Valparaiso (19-12, 4-2 Horizon) at IPFW (7-14) - April 9 [DH]
*Valparaiso at UIC (16-21, 7-1 Horizon) - April 12 [DH]
*Valparaiso at UIC - April 13
The Matchups: Valparaiso takes on non-league foe IPFW in a doubleheader at Fort Wayne on Wednesday before returning to Horizon League action this weekend at current league leader UIC. The Crusaders own a 17-11 advantage in the all-time series against the Mastodons, including a 6-4 edge under head coach Randy Schneider, while UIC leads its all-time series 47-5, including a 2-1 mark since Schneider’s arrival.
Last Meetings: Stephanie Kelly and Carrie Franson combined on Valparaiso's first no-hitter in over five years as the Crusaders won the opener over IPFW 8-0 in five innings April 16, 2007 at the Valparaiso University Softball Field. In the nightcap, Taylor Callahan hit two home runs to propel the Crusaders to a 6-1 victory for the sweep.
The Crusaders closed out their 2005 campaign on May 5 at UIC with a 5-4 victory over the Flames. Megan Carroll and Shannon Robinson each tallied two hits for Valpo in the victory, while Beth Adamski launched a home run. Brittany Atteberry earned her sixth win of the season.
Last Series: Valparaiso swept Loyola in a Horizon League doubleheader on Saturday by scores of 7-3 and 2-1, but dropped the series finale to the Ramblers, 1-0, at the Valparaiso University Softball Field on Sunday. The Crusaders’ pitching staff shined in the series, giving up just 15 hits in 21 innings of work while posting an ERA of 1.33 over the three-game set. During Saturday’s doubleheader, Andrea Zappia passed Valpo’s career strikeouts record, while Karen Korb broke the Crusader single-season stolen bases mark. In addition, the Crusaders broke the team single-season record for stolen bases and also tied the single-season mark for saves.
On The Air: This week’s games are not scheduled for broadcast. The next broadcast of Crusader softball will be on April 15, when Valpo’s doubleheader at Purdue will be carried on www.sportsjuice.com. WVUR, 95.1 FM Valparaiso is planning on broadcasting the entirety of the Crusaders’ home schedule.
Schneider Surpasses Milestones: With the Crusaders’ first victory on Saturday over Loyola, Valpo head coach Randy Schneider reached a pair of coaching milestones. In his fifth year at the helm of the Crusader program, Schneider registered his 100th victory at Valpo, which also marked his 200th victory overall as a head coach. Schneider now has 101 wins at Valpo, 48 more than any previous coach in program history.
Running Wild: The 2007 Crusader squad stole 77 bases, breaking an 18-year old school record in the process. But the new record lasted not even one year, as the 2008 team has already broken the mark for thefts in a single campaign. Valpo surpassed the record in its 30th game of the season, its 2-1 victory over Loyola on Saturday, when Jamie Weinburger took third base in the second inning. The Crusaders have now taken 81 bases on just 94 attempts this year, and enter the week ranked second in the nation with 2.61 stolen bases/game, behind only SEC power Alabama.
Fielding Your Position: This year’s Crusader squad has also proven to be quite proficient defensively in the field and ranks among the nation’s best in multiple defensive categories. Through the first 31 games of the season, Valpo has committed just 20 errors and has a team fielding percentage of .977, ninth-best in the nation. If the Crusaders maintain that mark, it would easily best the current team record for fielding percentage in a single season of .957, set by the 2006 team. Valpo has also turned a league-high 15 double plays on the season, and its average of 0.48 twin-killings per game ranks sixth among all Division I schools.
Winning Series: Through two weekends of Horizon League play, Valparaiso has captured both of its series (Detroit and Loyola) by sweeping the Saturday doubleheader before falling on Sunday. This season is the first time since the 2003 campaign that the Crusaders have won each of their first two series in conference play. That year, Valpo took three of four from IUPUI and swept four against Oakland en route to an appearance in the Mid-Continent Conference championship game.
Valpo Picked Fifth in Horizon: The Valparaiso University softball team has been tabbed to finish in fifth place in the Horizon League in preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders garnered 35 points in the polling, which awarded nine points for a first-place vote. Loyola has been projected to win the league, receiving five first-place votes and 60 points. UIC and Wright State each earned two first-place votes and checked in with 53 and 50 points, respectively, while Cleveland State was picked fourth with 41 points. Following the Crusaders were Butler (34), Youngstown State (22) and Green Bay (18), while Detroit rounded out the polling with 11 points.
Returning Experience: Head coach Randy Schneider returns six starting position players and all four pitchers from the 2007 squad that won a school record-tying 27 games. Among the 12 returnees on this year’s squad are eight seniors: infielders Alicia Ashburn, Mallory Gill and Courtney LaFerle; outfielders Kayla Grutz and Tracy Korth; catcher Shannon Robinson; and pitchers Chris Halstead and Andrea Zappia.
Zappia Candidate for National Award: Senior pitcher Andrea Zappia is among 30 players nationally who have been selected as candidates for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The award, which focuses on the “Four C’s” of classroom, character, community and competition, honors those players who excel on the field, in the classroom and in the community.
Raking in Horizon League Honors: Zappia has also received recognition from the Horizon League numerous times already this season. The senior has twice been honored as the league’s Pitcher of the Week, on March 4 and March 18, and also received the U.S. Army Scholar-Athlete of the Week award on March 11.
Among Valpo’s All-Time Best Pitchers: Last weekend, Zappia broke Valpo’s career strikeouts record, further cementing her place among Valpo’s all-time greatest pitchers. She currently ranks second in the league with ten victories, is third with a 1.89 ERA and ranks second with 85 strikeouts. In addition to breaking the Crusaders’ career strikeout mark, Zappia has moved into Valpo’s all-time top-five in career victories and ERA this year. With her four saves this season, Zappia now has 18 for her career, among the top-10 in NCAA history in the category.
More League Honors: Three other Crusaders have already earned weekly recognition from the Horizon League this year. Whitney Warner was named the league’s Player of the Week after her 7-for-9 effort at the Tulsa Invitational in Valpo’s first games of the season. Freshman Jill Jacobson earned Pitcher of the Week honors March 11 after throwing a three-hit shutout against Holy Cross in her first career start. Most recently, Karen Korb was named the league’s female Scholar-Athlete of the Week on April 1 after hitting .367 from the leadoff spot the previous week.
365 Days: That is how long its been since Crusader junior outfielder Karen Korb has last been caught attempting to steal a base. Since April 10 of last season, Korb has stolen 32 straight bases, just six successful steals shy of the NCAA Division I all-time top-20 list. She broke Valpo’s single-season individual record in the category with a steal against Loyola on Saturday and has already stolen 23 times this season. She also broke Valpo’s career record in the category earlier this year and has now swiped 59 bases in her career.
Wolter Rakes at the Plate: Junior outfielder Ashley Wolter showed flashes of power in her first two seasons, but has put it all together so far in 2008. Wolter is second on team with her .315 batting average and is slugging a team-best .483 on the season. Her nine extra-base hits and 16 runs scored are tied for team-high totals , and the junior also paces the Crusaders with 18 RBIs.
Catching Up in the Record Books: Senior catcher Shannon Robinson continues to move up many of Valpo’s all-time offensive charts, as she is enjoying a solid final campaign in the Crusader uniform. Robinson currently ranks second in school history with a .320 batting average, and also ranks among Valpo’s all-time top-five in hits (164, 3rd), runs scored (75, 4th), total bases (228, 4th) and RBIs (72, 3rd). Also a stalwart behind the plate, the senior has registered a team-best 192 putouts this season, giving her 746 for her career, good for third in the Crusader annals.
Kelly Takes the Circle: Junior pitcher Stephanie Kelly has served as a potent #2 hurler through the first half of the 2008 season. The junior is 5-3 with a 2.31 ERA, fourth-best in the Horizon League. In 63.2 innings of work this year, Kelly has struck out 36 batters while walking just 12 foes and has walked just one batter in her last five appearances.
IPFW: The Mastodons enter Wednesday’s doubleheader at 7-14 in 2008, including 2-5 in Summit League action. Most recently, IPFW dropped two of three games in a SL series at UMKC last weekend. The Mastodons are slated to play a twinbill against Ball State on Tuesday before facing Valpo. Tara Mickelson leads the IPFW offense, hitting .407 on the year, but is the only regular over .300. Rachel Staschuk has been the best twirler for the Mastodons, registering a 3.17 ERA in 46.1 innings of work.
UIC: The Flames enter their weekend series against the Crusaders atop the Horizon League, as they have accumulated a 7-1 league mark to date. At 16-21 overall, UIC will face off against DePaul before the key three-game series commences. Offensively, four regulars are hitting at better than a .300 clip on the year, led by Ashlee Ackerman’s .347 average. In the circle, Sarah Clynes has worked more than half the innings on the season and is 10-11 on the year with a 4.35 ERA.