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Crusaders Return Home For Start of Homestand
Thursday, April 12, 2007IUPUI (7-19, 0-3) and IPFW (5-15) at VALPARAISO (17-9, 4-2)
VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY SOFTBALL FIELD - VALPARAISO, IND.
APRIL 13-14, 2007 - IUPUI / APRIL 16, 2007 - IPFW
The Matchups: Valpo will square off with Mid-Con rival IUPUI in a three-game series Friday and Saturday before stepping out of conference with a doubleheader against IPFW on Monday. The Crusaders have played IUPUI 44 times dating back to 1987, and hold a 23-21 edge in the series. Valpo and IPFW first squared off in that same season, and have met a total of 26 times, with the Crusaders holding a 15-11 advantage in the series.
Last Meetings: The Crusaders split a four-game set with IUPUI on April 8-9, 2006. Valpo earned a 2-1 win in 10 innings in the series opener thanks to a Taylor Callahan RBI single, but dropped the second game 6-5 in 11 innings. In the second doubleheader of the series, IUPUI earned a 2-0 win in the opener before the Crusaders bounced back with a 7-3 victory in the finale that included a 2-run homer and an RBI triple from Callahan.
Valpo's scheduled doubleheader earlier this season at IPFW was cancelled due to weather. The last time the two teams met up was on April 20, 2006. Valpo took game one of the doubleheader in Fort Wayne, 1-0, on the strength of its sole hit, a home run from Ashley Wolter. In the nightcap, IPFW went ahead for good in the sixth inning, winning 4-3.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders captured an extra-inning slugfest over Northern Illinois in game one of a doubleheader Tuesday, 8-6, but Valpo fell in the nightcap, 4-1. Taylor Callahan, batting leadoff for the first time all season, came through in a big way, banging out four hits, including the game-winning 2-RBI single in the top of the ninth inning in the opener. Andrea Zappia came in for the bottom of the ninth and closed the game without allowing a run, extending her school-record save total to 12.
On The Air: All five games will be broadcast by Valparaiso's student radio station, WVUR 95.1 FM, is scheduled to broadcast each of the Crusaders' 15 home games as well as selected road games. The broadcasts will also be available online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.
Mother Nature Prevails: Since coming back from their spring trip, the Crusaders have had 18 games scheduled to this point. But only 10 have been played, as unseasonably cold temperatures combined with wet weather have forced postponements of doubleheaders against IPFW and Purdue, a single game against Notre Dame, and a three-game Mid-Con series against Oakland.
Among Nation's Best: The Crusaders rank among the top schools in the nation in the field. Entering this week, Valpo ranked eighth in NCAA Division I with 0.5 double plays/game and 40th with a fielding percentage of .968. The Brown and Gold also excel on the basepaths, with an average of 1.96 stolen bases per game, 15th best in the nation.
Continuing to Set New Standards: With a 17-9 record through 26 games, the 2007 Crusaders have done what only one other Valpo team has ever done: advance this far into the season before reaching double digits in the loss column. The 1985 Crusader softball team reached its 28th game before suffering its 10th loss.
Best Start Ever: Valparaiso started its season 9-3 at the Rebel Spring Games, marking the best 12-game start for a Crusader squad in program history. The previous best 12-game start was 8-4, first accomplished in 1983 and matched by the 1985 team.
Stringing Together the Victories: Included in that 9-3 start at the Rebel Spring Games was an eight-game winning streak to close out the competition. The eight straight victories matched the second-longest such streak in Crusader history, as the 1988 team also enjoyed eight consecutive wins. The school record winning streak was set in 1987, when Valpo reeled off nine straight victories. The eight wins came over a five-day span against eight different opponents.
Cutting it Close: Each of the last five victories in Valpo's eight game winning streak came by the exact same margin - one run. The five straight one-run victories set a new program record for most consecutive one-run wins.
Valpo Picked Fourth in Mid-Con: The Valparaiso University softball team has been tabbed to finish in fourth place in the Mid-Continent Conference in preseason polling of the league's head coaches. Valpo garnered 18 points in the polling, which granted seven points for a first-place vote. Western Illinois is the preseason favorite to take top honors in the Mid-Con, registering 32 points, including three first-place votes. Centenary and Southern Utah each received two first-place votes and tallied 30 and 29 points, respectively. IUPUI checked in at 17 points, good for fifth place, while Oakland (13) and UMKC (8) rounded out the voting.
Senior Leadership: The 2007 Crusader squad boasts five seniors who are attempting to lead Valpo to a Mid-Continent Conference championship for the first time in program history. Included among the five seniors are two of the most prolific hitters in Crusader history: infielder Taylor Callahan and outfielder Megan Carroll. Also counted among the Valpo senior leaders are infielder Beth Adamski, outfielder Jessica Schultz and catcher Allison Whitesell.
Callahan Leading Off: Crusader head coach Randy Schneider moved Taylor Callahan into the leadoff spot for the first time this season prior to Tuesday's doubleheader at Northern Illinois, and the move paid off in spades immediately. Callahan registered six hits in eight at-bats against the Huskies, including her second four-hit game of the season in the opener. Her final hit was the biggest, as the senior drove home the game-winning runs with a 2-RBI single in the ninth inning. For the season, Callahan is hitting .316 and is one of two Crusaders to start every game.
Robinson Pacing the Offense: Junior catcher Shannon Robinson has been a mainstay in the Valpo lineup batting third for the Crusaders' last 34 games, dating back to last season. She has proven why so far this year, leading the team and the Mid-Con with a .368 batting average. In addition, the junior paces the Crusaders with 18 runs scored and is second on the squad with 13 RBIs. Robinson has been especially proficient when runners are on base when she comes up, going 19-for-46 (.413) with runners on. She has also excelled on the basepaths, stealing seven bases without getting caught this season. In the field, Robinson holds a .985 fielding percentage and has thrown out nine of 20 attempted base stealers.
Zappia Zaps Opponents: Junior pitcher Andrea Zappia has continued her stellar pitching from her sophomore year in the opening half of the 2007 season. Zappia currently leads the Crusaders and the Mid-Con with her 2.54 earned run average, .221 opponents batting average, and 3.83/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. She earned Mid-Con Pitcher of the Week honors March 12 for her three-win, one-save performance at the Rebel Spring Games, and threw her first career shutout March 23 against UMKC, allowing just three hits while striking out nine.
Three-Headed Monster in the Circle: Zappia is just one-third of Valpo's three-pronged attack in the pitcher's circle in 2007. Junior Chris Halstead, while just under the minimum innings requirement to qualify for league leaders, is a perfect 6-0 in nine starts with a team-best 2.14 ERA. Sophomore Stephanie Kelly is 6-4 in 55.1 innings with a 3.29 ERA, fourth-best in the league, and has struck out 41 batters while walking just 18. The trio, along with freshman Carrie Franson, have combined for a 2.75 ERA through 26 games, over a run better than the next-closest team in the Mid-Con.
IUPUI: The Jaguars enter this weekend's series with a 7-19 overall record and are 0-3 in Mid-Con action after getting swept by Western Illinois in their only conference series to date. IUPUI's struggles have come mainly from the pitching circle, as its pitching staff currently holds an ERA of 5.22, nearly three runs higher than its opponents' ERA. At the plate, Cayleigh Harvey leads the way for the Jaguars, batting .355 with a team-best 12 RBIs. Sarah Needy is one of the league's top basestealers, swiping 17 bags in 18 attempts so far this season.
IPFW: The Mastodons hold a 5-15 overall record in their final season as an independent, but are just 0-2 in true road games. IPFW, like many Midwest teams, has been plagued by the weather and has played just six games in the last month. Tara Mickelson leads the Mastodons with a .379 batting average, including eight extra-base hits, and 12 RBIs, while Ty Lambert is also doing well, hitting .327.