Valparaiso emerged victorious over Northern Illinois in an extra-inning slugfest, 8-6, in game one of the two teams' doubleheader Tuesday in DeKalb, Ill., but the Crusaders fell in the nightcap, 4-1.
The Crusaders started the offensive outburst right away, putting a three-spot on the board in the top of the first inning. Taylor Callahan (Pendergrass, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian), batting leadoff for the first time this season, started the game with a double and came around to score when Beth Adamski (Saint John, Ind./Lake Central) got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and two out. Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]) followed with a 2-RBI single to give Valpo the early edge.
The Huskies responded with three runs of their own on four hits in the bottom of the first to tie the game at three, but Valpo regained the lead in the top of the second frame. Callahan registered her second hit of the game with a single, and two batters later, Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) brought her home with an RBI single.
Neither team would hit the board again until NIU pushed across a single tally in the bottom of the fourth. The game was still tied at four in the top of the sixth when Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) laid down an innocuous bunt with none on and two outs. But the Huskies' Randi Kreiter threw the ball into right field trying to force Ashburn at first, and the return throw from the outfield missed the cutoff man, allowing Ashburn to come all the way around and score to give Valpo the 5-4 lead.
NIU pushed across a run of its own in the bottom of the sixth to knot up the game at five and send it into extra innings. Using the international tiebreak rule, each team scored a single run in the eighth inning. In the top of the ninth, Callahan came through with her fourth hit of the game, driving in two runs with a single for the final margin. Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) came in and slammed the door in the bottom of the ninth to earn her third save of the season and 12th of her career.
Stephanie Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) started the game for Valpo and went the first 5.1 innings, while Chris Halstead (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) improved to 6-0 on the season, tossing 2.2 innings and allowing just one unearned run. Kate Greenough took the loss for the Huskies, falling to 9-10.
In the finale, Valpo again struck first, as Ashburn led off the third inning with a single and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. But that would be all the offense the Crusaders could muster, as NIU scored one in the third, two in the fourth and one in the sixth for the win.
Zappia took the loss in the nightcap, falling to 5-5 on the season. Taryn Hagemann improved to 6-8 for Northern Illinois (15-18), throwing a complete game five-hitter. Callahan registered two more hits in the second game, giving her six on the day and improving her batting average this season to .316.
Valparaiso (17-9) returns home to the friendly confines of the Valparaiso University Softball Field for a key three-game series against Mid-Con foe IUPUI this weekend. The Crusaders and Jaguars will face off in a single game Friday at 4 p.m., and will follow with a doubleheader Saturday, beginning at noon.