Flames Advance to Horizon League Title Game; Defeat Valpo 4-3

Senior pitcher Chris Hoffman picked up the win on Saturday versus Valpo.
Senior pitcher Chris Hoffman picked up the win on Saturday versus Valpo.

May 26, 2012

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CHICAGO – The fourth-seeded UIC baseball team defeated No. 1 seed Valparaiso, 4-3, on Saturday evening to force a winner-take-all Horizon League Championship Game on Sunday at Les Miller Field with first pitch slated for noon CST.  With the scored knotted at 3-3, the Flames plated the game-winning run in the top of the eighth inning, advancing to their first conference title game since 2009. 

“I just couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” said head coach Mike Dee.  “I think we are playing just about as well as we can play right now and as a coach that’s all you can ask for.”

Sophomore pitcher Mike Schoolcraft received his first career start and gave the Flames a solid performance, yielding just four hits and two runs over 4.2 innings.  Freshman Tim Tarter and senior Chris Hoffman came in for relief and gave up a combined two hits over 4.1 innings to silence the Crusaders.

The Flames jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning as Jacob McNamara was walked to begin the contest.  He was pushed over to second on a sacrifice bunt by Alex De LaRosa and then sent across the dish on a two-run bomb by Joe Betcher.  The next batter, Alex Grunenwald, ripped a double down the right field line and was able to scamper home when Alex Lee reached base on a throwing error by the Valpo shortstop.

The Crusaders answered back with a run in bottom half of the first frame as John Loeffler drove in Chris Manning on a double down the right field line.

Valpo added another lone run in the bottom of the fifth inning as Tanner Vavra scored off a single to right field by Manning, cutting UIC’s lead down to 3-2.

The Crusaders tallied another score in the bottom of the seventh inning as Andrew Bain trotted home on a groundout by Loeffler, knotting the score at 3-3.

UIC retook the lead in the top half on the half of the eighth inning with Betcher starting the frame smacking a double down the left field line.  Gruenenwald laid down a sacrifice bunt that sent Betcher over to third and Ryan joined him on base with a walk.  Alex Lee then reached on a fielder’s choice as Betcher was thrown out at the plate and Ryan moved over to second.  Jurich eventually plated Ryan on a single to center field, giving the Flames its fourth win of the tournament.

UIC has won the Horizon League Tournament four times since 2003 and also claimed victory the last time they hosted back in 2007.