Valparaiso’s bats were quieted on Thursday evening in Chicago, Ill. as the Crusaders managed just three hits in dropping a 2-0 decision to UIC in the Brown and Gold’s first game of the Horizon League Championships held at Loyola.
The Flames, the fifth seed in the double elimination tournament, threatened but did not score in the opening inning. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with no one out, but Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central H.S.) registered back-to-back strikeouts and then got Melissa Marinacci to fly out to right to end the inning without any damage.
Valpo, the tournament’s second seed, had one hit in each of the first three innings, including a third inning double by Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ont./John Redmond H.S.), but could not push across a run. Robinson’s double was the 39th of her career, setting a new career mark at Valpo. Zappia settled down, retiring seven straight following a lead-off single in the second. Marinacci broke the scoreless tie with a one-out homer in the fourth over the centerfield fence.
The Crusaders drew lead-off walks in both the fourth and fifth innings but again could not move runners past second base. UIC (24-31) added to its lead in the sixth with one out and runners on the corners. Stephanie Chavez sent a drive into the left-center gap that Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North H.S.) nearly tracked down, but the ball went off of her glove for a run-scoring double. With runners on second and third, Zappia got a fly out and ground out to end the inning without further damage.
Valpo was unable to get a hit off of UIC’s Sarah Clynes (15-17) after the third inning, as the Flame hurler set down 11 of the last 12 hitters. Clynes went the distance allowing just three hits and two walks. Zappia suffered the loss for the Crusaders, allowing seven hits and two walks while fanning three.
“That was a good ball game with good pitching and defense today,” head coach Randy Schneider said afterwards. “It’s just pitching and hitting and we didn’t get many hits. You have to score a run to win games and we didn’t do that.”
Valparaiso (30-18) will now have to battle out of the loser’s bracket beginning on Friday evening with a 6 p.m. game against the winner of the morning’s Detroit-Green Bay game.