Austin Peay beats Valpo, advances to play Hoosiers in regional final

Austin Peay designated hitter Mike Davis has just two hits in 11 at-bats in the Bloomington Regional compared to six strikeouts. But it just so happens that those two hits are the reason the Governors are still alive and will play Indiana in the regional final.

After a three-run home run in the eighth inning of Friday’s opener against Florida gave the Governors a 4-3 win in that game, Davis’s solo home run in the eighth inning was the deciding blast in a 5-4 win over Valparaiso in Sunday afternoon’s elimination game at Bart Kaufman Field. After Davis’s home run, reliever Tyler Rogers pitched two innings of one-hit ball for his 23rd save of the season, tying the all-time NCAA Division I single-season record.

“He goes up there and sees ball, hits ball,” Austin Peay coach Gary McClure said. “He’s had some bad at-bats, he’s had some good at-bats, but he’s one of those guys you have in your lineup because you know he’s capable of hitting the ball out at any time. … His hits have been big.”

With the victory, the No. 2 seed Governors have advanced through the loser’s bracket to play Indiana today at 7 p.m. in a rematch of Saturday night’s game. If Indiana wins, the Hoosiers clinch the Bloomington Regional and move on to the Super Regional. If Austin Peay wins, the teams play again at 7 p.m. on Monday.

The Governors played from behind most of the day, starting in the first inning. Valparaiso second baseman Tanner Vavra ripped a triple to the right center field gap to score shortstop Spencer Mahoney to make it 1-0, then scored shortly thereafter on an RBI single by first baseman John Loeffler to make it 2-0.

Austin Peay right-hander Ryan Quick settled in after that and kept Valpo off the board for the next three innings. Austin Peay got on the board in the third with a sacrifice fly by third baseman Jordan Hankins that scored second baseman Brett Carlson. They tied it in the fourth on an RBI single by right-fielder Tommy Hager.

Valparaiso took the lead back in the fifth, however. Designated hitter Andrew Bain and shortstop Spencer Mahoney led off with singles, then moved to second and third on a balk by Quick. Vavra and Loeffler followed with back-to-back sacrifice flies to bring both runners home to make it 4-2.

But Austin Peay kept after a Valparaiso team that was clearly running low on arms. Left fielder Cody Hudson led off the sixth with a double to left center field. Valpo center fielder Bryce Hara bobbled the ball when he got to it and the speedy Hudson took third. Davis then flied to center field to score him. In the seventh Reed Harper came through with a two-out RBI single to bring Hankins home to tie it, and then Davis gave the Governors the lead by hitting a 2-2 fastball over the left field wall to make it 5-4.

The submarining Rogers came in after that and ran into a little bit of trouble in the ninth. He walked Loeffler, and Hankins allowed a grounder by Jordan Hankins to get through his legs. However, he got pinch hitter Andrew Bynum to ground out to end the inning.

The win keeps the Governors alive, but they are in a bind pitching wise, having used all three of their regular starters. McClure said they will start Kevin Corey, a reliever who started the season as a third baseman and had pitched just 10 1/3 innings before the tournament started. Should they survive Sunday night’s game, they’d be even more depleted for a Monday rematch.

“What we want out of him is just give us as many innings as you can and try to get us through,” McClure said of Corey.. “If that’s two or three, that will be great, and we’ll hand the ball off to someone else and just try to piece this thing together. Hopefully we’ll have to worry about tomorrow. That will be a great thing.”

Indiana will start freshman left-hander Will Coursen-Carr, who is 3-0 with a 1.80 earned run average and was IU’s mid-week starter most of the season. IU coach Tracy Smith elected to start him ahead of sophomore Kyle Hart, who had been the Hoosiers’ Saturday starter.