Three school records fell Saturday afternoon as Valparaiso swept a doubleheader from defending Horizon League regular-season champion Loyola at the Valparaiso University Softball Field. The Crusaders rallied for a 7-3 win in the opener and took a tight 2-1 decision in the nightcap. With the first win, head coach Randy Schneider earned his 100th victory at Valpo and 200th overall.
“This was a great day for us,” said Schneider. “To come out today and sweep Loyola, which came into today leading the league and was a team we hadn’t swept in 15 years, and to break records while doing so is a testament to how far this program has come. We really are just taking one game at a time, one play at a time, and today we came up with plays in clutch situations to win two ballgames.”
Senior pitcher Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) struck out Jenna Grim to end the top of the fourth inning in the opener, breaking Valparaiso’s career strikeouts record which had stood for 15 seasons. Zappia struck out six batters on the day, giving her 365 strikeouts for her career. Junior outfielder Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North), who broke Valpo’s career stolen bases record earlier this season, surpassed the single-season mark in the fifth inning of the nightcap with her 22nd theft of the year.
The team single-season record for stolen bases in a season was also in jeopardy Saturday and was eventually surpassed when freshman Jamie Weinburger (Eagle River, Alaska/Eagle River) successfully took third base in the second inning of the second game. Valpo has now stolen 79 bases on the year on just 91 attempts. In addition, the Crusaders tied their single-season saves record when Zappia earned the save in the nightcap, the team’s sixth save of the season.
Both Weinburger’s and Korb’s stolen bases were instrumental in the Crusaders’ scoreboard tallies in the second game of the day. Weinburger pinch-ran for Courtney LaFerle (Elgin, Ill./Larkin) after the latter singled with one out in the second. After moving up to second on a sacrifice bunt, Weinburger stole third base on a delayed steal and came home when Loyola hurler Krista Crosson tossed the ball down the left-field line to put the Crusaders ahead 1-0.
The Ramblers earned the run right back in the top of the third, as Ellen Kresl’s infield single plated Nora Schober to tie the game at one. The tie would last until the bottom of the fifth inning. With two outs, Korb beat out an infield single and put herself into scoring position by stealing second. Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) followed with a walk, and catcher Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) came through in the clutch, depositing her second double of the game down the right-field line to bring Korb home with the eventual game-winning run.
Carrie Franson (Arlington, Wis./Poynette) moved to 2-1 on the season with 1.2 innings of hitless relief for Valpo, and Zappia earned the 18th save of her career with a perfect seventh inning. Krista Crosson fell to 3-7 for Loyola.
In the opener, the Ramblers took an early 2-0 lead, putting single runs on the board in the second and third innings. Valpo’s offense mustered just one hit through the first four frames, but finally exploded in the fifth inning, putting five runs on the scoreboard. Jacobson plated pinch-runner Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) with an RBI double to kick off the scoring, and Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]) followed two batters later with an RBI single to bring home Jacobson to tie the game at two.
With two runners in scoring position and two outs, Robinson lifted a flyball into center field that Schober misplayed, allowing both Korb and Korth to cross the plate to put the Crusaders ahead 4-2. Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) followed that up with an RBI single of her own to complete the five-run frame, plating pinch-runner Lisa DeBruzzi (Carlisle, Mass./Concord-Carlisle).
Loyola cut the deficit to two runs with a tally in the top of the sixth, but Valpo promptly answered with two more runs in the bottom half of the inning to put the game out of reach. With two on and one out, Katie Williams (Chicago, Ill./Lane Tech [Kishwaukee C.C.]) lined a single up the middle to score Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) and Aubrey Sundling (Huntington, Ind./Huntington North) with the insurance runs.
Zappia earned the complete-game win in the opener, improving to 10-4 on the 2008 campaign. Amy Solava suffered the loss for Loyola (9-15, 4-3 Horizon), falling to 6-8 on the season.
“A big part of our philosophy is being the aggressor on the field and making the other team make plays to beat us,” said Schneider. “Whether it’s just making sure we put the ball in play or attempting to take the extra base on the basepaths, we stay aggressive. I think we did a very good job today of doing that, and it really was a key component of us coming out with two wins.”
Valparaiso (19-11, 4-1 Horizon) looks to sweep the three-game set from the Ramblers as the two squads face off in the series finale Sunday afternoon at noon at the Valparaiso University Softball Field. The game will also be broadcast live on WVUR, 95.1 FM Valparaiso, and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.