After losing 22 straight Heart of America Conference road games, the Vikings' debut at Osage Field produced a split of its four-game East Division series against Evangel, including Monday's twinbill. It also hasn't helped Valley that it lost four starters before the campaign began, including all-NAIA center fielder George Ban, due to academic ineligibility.
The first game had an uncomfortably familiar outcome for the Vikings, a 4-0 loss -- the 12th time they have been blanked this season. Sophomore Blake McKnight limited Valley to five hits and struck out five batters, lowering the sidearm slinger's earned-run average to 1.96 with his third shutout.
Until the fifth inning, MVC senior Matt Ellis matched him, yielding only two hits. However, a lead-off walk put Ellis in peril, the Crusaders getting an RBI single from freshman Mason Holliday to take the lead. Sophomore Storm Bailey knocked in a second run with a double.
Valley had only one more hit during their remaining three turns at the plate, but couldn't get the runner into scoring position. Evangel tacked on two more runs in the seventh on freshman Jacob Garrison's two-out single.
The Crusaders took an early lead in the nightcap, scoring on junior Chad Yates single and a sacrifice fly for two runs in the second.
The Vikings tied the game in the fourth, helped out when junior Ben Elkin was plunked with two outs on no runners on base. Sophomore Cody Moore and junior Geread Filippi singled for the first run, with junior Ruben Salazar drawing a bases-loaded walk to force in the second run.
Evangel (17-23, 10-14 HAAC) threatened in the fifth, Garrison ripping a two-out double. With senior Jarrod Hogan's pitch count at 83, MVC head coach Bill Browett brought in senior Danny O'Brien -- who got the last out and retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh innings.
Valley jumped on sophomore reliever Caleb Barnum with a lead-off single by junior Deante Bernstine, who stole second base and came around with the go-ahead run on freshman Josh Hartin's double. Moore singled to plate Hartin, but with runners on the corners the inning ended when a runner was caught stealing.
O'Brien made it a moot issue with his perfect performance. The Vikings (8-31, 2-24), who will not qualify for the HAAC Post-season Tournament, play their final home games of the season today against Hannibal-LaGrange.