The Missouri Valley College baseball team claimed its first Heart of America Conference victory of the season during its home opener Saturday, two months into the season.
Renovations and wet grounds had prevented the Vikings from playing at Osage Field up to this point, with barely a week left in the regular season. Friday's scheduled doubleheader was also washed out, but the tilt against Evangel ended MVC's league drought.
It nearly happened in the first game, but the Crusaders handed Valley a heart-breaking loss with a five-run rally in the top of the seventh inning for a 6-3 decision.
The Vikings scored twice in the bottom of the first when junior Ruben Salazar doubled in a run and scored on junior Deante Bernstein's single.
Freshman Sam Garrison gave the Crusaders a run with a single in the third, but Valley answered in the fourth. Bernstein reached on a bunt single, stole third base and came in on a wild throw.
Junior Weston Loftin had allowed only four hits as he headed into the seventh with a 3-1 lead. With a runner on second and two outs, Loftin got sophomore Seth Bailey to swing and miss on strike three, but Salazar let the ball get away and Bailey reached base to keep Evangel alive.
The Crusaders capitalized on the opportunity. Garrison doubled in two runs to tie the game and freshman Austin Lamb singled in the go-ahead run. Senior Zach Johnson delivered a homer for insurance, which freshman closer Mason Holliday didn't need as he tossed a hitless, scoreless frame.
The nightcap also wasn't decided until the final stanza, but Valley took advantage of being at home for a walk-off 2-1 win.
Both teams scored a run in the second, Evangel on sophomore Christian Mendez' single and the Vikings on a single by Sebastian Salas after junior Geread Filippi's lead-off double.
Senior southpaw Scott Carpenter allowed only a pair of singles the rest of the way, but didn't get his first win since beating Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) 3-1 on Feb. 26 until Valley's final at-bat.
The inning started with junior Ben Elkin reaching base on a booted grounder, then going to second on a passed ball. With one out, sophomore Troy Langan singled to right-center field and Elkin raced home to end the game.
Sophomore right-hander Matt Myers was the hard-luck loser for Evangel (16-22, 9-13 HAAC), the deciding run being unearned.
Bernstein had three hits on the day for the Vikings (7-30, 1-23), who are scheduled to complete their four-game East Division series against Evangel today.