VALPARAISO (10-6, 0-0) at UMKC (1-19, 0-0)
CLEVELAND PARK - KANSAS CITY, MO.
MARCH 23-24, 2007
This Weekend's Matchup: Valparaiso opens its final season of Mid-Continent Conference action this weekend as the Crusaders take on the Kangaroos of UMKC in Kansas City. The two squads have met up 48 times on the softball field, and with the second game of the series, UMKC will become Valpo's second most-common all-time opponent. The two teams have each won 24 games in the series, but Valpo has had the edge recently, winning nine of the 12 matchups over the past three seasons.
Last Meeting: Valpo took three out of four games from UMKC to close out the 2006 softball season on May 5-6. The three wins gave the Crusaders 22 on the season, marking the winningest season for a Valpo softball team in 18 years. The Crusaders registered shutouts in each of the first two games of the series, winning 4-0 and 1-0 behind a complete-game shutout from Chris Halstead and a 6.2 innings, 10 strikeout performance from Stephanie Kelly. Andrea Zappia threw a complete-game six-hitter in the opener on the second day, helping Valpo to a 2-1 win before the Crusaders fell in the finale. Courtney LaFerle, Shannon Robinson and Ann Sievert led Valpo with five hits apiece in the four-game series.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders split a doubleheader at East Tennessee State on March 13 in the final two games of their spring trip, dropping the opener 4-3 before rebounding to win the finale, 4-1. Stephanie Kelly threw a complete game in the win, scattering nine hits to improve her record to 4-3. Tracy Korth led the Valpo attack at the plate, reaching base on all four of her plate appearances, including three singles. A Karen Korb RBI single was all the offense Valpo could muster up in the opener, as Andrea Zappia took the loss in relief, falling to 3-3 on the season.
On The Air: This weekend's series will not be broadcast over the air. 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.
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 Crusaders defeated Colgate and Lehigh by 2-1 scores, emerged victorious by 3-2 tallies versus Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth, and beat Detroit, 5-4. The five straight one-run victories set a new program record for most consecutive one-run wins.
Beating New Foes: Valparaiso has faced off against teams for the first time in program history on six different occasions already this season, and has earned wins against five of those six squads. The Crusaders beat Colgate, Georgetown and Lehigh in their only meetings of the season, and downed Penn in their second contest against the Quakers after dropping the first game. Valpo also defeated East Tennessee State in its second matchup versus the Lady Bucs. The only new opponent that the Crusaders have not defeated this season is Gardner-Webb.
Staying in Indiana: The Crusaders' non-conference slate focuses on the state of Indiana, as nine of Valpo's scheduled out-of-conference games are against Hoosier State foes. The first two of those, a doubleheader at IPFW, has been postponed indefinitely, but Valpo's slate still includes home doubleheaders against Big Ten opponent Purdue, IPFW and Saint Joseph's, as well as a single game at Big East foe Notre Dame.
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.
Carroll Leads Off: Senior outfielder Megan Carroll has bounced back from an injury that cost her the second half of her junior year. Through 16 contests, Carroll leads the Crusaders with a .389 batting average and has registered 21 hits, including five doubles, and 30 total bases out of the leadoff position. The senior has already recorded six multi-hit games and has had a seven-game hitting streak. Carroll received conference Player of the Week accolades on March 12 for her performance at the Rebel Spring Games, highlighted by a stretch of nine consecutive at-bats with hits. Included in that stretch was a 4-for-4 effort against Sacred Heart where she tallied two doubles and two triples.
Robinson Behind The Dish: Junior catcher Shannon Robinson has continued to be a steady force both behind the plate and at-bat for Valpo in 2007. Robinson currently has a perfect fielding percentage, successfully converting 83 chances in the field. At the plate, Robinson has a .346 batting average and leads Valpo with a .404 on-base percentage. She also paces the Crusaders with 10 runs scored and has hit safely in 13 of Valpo's 16 games.
Zappia Zaps Opponents: Junior pitcher Andrea Zappia has continued her stellar pitching from her sophomore year in the opening part of the 2007 season. Zappia currently leads the Crusaders and the Mid-Con with her 1.94 earned run average, .224 opponents batting average, and 7.00/1 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, highlighted by a career-high 11 strikeouts against Saint Peter's.
Kelly and Halstead Also Stand Out: Zappia is just one-third of Valpo's three-pronged attack in the pitcher's circle in 2007. Junior Chris Halstead and sophomore Stephanie Kelly have combined with Zappia to make the Crusader pitching one of the team's strongest components. Halstead is currently a perfect 3-0 in eight appearances with a 2.47 ERA, while Kelly has appeared in 12 of Valpo's 16 games and owns a 4-3 record with a 2.83 ERA, as well as one save. The duo combined for Valpo's second shutout of the season against Georgetown, as Halstead earned the win in the start, going five-plus scoreless innings while scattering five hits. Kelly came in and threw a perfect final two frames against the Hoyas, striking out four batters.
2007 Season to Date: The Kangaroos have gotten off to a rough start to the 2007 campaign, going just 1-19 through the first 20 games of their season. The record is somewhat deceiving, however, as most of the games have been against top-of-the-line competition, including eight contests against Big 12 foes. UMKC's lone victory came via shutout over Southeast Missouri State. Most recently, the Kangaroos dropped both ends of a doubleheader at Cleveland Park to Creighton.
Schuyler Hitting the Ball: One bright spot in UMKC's 2007 season has been the hitting of senior third baseman Jaclyn Schuyler. Schuyler is hitting just .255 on the season, starting all 20 games for the Kangaroos, but has registered six extra-base knocks among her 13 hits, giving her a slugging percentage of .510, easily the best on the team.