Valek goes distance in Akron win

AVON, Ohio -- John Valek is a different kind of pitcher when his off-speed pitches are working well, and they were on target in Mid-American Conference Baseball Tournament action at All-Pro Freight Stadium Thursday night.

The University of Akron sophomore left-hander went the distance for the Zips, as they earned a 7-1 victory over the Buffalo Bulls and advanced to the semifinals of the 2014 Mid-American Conference Baseball Tournament.

"He really did the same thing as Pat (Dyer) did yesterday," Akron coach Rick Rembielak said of Valek. "It was the off-speed stuff. If you don't hit with your off-speed stuff as a pitcher, the hitters will get comfortable. You could see that they were off balance. When in a hitter's count, if he throws his off-speed stuff effectively, the hitters are going to stay off balance."

Valek allowed one run, two walks and six hits in those nine innings of work and threw only 108 pitches to earn his sixth victory of the season. However, before he could celebrate the victory with his teammates, Valek had to work out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the ninth inning.

He gave up only one run in that final jam, and that was on an RBI groundout.

"As long as we win, I don't really care how it happens," Valek said. "Going into it, we just wanted to bring energy. We knew they beat us three times in the regular season, so it's tough to beat a team four times in a row, and we're feeling good now. Hopefully, we can carry this into the weekend.

"(Coach) didn't even ask me if I wanted to come out. I just needed a little breather. He came out to give me a little rest and (say), 'just calm everything down and realize you've got a seven-run lead, just throw strikes and see what happens.'"

With their back-to-back wins over the Central Michigan and Buffalo on consecutive days, the Zips earned a day off before playing the winner of Friday's Miami (Ohio)-Buffalo game.

"I don't think there's anybody here that'd say that they'd be disappointed to have a day off because that means you're sitting pretty good in the brackets," Rembielak said. "It is a good day off. We'll still end up going to do some work, but it's always nice to end up bypassing one day."

Despite the back-to-back wins, Akron is 27-28 on the season. However, the Zips know that in tournament baseball, anything can happen.

"It doesn't matter what we did in the past," Rembielak said. "The main objective is to get in the winner's bracket and stay in the winner's bracket. We've done that the first two games. It's setting a tone.

"This is something, from day one, that we've talked about with the ball club, to set the precedent for the future. It's all coming together right now. They're feeling good about themselves. It's called execution. Our definition of having fun is execution. Execution equals fun, and they're very comfortable. I don't see any panic. The confidence level is high."

Valek says the Zips are "playing with house money" and focused on playing their best baseball of the season.

"Coming into the tournament, we knew whatever happened in the past, in the regular season, we can just erase it," Valek said. "Everybody's 0-0, and you just go in with as much energy as you can, and win as many games as possible. We've gotten off to a good start. Hopefully, we can keep it going.

"When you're on the field, you just forget about everything. Regardless of whatever happened off the field, you've just got to erase it and play with a free mind, just realize it's you against the other team and you've got to come out with more runs than them. You really don't think about anything but your job in front of you. That's all that really matters."


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