May 20, 2009

Vikings Top Valparaiso, 4-2, To Open League Championship

May 20, 2009

Final Stats

Contact: Greg Murphy

LORAIN, Ohio - Ryan Franks and Travis Miller drove in two runs each and Miller picked up his fourth save of the season as fifth-seeded Cleveland State opened the Horizon League Championship with a 4-2 victory over fourth-seeded Valparaiso on Wednesday at The Pipe Yard.

The Vikings improved to 21-29 with the win and advance to face top-seeded UIC at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 21, at The Pipe Yard. Valpo fell to 27-22 this season and will face seventh-seeded Butler in an 11:00 a.m. elimination game on Thursday. The Bulldogs lost to third-seeded Wright State in Wednesday's other game.

"This was a good win for us," head coach Kevin Kocks said. "We got solid pitching and timely hitting and that's what you need to win in the tournament. But we are not done yet. We have bigger goals that we want to accomplish so we have to continue to play within ourselves, execute our systems and stay fundamentally sound.

Ryan Franks went 2-for-4 with two RBI to lead the Viking offense, while Alex Johnson went 3-for-4. Brad Buell finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored.

The Vikings got on the board first on Franks' RBI single in the fourth. Buell ledoff the inning with a double and Miller followed with what was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt. However, Buell did not get a good read on the bunt and failed to advance to third.

That's when Franks took over.

He drilled a two strike pitch to centerfield to drive in Buell with the first run of the game.

"Ryan is such a sound hitter and it was good to have him at the plate in that situation," Kocks said. "He was so big for us today, coming up with big hits in big situations."

CSU added two runs in the fifth on Miller's two-run double, but it could have been worse for the Crusaders.

Jon Foco ledoff with a single and moved to second on Josh Lowe's sacrifice bunt. Tom Carter followed with a single to rightfield, but Dan DeBruin's throw got Foco at the plate for the second out of the inning.

Buell followed with a bunt single to put runners on first and second and Miller came through with one of his biggest hits of the season, a two-strike double to leftfield that scored Carter and Buell to give CSU a 3-0 lead.

Valpo cut the lead to 3-2 with a pair of runs in the sixth as Damon McCormick drew a bases loaded walk and DeBruin was hit-by-a-pitch with the bases loaded.

Still leading by just one, Franks came through in the clutch once again with a single up the middle in the eighth to score Buell with an insurance run, making it 4-2. Buell had gotten on base when he was hit-by-a-pitch, marking the 19th time he has been hit this season. It was also the 30th time he has been hit in his career, tying the school record.

Josh Hungerman earned the win for CSU, going 6.2 innings to improve to 5-6. He gave up two runs on five hits and struck out eight. Anthony Sambula worked 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, striking out three, while Miller recorded the final two outs to pick up his fourth save of the season.

"Hungo did what he had to do to keep us in the game and Sambula came in and did a great job," Kocks said. "He loves to be in that situation."

Valpo was limited to just six hits, including two from Josh Wallace.

Jon Gulbranson (5-7) took the loss, working seven innings and giving up three runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.

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