Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) earned her program-record 18th victory of the season Sunday with a complete-game effort, while Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) tied the career doubles record as Valparaiso defeated Youngstown State, 13-5, in the final game of a three-game set. The Crusaders also set a team single-season record for RBIs in a season during the victory.
“At this point, we’re in the position we wanted to be in coming into the season,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “We wanted an opportunity to win the Horizon League regular season championship, and now we have that chance next weekend.”
Runs hit the board in a flurry for both sides in the game’s first inning. The Penguins got a 2-run homer from McKenzie Bedra, and Kristen McDonnell followed with a solo shot to give Youngstown State a 3-0 lead after one half inning of play. But the Crusaders quickly responded in their half of the inning.
Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) led off with a single and Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) reached on a YSU error. Robinson promptly drove in both runners with a double to the right-center field gap to cut the deficit to one. Later in the inning, Robinson stole home on the back end of a double steal to knot up the game at three.
The Penguins regained the lead briefly in the top of the third on a solo home run by Katy Potokar, but again Valpo responded, this time in a big way. Wolter walked and Robinson singled to start off the bottom half of the frame, and Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) laid down a sacrifice bunt that Penguin pitcher Cheryl Cale tossed down the right-field line, allowing Wolter to score.
Robinson followed with her second run of the game when Courtney LaFerle (Elgin, Ill./Larkin) stepped up and knocked a single into right-center. Two batters later, pinch-runner Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) stole home on another double steal on which LaFerle advanced all the way to third on a YSU error. Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]) proceeded to knock in another run with a sacrifice fly, plating LaFerle to put Valpo ahead 7-4.
The Crusaders added another run in the fourth on a solo homer by Wolter, her fifth of the season and 12th of her career, tied for second-most in Valpo history. The Penguins crawled back to within three runs on a home run by Rochelle Vanyi in the top of the fifth, but once again Valpo answered in the bottom half of the frame. Korth scored LaFerle with an RBI single, and Mallory Gill (Beloit, Wis./Memorial) stole home on the back end of the Crusaders’ third successful double steal of the game to make it a 10-5 ballgame.
Valpo closed out the game in the sixth inning. Robinson plated Korb with her record-tying two-bagger to make it a six-run game, which moved Wolter over to third. Cale proceeded to unleash a wild pitch that plated both Wolter and Robinson, the latter scoring from second with the final run of the game, as the Crusaders won via run rule.
Zappia moved to 18-6 with the record-breaking win, striking out six Penguin batters in her six innings of work. Cale took the loss for Youngstown State (11-31, 5-14 Horizon), falling to 7-7, after entering in relief in the first inning.
Robinson led the Valpo offense on the day with a 3-for-4 effort with three runs scored and three RBIs, including her two doubles. LaFerle went 2-for-2 with two runs scored as well, while Wolter scored four times on the day. The Crusaders’ running game was in full display on Sunday, as Valpo stole eight bases on the day, with eight different players swiping bags.
“It was good to see our hitters get some confidence at the plate today and hit some balls hard after struggling during some games early this week,” said Schneider. “We also did a great job staying very aggressive on the basepaths.”Valparaiso (29-15, 11-4 Horizon) also set a new mark for victories at the Valparaiso University Softball Field on Sunday, winning its 11th home contest of the season. The Crusaders close out the home slate on Tuesday, when they host Notre Dame for a single game. First pitch will be at 5 p.m. CDT.