Seventh Heaven: Baseball Wins Horizon League Regular Season Title
May 17, 2008
Chicago, Ill.- Kevin Coddington's walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning of Saturday's doubleheader nightcap propelled the UIC baseball team to a 7-6 comeback win over Valparaiso that clinched the Flames' seventh straight Horizon League regular season title.
UIC (31-19 overall, 17-6 Horizon League) also won Saturday's opening game in dramatic ninth-inning fashion to sweep their doubleheader against the Crusaders (18-33, 8-13).
As regular season champions, the Flames secured the No. 1 seed in next week's Horizon League Baseball Championship presented by U.S. Army.
Game 2: UIC 7, Valparaiso 6
The Flames erased a one-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back two-out RBI hits by Brett Schaefer and Coddington, the latter driving in the winning tally in a title-clinching 7-6 victory.
Left-hander Don Phillis tossed six-plus innings of superb relief to keep the Flames within striking distance.
UIC trailed 6-5 heading into the ninth and facing Crusader closer Jarad Miller, the Horizon League leader in saves. The Flames were down to their final strike with Ty Rubio on first and Schaefer at the plate before the junior first baseman dunked a fly ball into center that a diving Dan DeBruin was unable to keep in his glove, allowing a sprinting Rubio to score the tying run as Schaefer slid into third.
That brought up Coddington, who hit a slow-moving grounder to second that the UIC catcher was able to beat for an infield base hit while driving in Schaefer with the winning run.
Valparaiso had led the entire game, scoring five times in the first three innings. UIC cut the deficit down to one on three different occasions before the decisive ninth.
Phillis was summoned to the mound with one out in the third, and he delivered. The sophomore southpaw allowed just one run the rest of the way to collect his sixth win of the year.
Schaefer finished the second game 3-for-5 with three RBI, extending his team-leading total to 51.
Game 1: UIC 8, Valparaiso 7
A controversial game-ending double play prevented the Flames from blowing a four-run ninth-inning lead as UIC won the day's opening contest over Valparaiso, 8-7.
UIC was ahead 8-4 in the top of the ninth and sent closer Adam Worthington to the bump. Six of the first seven hitters he faced reached safely, cutting the Flames' lead down to one with the bases loaded and only one out.
Matt Lenski hit a ground ball to Schaefer at first, who threw to Garcia covering second to get one. The UIC shortstop zipped a throw to Worthington covering first for what appeared to be a double play, but the first base umpire called Lenski safe as the tying run crossed the plate. The umpires huddled to ensure the correct call was made, and after the conference the first base umpire called Lenski out to end the game.
Garcia's fielding error in the top of the second allowed Valparaiso to score the game's first run, but the rookie shortstop responded in the Flames' half of the frame by hitting a two-run shot over the left field wall that ended up putting the hosts ahead for good.
The two teams exchanged runs in the third, and the Crusaders trimmed their disadvantage to a single run in the sixth. UIC responded with a three-run spurt in the bottom half of the sixth thanks to Jake Carr's RBI single and Schaefer's subsequent two-run blast.
Saturday's two wins gave UIC 31 victories for the season, the ninth consecutive year that UIC has won 30-plus games.
UIC will begin the 2008 Horizon Baseball Championship presented by U.S. Army on Thursday, May 22 at 7 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Central at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio.