Still Butler added a bunt-single in the seventh to complete a perfect plate afternoon, and account for four of State's 11 base hits. RF Ryan Collins (triple) and C Scott DeLoach (double) added other extra-base knocks for the home team.
State starter Ricky Bowen picked up his first decision of the year by working five full innings. The righthander had to battle but limited the Crusaders to both their runs on four hits. Bowen did continue to work on his early-year control issues but was able to strike out five against three walks. Lee Swindle took care of the last three scoreless frames, scattering a trio of hits with six strikeouts to earn the save.
Crusader starter Bryce Shafer took the loss, charged with eight runs on eight hits. He hit three Dogs and walked four more.
Bowen wasn't sharp initially, walking his first foe and wild-pitching leftfielder Steven Scoby along where he could come home on a two-out single through shortstop by DH Josh Wallace. State answered, emphatically, in their first turn. CF Grant Hogue was nicked on the wrist for one free base and immediately stole the second. He was on third with two down as 3B Grant Sneed walked to keep the inning going.
Butler smacked a grounder hard enough that it took a high bounce, tipping off the Valparaiso first baseman's glove and into rightfield for a double and 1-1 tie with two Dogs in scoring positions.
And Collins scored them, driving his first chance into the right-centerfield gap for a two-run triple. He would be scored as Shafer balked Collins in for the 4-1 lead after one inning.
Next time around Shafer loaded the sacks with a single by LF Jason Nappi, a walk of DH Luke Adkins, and by hitting 1B Connor Powers. He got Sneed on a check-swing strikeout but fed Butler a fat one that the second-sacker drove deep to right-centerfield. It hit the fence a yard too low for a grand slam, but all three baserunners in front of Butler scored…though he tried stretching his speed to third base and was caught short. Still it was good enough for a 7-1 lead through two.
Valparaiso shaved one off their deficit in the top of the third with one out. Scoby was on first via a tough-chance shot through the right side, and third baseman Kyle Muhlsteff doubled to the warning track. For some reason Scoby stopped at third, but it worked out as a grounder by first baseman Ryan O'Gara brought the lead runner home. State's Sneed made a slick charging snare of a grounder and throw in time to keep it 7-2.
The Crusaders had a chance to get closer in their fourth with two on and an out. A grounder to the left side was fielded and flipped to second for one out, but the relay was thrown wide of first; then C.Powers' try to get the lead runner at third went wilder. But the runner, Matt Lenski, interfered with Sneed for an automatic out that ended the inning with no damage done.
Swindle took over for the sixth and put a pair on via walks around two strikeouts with no damage. By the time he returned to the hill the lead was 8-2. Shafer got a strikeout into his sixth only to hit Hogue again, and give up another steal. Hogue was running on a 2-2 offering already, so when Adkins lined it through shortstop the Bulldog centerfielder had no problems scoring. This also finished the Valpo starter as lefty Matt Stucky took over. He got a couple of grounders to finish the sixth, and was two outs into the seventh (Butler bunted for a leadoff single but was caught stealing) when DeLoach lashed a double past the first baseman.
A walk of R.Powers later, Stucky gave up a single to Nappi for a 9-2 scoreboard. Swindle shrugged off a leadoff double in the Valpo eighth, then erased a leadoff walk with a nice double-play in the ninth. Righthander Andy Parker worked State's last inning at the bat.
Mississippi State snapped a three-game loss streak and took a 9-4 record into the second contest, while Valparaiso is 4-7.