Flames fall short in league tournament

Joe Betcher

Joe Betcher scored two hits against Valparaiso Thursday. Photo: Steve Woltmann

UIC beat Youngstown State Friday but lost its hard-fought games against Valparaiso and Wright State, ending its season at the Horizon League Tournament.

“Our energy all weekend was outstanding and we kept competing,” head coach Mike Dee said. “I’m really proud of our guys and how they improved over the year. Our seniors did a tremendous job leading and I have no complaints about the effort given in this tournament.”

Facing an 8-2 deficit Thursday, the Flames rattled off five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to regain momentum.

Junior Alex Jurich paced UIC at the plate by going 3-for-4 with a run and RBI. Seniors Alex De LaRosa and Joe Betcher tallied two hits each and senior Ryan Shober collected a team-high two RBI.

The Flames struck first in the second inning as Ryan Boss led off with a ground-rule double.  He advanced to third on a single from De LaRosa and scored on a groundout from Jurich.

Valpo got rolling in the fourth frame with three runs and scored five more over the next two innings. UIC plated a run in the bottom of the fifth off a sac fly from Betcher. After six frames, the Crusaders had an 8-2 advantage.

That’s when UIC put up five runs as Jurich singled to open the bottom of the seventh inning.

Senior Alex Grunenwald drove in the first run on a double down the left-field line to score Jurich and was sent to third off a single from Betcher.  Both runners scored as Shober doubled to left center, prompting Valpo to call upon reliever Ben Mahar.

Mahar walked Coen, then Zenon Kolakowski pushed Shober and Coen up one base with a sac bunt.  Tyler Detmer was walked to load the bases. Shober scored on a hit-by-pitch from De LaRosa.  Jurich drove in the final run with a single through the left side as junior John Coen scored.

Facing a 5-0 deficit after four innings, the Flames scored 15 unanswered runs against Youngstown State Friday to advance in the tournament.

The Flames scored all 15 runs in the fifth through ninth innings. Betcher scored four runs, Boss and Shober collected three RBI each and De LaRosa drove in two.

Redshirt junior Mike Schoolcraft was credited with the win after he entered the game in the fourth frame.  Schoolcraft allowed four hits in five innings and gave up three earned runs.

The team faced Wright State Friday but was eliminated from the tournament after losing, 5-4.

The Raiders jumped in front 2-0 in the top of the first. UIC countered with a solo score in the bottom of the first as Boss drove in Kolakowski with an RBI-single.

The Flames notched two runs in the fourth inning. Grunenwald kicked things off with a single down the left-field line and advanced to second on a single by Betcher. Shober moved both runners up a base with a sacrifice bunt, which set the stage for Coen. The shortstop hit his second triple of the season, sending Grunenwald and Betcher across the dish and giving UIC a 3-2 edge.

Wright State tied the score at 3-3 in the top half of the sixth and tacked on two more runs before the bottom of the ninth to take a 5-3 advantage.

De LaRosa kept the Flames alive with a single to left field that scored Coen, but it was the final run of the night.

Betcher finished the tournament with a .700 batting average to pace the team.

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