Valparaiso fell a game out of first place in the Mid-Continent Conference after losing both ends of a doubleheader to Southern Utah on Friday afternoon. The Crusaders surrendered a run in the bottom of the seventh in the opener to fall 6-5 and dropped the nightcap 16-14 in Cedar City, Utah.
In the opener, Valpo rallied from a 5-1 deficit to tie the game at five in the top of the seventh, only to surrender the winning run in the bottom of the inning on a double, a wild pitch, and a throwing error.
Southern Utah scored an unearned run in the opening inning and gave up another in an RBI single by Dusti Winward. Valpo answered in the fourth on a Karen Constien (Carol Stream, Ill./Glenbard North H.S.) homerun to left.
The Thunderbirds plated three in the bottom of the inning, two on a homer by Kimberly Tillery. In the sixth, Tricia Speziale (Elmhurst, Ill./York H.S.) led off with a double, Constien hit her second homer of the game to right center. Taylor Callahan (Grayson, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian H.S.) doubled and scored on a Lisa Setzler (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso H.S.) RBI single. Valpo tied the game in the seventh when Monica Rowan (Evergreen Park, Ill./Evergreen Park H.S.) was hit by the pitch with the bases loaded.
Lacee LePrey recorded the complete game win for Southern Utah with six strikeouts, while Brittany Atteberry (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central H.S.) suffered the loss in relief. Speziale and Constien had two hits each for the Crusaders in the opener.
In the nightcap, Southern Utah scored three in the opening inning and before Valpo rallied to take an 8-4 lead after two and a half. Setzler singled home two in the second and Megan Carroll (Eaton Rapids, Mich./Eaton Rapids H.S.) brough home the other in the inning. Setzler also had the big hit in the third, a grand slam to left with two outs.
The Thunderbirds scored ten unanswered runs from the third through the fifth innings before Valpo plated two in the sixth. Carroll singled home a run and scored on a Stefanie Reinke (Parker, Colo./J.K. Mullen H.S.) sacrifice fly.
After Southern Utah (27-12, 8-2 Mid-Con) answered with two of their own to build a 16-10 lead, Valpo scored four in the seventh but came up short. Callahan hit a two-run homer to left and Beth Adamski (St. John, Ind./Lake Central H.S.) doubled home another run. The final run scored on a fielder's choice.
LePrey again recorded the win in game two, this time in relief, while Amanda Gilbertson (Murrieta, Calif./West Albany H.S., Ore.) suffered the loss out of the bullpen. Callahan had two hits and scored three runs, while Setzler went 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs, and six RBIs in the nightcap. Rowan also scored three times for the Brown and Gold.
Ashley Howerton went 2-for-3 with a homer and five RBIs for Southern Utah, while Winward was 3-for-3 with a homer and drove in three.
Valpo (13-19, 7-3) and Southern Utah will conclude their four-game series on Saturday with another twinbill beginning at 1 p.m. CDT.