Valparaiso took both ends of a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon at the Valparaiso University Softball Field from Northern Illinois, downing the Huskies 5-2 in the opener before earning a 5-1 victory in the nightcap.
The Crusaders got on the board first in the opener, putting up a single tally in the bottom of the second on an RBI double by Mallory Gill (Beloit, Wis./Memorial). Northern Illinois struck back in the top of the third inning, as with the bases loaded and none out, Jenna Roberts stroked a 2-RBI single into right field to give the Huskies the lead. But Stephanie Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) did not let NIU plate another run in the frame.
Valpo reclaimed the advantage in the bottom half of the inning. With two on and two outs, it was Courtney LaFerle (Elgin, Ill./Larkin) who came through with the clutch hit, lining a 2-RBI double to deep center field to plate Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) and Jamie Weinburger (Eagle River, Alaska/Eagle River). The Crusaders received an RBI double from Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]) in the fourth inning and an RBI triple by Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) in the sixth frame to close out the scoring.
Kelly earned the victory for the Crusaders with 5.1 innings of work, striking out three batters to improve to 4-3 on the season. Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Center) closed out the game with 1.2 perfect innings, including four strikeouts, to receive the save. Taryn Hagemann went the distance for the Huskies, falling to 0-4 on the year.
Valpo received all the runs it would need in the nightcap in the second inning, putting a three-spot on the board. With two on and one out, LaFerle once again came up with a 2-RBI double, scoring Wolter and Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) to put the Crusaders up 2-0. Aubrey Sundling (Huntington, Ind./Huntington North) added a bunt single later in the frame to plate pinch-runner KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) to give Valpo a three-run lead.
The Crusaders added a single tally in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) and another run in the fourth inning on Korb’s second RBI triple of the day. Northern Illinois cut the deficit to 5-1 in the top of the sixth thanks to a solo home run from Michelle Nendza and brought the tying run to the plate, but Zappia came in to shut down the threat and earn her second save of the day and third of the year.
Carrie Franson (Arlington, Wis./Poynette) allowed just three hits over 5.2 innings while striking out five batters to earn her first collegiate victory, improving to 1-1 on the season. Joreigh Landers took the loss for Northern Illinois (5-11), falling to 2-3.
LaFerle paced the Crusader offensive attack on the day, going 4-for-5 with four RBIs over the two games. Wolter tallied three hits in five at-bats, while Korb drove in two runs on her first two career triples.
“We were really excited about the way we hit the ball today,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “With the wind blowing out and [NIU’s] outfield pulled up a bit, we were able to hit six or seven balls over their heads and that was really the difference in the two games. Our pitching was great for us again, as it has been all year. It was exciting to see the performance we got out of Carrie in the circle today, as she really had a good game and did a great job keeping the ball in the ballpark for the most part.”
Valparaiso (14-7) returns to action on Wednesday when it travels to Central Michigan for a doubleheader against the Chippewas. First pitch of the opener is slated for 1 p.m. CDT.