Grand Opening: Valpo Baseball debuts new turf with two walk-off wins

The Valparaiso University baseball team broke in its new field turf in celebratory style on Friday afternoon. Then, the team did it again on Friday evening.

A day that was already noteworthy for the program with the first games at the newly-renovated Emory G. Bauer Field became extraordinary when Valpo won both games of a doubleheader against Missouri Valley Conference foe Southern Illinois in walk-off fashion. Jonathan Temple (Turlock, Calif. / Turlock [Modesto JC]) delivered a pinch-hit, game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth of Game 1 to secure a 7-6 victory, then it was Riley Dent’s (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) turn to provide the heroics in Game 2 when he delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh to cap a four-run rally for a 4-3 triumph.  

How It Happened – Game 1

  • After Southern Illinois pushed across a pair of unearned runs in the top of the first, Valpo responded by tying the game in the bottom of the second. Parker Johnson (Golden Valley, Minn. / Hopkins) ripped a double down the left-field line to plate one, then he scored the tying run on a single up the middle by Angel DiFederico (New Haven, Ind. / New Haven).
  • On a day where the wind favored the hitters, Evan Martin started a danger-filled affair with a two-run homer in the top of the third. Kaleb Hannahs (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) responded with a two-run job of his own in the bottom of the frame to level the score at four. DiFederico added an RBI double to put the Brown & Gold ahead 5-4.
  • SIU got back to even on a Nick Neville home run in the fifth, then Johnson launched a solo blast in the sixth to tilt the score back in Valpo’s favor at 6-5.
  • It remained that way until the top of the ninth inning when SIU’s Cody Cleveland drilled a game-tying home run to make it 6-6. That came against Nathan Chasey (Ames, Iowa / Gilbert [Indian Hills CC]) and was the lone blemish of a strong relief outing during which the righty allowed just the one run on two hits and struck out five of 3 1/3 innings. Chasey had come on in relief of Ryan Mintz (Lombard, Ill. / Willowbrook), who started and went five frames while yielding three earned runs on seven hits.
  • Recognizing the importance of preventing further damage in the top of the ninth, head coach Brian Schmack inserted Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland), the scheduled starter for Game 2, following the Cleveland homer. Rhodehouse got the final two outs of the frame.  
  • The sixth home run of the game is the one everyone will remember, as Temple came into the contest as a pinch hitter to lead off the bottom of the ninth. He drilled the game-ending blast, putting the finishing touches on a Game-1 slugfest.  

How It Happened – Game 2

  • While Game 1 felt like a home-run derby on a warm, windy day, temperatures cooled for Game 2, which proved to be a pitchers’ duel. Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) made his first start of the season and did not disappoint, scattering six hits while racking up a season-high nine strikeouts over five scoreless innings.
  • Valpo had a golden scoring chance in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and one away, but SIU wiggled out of it unscathed as the game remained scoreless.
  • Rhodehouse came in for the sixth and put up a zero, but he was touched for the first run of the game in the seventh, an unearned tally. He was charged with another unearned run after his departure, and by the time the third out of the inning was recorded, SIU held a 3-0 lead and appeared to be on the verge of salvaging a doubleheader split.
  • However, the Valpo offense had some late-inning magic in store. An error, a walk, and a single loaded the bases, then pinch hitter Matt Olive (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School) was hit by a pitch to force in a run. Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) yanked a game-tying, two-run single to left to make it 3-3, then Dent delivered the game-winning hit as Valpo walked off for the second time in as many games.

Inside the Games

  • Temple drilled Valpo’s first walk-off home run since Zack Leone on March 30, 2018, vs. Bradley. Both came on special occasions as Leone’s provided Valpo’s first-ever Missouri Valley Conference win, while Temple’s came in the first game on the new turf.
  • Temple’s blow also marked Valpo’s first pinch-hit blast since Nate Palace on April 21, 2017, at Northern Kentucky.
  • Temple picked a good time for his first home run in a Valpo uniform.
  • Johnson collected three hits in Game 1 to tie his season-high, while DiFederico notched a pair of base knocks. The home run by Hannahs was his second of the season, while Johnson also launched the second big fly of his freshman campaign.
  • Schmack and Hannahs had two hits apiece in the nightcap.
  • Tieman’s nine strikeouts lifted his career total to 227 and allowed him to climb past Tom Starck (2001-2004, 222) for seventh on the program’s all-time strikeout list.
  • Valpo now has three one-run victories this season. The team has swept doubleheaders on two occasions this year, the first coming on March 13 at Middle Tennessee State.
  • The wins came over a Southern Illinois team that started the season 14-0 and was nationally ranked earlier in the year.
  • Valpo now owns a five-game head-to-head winning streak over Southern Illinois, all at Emory G. Bauer Field. The Brown & Gold swept a three-game set in 2019.
  • Valpo had played 45 consecutive games away from home dating back to the 2019 season prior to Friday’s home opener. Valpo was the final team in the nation to open the home portion of its schedule.

Up Next

Valpo (7-20, 2-8) and Southern Illinois (25-11, 5-8) will continue the series at 1 p.m. on Saturday, weather permitting. Links to live coverage are available on ValpoAthletics.com. Check back to ValpoAthletics.com for any weather-related changes to the schedule for the remainder of the weekend.