Valparaiso (17-9, 2-1 Horizon) at DePaul (20-10) - April 3 [DH] - 3 p.m.
*Loyola (9-12, 4-1 Horizon) at Valparaiso - April 5 [DH] - 2 p.m.
*Loyola at Valparaiso - April 6 - noon
The Matchups: Valparaiso steps out of league play for a doubleheader at #18/25 DePaul on Thursday afternoon before continuing its inaugural Horizon League slate this weekend at the Valparaiso University Softball Field against Loyola. The Crusaders are looking for their first-ever win over DePaul, as the Blue Demons own a 41-0-1 all-time record in the series, while Loyola has a 26-14 advantage in its series against Valpo.
Last Meetings: The Crusaders dropped a home doubleheader to DePaul on April 4, 2006 by scores of 9-0 and 7-3. Alicia Ashburn, Courtney LaFerle and Shannon Robinson led Valpo’s offense on the day with three hits apiece, while Ashburn also drove in two runs.
Loyola defeated Valparaiso in both ends of a doubleheader at the Valparaiso University Softball Field on April 20, 2005, taking the opener 8-2 and the nightcap 5-3. Beth Adamski drove in both of Valpo’s runs in the first game and followed with a 3-for-3 effort in the second game, while Kelly Silvey tallied three hits on the day.
Last Series: Valparaiso took two out of three games from Detroit in the Crusaders’ first-ever Horizon League series March 29-30. The games were moved to Valpo due to unplayable field conditions in Detroit. The Crusaders took both of Saturday’s contests, 10-0 (5 inn.) and 3-2, before dropping the series finale on Sunday, 7-4. Shannon Robinson went 4-for-9 for Valpo over the three games, while Tracy Korth led the team with four runs scored and Ashley Wolter registered a team-best four RBIs. Andrea Zappia earned the decision in all three games, striking out 21 batters in 12.1 innings of work. Valpo also continued its impressive season on the basepaths, tallying nine stolen bases on just ten attempts.
On The Air: The DePaul doubleheader will not be broadcast, but all three games of the weekend series against Loyola are scheduled for broadcast on WVUR, 95.1 FM Valparaiso, and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. WVUR is planning on broadcasting the entirety of the Crusaders’ home schedule, as well as Valpo’s doubleheader April 15 at Purdue.
Schneider Approaching Milestones: Crusader head coach Randy Schneider is just one win shy of notching a pair of victory milestones. In his fifth year with the Valpo program, Schneider’s next victory will be his 100th at the helm of the Crusaders. His next win will also mark the 200th victory overall of his career. Schneider is already Valpo’s all-time winningest coach and has coached more games than any other skipper in program history.
Running Wild: Under Schneider, the Crusaders have become known as an aggressive team, especially on the basepaths, and this year’s squad has taken it to a whole new level. Valpo currently ranks second in the nation in stolen bases/game with an average of 2.62, trailing only Alabama. The Crusaders have stolen 68 bases on just 78 attempts and lead the league by 26 thefts. The 68 steals also rank third in program history in a single campign, just nine thefts shy of the team record.
Fielding Your Position: This year’s Crusader squad has also proven to be quite proficient defensively in the field and ranks among the nation’s best in multiple defensive categories. Through the first 26 games of the season, Valpo has committed just 15 errors and has a team fielding percentage of .980, sixth-best in the nation. If the Crusaders maintain that mark, it would easily best the current team record for fielding percentage in a single season of .957, set by the 2006 team. Valpo has also turned a league-high 14 double plays on the season, and its average of 0.54 twin-killings per game ranks only behind Western Michigan and Samford nationally.
Facing Ranked Opponents: DePaul will be the second ranked opponent that Valparaiso has faced this season. The Crusaders previously traveled to Maryland to take part in its Spring Break Classic when the host Terrapins were ranked #23 in the nation. Valpo took it to Maryland, however, putting seven runs on the board in the third inning on its way to a 7-5 victory, the first win over a ranked squad in Schneider’s tenure with the Crusaders.
Valpo Picked Fifth in Horizon: The Valparaiso University softball team has been tabbed to finish in fifth place in the Horizon League in preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders garnered 35 points in the polling, which awarded nine points for a first-place vote. Loyola has been projected to win the league, receiving five first-place votes and 60 points. UIC and Wright State each earned two first-place votes and checked in with 53 and 50 points, respectively, while Cleveland State was picked fourth with 41 points. Following the Crusaders were Butler (34), Youngstown State (22) and Green Bay (18), while Detroit rounded out the polling with 11 points.
Returning Experience: Head coach Randy Schneider returns six starting position players and all four pitchers from the 2007 squad that won a school record-tying 27 games. Among the 12 returnees on this year’s squad are eight seniors: infielders Alicia Ashburn, Mallory Gill and Courtney LaFerle; outfielders Kayla Grutz and Tracy Korth; catcher Shannon Robinson; and pitchers Chris Halstead and Andrea Zappia.
Zappia Candidate for National Award: Senior pitcher Andrea Zappia is among 30 players nationally who have been selected as candidates for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The award, which focuses on the “Four C’s” of classroom, character, community and competition, honors those players who excel on the field, in the classroom and in the community.
Raking in Horizon League Honors: Zappia has also received recognition from the Horizon League numerous times already this season. The senior has twice been honored as the league’s Pitcher of the Week, on March 4 and March 18, and also received the U.S. Army Scholar-Athlete of the Week award on March 11.
Among Valpo’s All-Time Best Pitchers: Zappia has cemented her place among the best pitchers in Crusader program history with her start to this season. She currently is tied for the league lead in victories with nine, leads the league with a 1.56 ERA and is second with 85 strikeouts. This year, she has moved into Valpo’s all-time top-five in career victories and ERA and is also just eight strikeouts shy of the team record in that category. With her three saves this season, Zappia now has 17 for her career, among the top-10 in NCAA history in the category.
More League Honors: Three other Crusaders have already earned weekly recognition from the Horizon League this year. Whitney Warner was named the league’s Player of the Week after her 7-for-9 effort at the Tulsa Invitational in Valpo’s first games of the season. Freshman Jill Jacobson earned Pitcher of the Week honors March 11 after throwing a three-hit shutout against Holy Cross in her first career start. Most recently, Karen Korb was named the league’s female Scholar-Athlete of the Week on Tuesday after hitting .367 from the leadoff spot last week.
Korb Leads Off: Moved into the leadoff spot this season, junior outfielder Karen Korb has ignited the Crusader offense. She is currently second on the team with a .338 batting average and is getting on base at a .420 clip. On the basepaths, she has stolen 18 bases without getting caught and has now successfully stolen 27 straight bases dating back to last season. Korb is just three steals shy of Valpo’s single-season record in the category with at least 24 games remaining on the schedule, and earlier this season broke the career stolen bases record.
Wolter Rakes at the Plate: Junior outfielder Ashley Wolter showed flashes of power in her first two seasons, but has put it all together so far in 2008. Wolter leads the Crusaders with her .347 batting average and is slugging .547 on the season. Her nine extra-base hits lead the team, as do her 16 runs scored and 17 RBIs. Wolter also ranks in the top-five in the Horizon League in both runs scored and RBIs.
Catching Up in the Record Books: Senior catcher Shannon Robinson continues to move up many of Valpo’s all-time offensive charts, as she is enjoying a solid final campaign in the Crusader uniform. Robinson currently ranks second in school history with a .323 batting average, and also ranks among Valpo’s all-time top-five in hits (162, 3rd), runs scored (74, 4th), total bases (224, 4th) and RBIs (70, t-3rd). Also a stalwart behind the plate, the senior has registered a team-best 160 putouts this season, giving her 714 for her career, good for third in the Crusader annals.
Kelly Takes the Circle: Junior pitcher Stephanie Kelly has served as a potent #2 hurler through the first half of the 2008 season. The junior is 5-3 with a 2.22 ERA, fourth-best in the Horizon League. In 56.2 innings of work this year, Kelly has struck out 32 batters while walking just 12 foes.