The Crusaders broke out to a brief 2-1 lead over Notre Dame Thursday afternoon at the Valparaiso University softball field, but the Fighting Irish scored three times in the third inning and held on for a 6-2 win.
After the visitors scored an unearned run in the first inning, Valpo struck twice in the second frame. Shannon Robinson
(Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) led off with a rocket double off the third baseman Meagan Ruthrauff and moved to third on a groundout. The next batter, Beth Adamski
(Saint John, Ind./Lake Central) flipped one over the left side of the infield to drive home Robinson and tie the game. Freshman Ashley Wolter
(Denver, Iowa/Denver) put the Crusaders in front moments later, lacing a liner to right-center that scooted under the glove of the right fielder Sarah Smith allowing Adamski to score from first.
But Notre Dame responded immediately, putting the first two runners on in the next half inning. With runners on first and third and one out, starter Chris Halstead
(Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) turned the ball over to Andrea Zappia
(Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) to escape the jam. But the first batter she faced, Ruthrauff, failed to cooperate, dropping a single between three Crusaders in right center, scoring the tying run. Katie Laing then put the game away, ringing one off the wall in left to drive in two more.
The Crusaders did not record another hit until the seventh, and Notre Dame (33-14) tacked on single runs in the fourth and fifth for the final margin. Halstead took the loss to fall to 7-7 while Heather Booth pitched three-hit ball over six innings and improved her record to 18-9.
The Brown and Gold (18-26) will play four games in the next two days as part of a critical Mid-Con series against Western Illinois in Macomb. Valpo sits at 5-11 in conference, three games behind Oakland for the final spot in the four-team Mid-Con Tournament. Friday's doubleheader at Western Illinois is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.