Junior Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) stole two bases in the third inning of Valparaiso’s 2-0 victory over Sacred Heart Sunday morning at the Rebel Spring Games in Orlando, Fla., breaking the Crusader career stolen bases record previously held by Laura Ebersole. Valpo came from behind to win the nightcap against Holy Cross, 7-6, to finish the day.
“I was pleased with the fact that we finished today with two wins,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “With the cancellations yesterday, we’ve been sitting around down here for that past two days. So to get out on the dirt for the first time, you just try and shake off the rust and play the best you can.”
Korb was a critical cog in the third-inning two-out rally that would prove to be the only scoring in the game against the Pioneers. With two out and nobody on, Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) got things started with a double to right-center field. Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.] made it back-to-back two-baggers with a shot down the left field line, plating Ashburn with the game’s first run.
Korb beat out an infield single to shortstop, advancing Korth over to third base. The two then executed a perfect double steal, as Korth crossed the plate with an insurance tally. Korb proceeded to steal third base, her fourth theft of the season and 40th of her career, passing Ebersole’s mark of 39 steals.
The rest of the game belonged to senior hurler Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central). Zappia was dominant in the early going, striking out seven straight batters in the first two innings to open the game. She would finish the contest with a complete-game three-hitter, striking out 12 batters while walking only two. Jen Russell took the loss for Sacred Heart despite throwing a complete-game four-hitter.
“I thought we opened the day well with the shutout,” said Schneider. “Zappia pitched an outstanding game for us and really kept us in the game. We didn’t hit the ball as well as we wanted to, but a lot of the credit for that goes to Russell, because she did a good job in the circle as well.”
Valpo kicked off the scoring in the nightcap against Holy Cross with a two-out rally in the opening frame. Courtney LaFerle (Elgin, Ill./Larkin) plated pinch-runner Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) with a single, and Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) brought home Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) with a single of her own to put the Brown and Gold ahead 2-0.
Valpo added three more runs on five hits in the second inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Wolter continued her hot start to the season, lining a single into the outfield to score Korb and Aubrey Sundling (Huntington, Ind./Huntington North). LaFerle added her second RBI single of the game to push the Valpo advantage to five runs.
Holy Cross started to cut into the lead in the fourth inning, pushing across its first run on a passed ball, and then exploded for five runs in the fifth. With two outs and two runners on, Holy Cross strung together five straight hits, capped by a 2-RBI double by Natalie Cruz, to go ahead by a 6-5 count.
But the Holy Cross advantage would not last long, as Valpo fired back in the bottom half of the frame. LaFerle got on with a one-out single, her third hit of the game. KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) pinch-ran for the senior and immediately scored on a triple by Robinson. Ashburn followed with a perfect suicide squeeze to score Robinson with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Zappia pitched a hitless 2.1 innings in relief against Holy Cross to earn her second win of the day and improve to 3-1 on the season. She has already struck out 27 batters in four appearances this year, and is just four strikeouts shy of becoming only the third Valpo pitcher to ever reach 300 K’s for her career. Katie Alexander took the loss for Holy Cross, giving up two runs in two innings of work.
“It was good to see us get a come-from-behind win, as we faced a little adversity after being ahead early in the game,” said Schneider. “It’s always nice whenever you can get 20 of your players into the game and still come out with a victory.”
Valparaiso (3-2) will play three games tomorrow. The Crusaders will take to the field for their regularly-scheduled contests against Western Carolina (10 a.m. CST) and Lehigh (2 p.m. CST), before facing Fairfield (4 p.m. CST) in a make-up game from the canceled doubleheader on Saturday.