Valparaiso’s offense carried the day Wednesday as the Crusaders split a doubleheader at Central Michigan, dropping the opener, 4-3, before rebounding for a win in the nightcap, 8-6.
“I give our team a lot of credit for splitting today’s games,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “Central Michigan is probably one of the best teams we’ve seen to this point in the season, and we really did a good job dealing with weather conditions that weren’t ideal to come out with the split.”
The Crusaders were behind 3-0 in the opener heading into the seventh inning, as Central Michigan put one run on the board in the first and two in the fifth. But Valpo took advantage of a pair of Chippewa errors to help score three runs of its own in the final frame. Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) scored Valpo’s first run of the game on the second CMU error of the frame, and Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) followed with an RBI single to plate Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]) to cut the deficit to one.
Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) came home on an RBI groundout by Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) to knot up the game at three. But Central Michigan quickly ended the game in the bottom half of the seventh, loading the bases with no outs to set the stage for a walkoff single by Christina Novak.
Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) took the loss in her 1.2 innings of relief work for the Crusaders, falling to 1-2 on the season. Central Michigan’s Kim Campbell registered the final two outs in the seventh for her first decision of the season.
Valpo led the entire way in the nightcap, opening the scoring in the top of the first. Korb led off the game with a single, extending her hitting streak to nine games, and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Warner. The Crusaders extended their lead to 3-0 in the third, as Wolter drove in Korth with an RBI groundout and Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) scored from second on the front end of a double steal.
Central Michigan put up single tallies in the third and fourth innings, but Valpo scored two more runs in the fifth to extend its lead to 5-2. A two-out single by Mallory Gill (Beloit, Wis./Memorial) plated Robinson, and Gill would come around to score on an RBI double by Courtney LaFerle (Elgin, Ill./Larkin). The Chippewas responded with two runs in the bottom half of the frame to cut the lead back to 5-4.
But the Crusaders weren’t done scoring, as Robinson drove in Korb with a single in the sixth inning. Later in the frame, Jamie Weinburger (Eagle River, Alaska/Eagle River) came home on a CMU error to make it 7-4, and Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) brought home Katie Williams (Chicago, Ill./Lane Tech [Kishwaukee C.C.]) in the seventh with an RBI double to give Valpo a four-run advantage. The Chippewas put two runs on the board in the last of the seventh, but Carrie Franson (Arlington, Wis./Poynette) induced a flyout to end the game.
Stephanie Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) improved to 5-3 with the victory, going 4.2 innings in the circle for the Crusaders. Franson earned her first career save one day after picking up her first career win, striking out three batters in 2.1 innings of work. Kari Seddon fell to 2-6 on the year, taking the loss for Central Michigan (8-10).
Korb led the Crusader offensive attack on the day, going 4-for-9 with three runs scored and two stolen bases. Robinson used a 3-for-3 effort in the nightcap to go 4-for-6 on the day, while LaFerle chipped in three hits. Warner and Wolter each drove in two runs in the doubleheader.
“Our pitching struggled a bit today, as they had a tough time spinning the ball in the cold,” said Schneider. “They left the ball up in the zone a few times, but our offense really did a good job making up for it today. We had a lot of good swings over the two games.”
Valparaiso (15-8) looks to open its Horizon League slate this weekend at Detroit, as the Crusaders are scheduled for a three-game series, with two games on Saturday and one on Sunday. Saturday’s opener is slated for a noon CDT first pitch.