Valparaiso emerged from its first Mid-Continent Conference series of the season perfect, as the Crusaders earned wins by scores of 4-2 and 14-1 in Saturday's doubleheader to complete the sweep of the three-game set.
The story of the first game was the pitching of Chris Halstead (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral), who gave up two runs early in the game, but settled down and held UMKC to one hit over the final four innings to earn the win, improving to 4-0 on the season. Halstead finished the game giving up just three hits while striking out four batters.
UMKC (1-22, 0-3 Mid-Con) held a 2-0 lead after three innings, but Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada/John Redmond) quickly started to turn things around, leading off the top of the fourth with a solo home run, the third of her career. Taylor Callahan (Pendergrass, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian) followed with a single and later stole home to tie the game at two.
The game was still all knotted up entering the seventh. Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.) struck out to lead off the inning, but reached on a passed ball. Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) came up next and belted a two-run homer to center field to close out the scoring, giving her six long balls in her career, tied for fifth among Crusaders all-time.
In the nightcap, both teams had put a single tally on the board entering the third inning when the Valpo bats exploded. The frame was highlighted by 2-RBI base hits from Callahan, Robinson and Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove). In all, 14 Crusaders strolled to the plate in the inning and Valpo put a 10-spot on the scoreboard, taking the 11-1 lead. The Crusaders added their final three runs in the fifth inning, winning the game via run rule after five.
Stephanie Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) earned the easy victory in the finale, having to go just three innings, allowing just one hit. Carrie Franson (Poynette, Wis./Poynette) threw a scoreless fourth and fifth to close the game.
Callahan paced the Crusaders at the plate on the day, recording six hits in seven at-bats to improve her season batting average to .293. The senior also scored three runs and drove in four others. Warner added two hits and four RBIs, while Robinson registered three hits, three runs scored and three RBIs.
Valparaiso (13-6, 3-0 Mid-Con) will open its home slate on Wednesday, March 28, as the Crusaders host Big 10 foe Purdue for a doubleheader. First pitch of game one is slated for 2 p.m., and the first 100 fans to arrive at the game will receive a free hot dog.