MUNSTER — Valparaiso and Munster started their Friday match-up a little later than usual.
The Vikings were scheduled to have a home baseball game against the Mustangs, but the game was moved to Munster after Valparaiso's field was deemed unplayable. The venue switch was a bit inconvenient for the Vikings, who only had about 20 minutes to warm up, but when the game got underway the change of plans clearly had no effect on the team.
Times No. 5 Valparaiso jumped out to an early lead and held on for a 4-3 nonconference victory to hand Times No. 8 Munster its first loss of the season. Vikings coach Todd Evans pointed out that his team has scored in the first inning of all three of its wins and added that sophomore shortstop Ty Gill continues to step up as Valparaiso's leadoff hitter.
"He's the leadoff for a reason," Evans said. "We expect him to get on base one way or another, whether it's a hit or a walk. He's extremely fast, so he puts pressure on the defense to make good plays."
Gill showed a lot of patience at the plate by drawing three walks, and he also scored a run in the second inning on a sacrifice fly from junior center fielder Jack Cahill. The sophomore didn't think much of his solid performance and said that he was simply trying to make plays for his team.
In the sixth inning he continued to do just that, except this time he made his presence felt on defense. The Mustangs scored three runs in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game. And although the Vikings responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the fourth inning to regain the lead, Munster (2-1) still had a chance to build some momentum late in the game — until Gill stifled it.
Senior left fielder Matt Tripenfeldas led off for the Mustangs in the top of the sixth inning and hit a laser that was headed toward left field. Tripenfeldas' strong swing looked destined to become at least a base hit. But as the ball flew past Gill's head, he soared and snagged it.
"It was crazy," Gill said. "I was just waiting for the pitch and doing my normal routine. And when I saw the ball, I just went up and caught it."
Evans believes Gill's grab was one of the biggest plays of the game and helped junior reliever Spencer Reed finish off the win. Reed replaced sophomore pitcher Grant Comstock at the start of the fifth inning. Reed tied for the game high with four strikeouts, including back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
"I just try to go out there and throw strikes," Reed said. "I know my coaches have confidence in me, and I just want to do what's best for the team. I gotta make sure I'm throwing the right pitches, throwing strikes and getting people out."
Munster coach Bob Shinkan commended Valparaiso (3-1) for pulling out a narrow victory and said Friday's loss will be a learning experience for his players. After the game, he implored them to have confidence when they're up to bat and be fearless when they see a good pitch.
"We just need to be aggressive," Shinkan said. "Sometimes my guys just want to work the count, but you've gotta look for your pitch early. And if you've got it, just go ahead and go."