen Montgomery immediately forced an infield flyout and worked out of trouble. Steege ended the day with five runs — four earned — on eight hits, five walks and three strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work and, eventually, took the loss.

“Jamison’s been really good for us all year,” Henderson said. “Just like everybody else, he had an off day. He’s a guy that’s going to pound the zone and he just had an off day.”

Montgomery worked into a tight situation in the sixth, however. After a single and two walks, he stranded the bases loaded for the second straight inning with a strikeout and a groundout, holding the score at 5-2.

“We can’t keep putting ourselves in those predicaments,” Henderson said. “The story of the day on the mound is his walks.”

Looking for insurance in the eighth, Valparaiso put runners on first and second with a single and a walk, forcing Montgomery out of the game.

Freshman Noah Farmer came in for the Salukis with one out and, following a passed ball, allowed an RBI groundout to junior first baseman Brent Jones. After he retired the next batter, Valpo carried a 6-2 lead to the bottom of the inning.

Running out of opportunities, Southern could not get anything going against Ferketic. Since the two-run shot Ferketic allowed in the second, he held the Salukis scoreless for the remainder of the game and sealed the 6-2 win.

“He threw strikes and was commanding his breaking pitch,” Henderson said. “He just made us beat him and we didn’t do it.”

Ferketic (3-2) earned the victory with nine hits, two walks, two runs and seven strikeouts in the complete game.

The Salukis (16-14, 3-2 MVC) will face off against Valpo for the rubber game of the series on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.

“Bad days happen, we’ll be ready to get them tomorrow,” Henderson said. “Win a series, that’s always the goal.”

Sports editor Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

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