Valpo returned to action for the first time in nearly two weeks Friday afternoon at Southern Utah, and dropped 13-6 and 6-4 decisions to the Thunderbirds in Cedar City, Utah.
The Crusaders opened the first game strong, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the first inning, getting RBIs from Courtney LaFerle
(Elgin, Ill./Larkin) and Ann Sievert
(Davenport, Iowa/Assumption). But Southern Utah's big bats answered right back in the bottom of the inning, getting three home runs and plating four to take a 4-2 lead.
The score was 5-2 SUU in the top of the third when the Crusaders found another offensive surge. Shannon Robinson
(Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) doubled home a run with one out before Alicia Ashburn
(Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) plated three on one swing, belting her second home run of the young season to make it 6-5 Valpo.
Unfortunately for the Crusaders, however, they were done scoring, and the Thunderbirds were just getting started. Southern Utah took the lead with another four-spot in the bottom of the fourth and put the game away with four more in the sixth.
The Thunderbirds blasted six home runs in the game, including two from Marci Pratt, and banged out 15 hits off three Crusader pitchers. Stephanie Kelly
(Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) allowed eight runs and was saddled with the loss, while Amy Sauer went the distance for the win.
The Brown and Gold again opened an early lead in the second game, when Robinson drove in Megan Carroll
(Eaton Rapids, Mich./Eaton Rapids) in the opening frame. Sievert extended the Valpo lead in the third, driving Robinson home with a two-out single.
After Southern Utah tied the game in the fourth, Valpo pushed the lead to 4-2 in the fifth when a bases-loaded single from Robinson plated Karen Korb
(Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) and Taylor Callahan
(Pendergrass, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian).
The Crusaders led 4-3 after the top of the sixth, but could not hold the lead, surrendering three sixth inning runs after committing a pair of errors in the inning.
(Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) took the loss for Valpo, while Ashley Christiansen earned the victory in relief. Robinson went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs in the game, moving her season batting average to .440 with a team-leading 12 RBI.
Valpo (6-10, 0-2 Mid-Con) will get another shot at the Thunderbirds (4-23, 2-0 Mid-Con) Saturday afternoon, with a doubleheader set to begin at 1:00 p.m. The Crusaders open their home season Tuesday against Central Michigan, with a pair of games slated for 2:00 p.m.
Game one box score
Game two box score