Senior Courtney LaFerle (Elgin, Ill./Larkin) knocked a two-run single up the middle in the fifth inning on Senior Day to give Valparaiso the lead for good as the Crusaders beat Youngstown State in the opener, 4-1, to set a new program record for wins in a single season with 28. The Penguins bounced back to defeat Valpo in the nightcap, 7-2.
“One of our themes coming into the season was to have a record-setting year,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “Obviously, the goal of the game is to win, and to set the single-season wins record is a great accomplishment for this team. But our ultimate goal still remains winning the Horizon League regular season and tournament championships, and we have to be at our best every game from here on out if we’re going to accomplish that.”
The Crusaders kicked off the scoring in the opener in the bottom of the first. LaFerle knocked a single into center field with two outs, and senior Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) moved over to third as a pinch-runner on an Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) single. Valpo then pulled off a double steal, with Grutz taking home on the back end to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead. The Penguins responded in the top of the second with a solo homer from Kristen McDonnell.
Neither team scored again until the critical bottom of the fifth inning. With one out, Lisa DeBruzzi (Carlisle, Mass./Concord-Carlisle) singled to left field and senior Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) followed with a single of her own to left. Two batters later, Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) reached on an error to load the bases for LaFerle, who delivered the timely base hit to plate DeBruzzi and Ashburn. With runners on the corners, Wolter singled through the left side to score Korb with an insurance run.
Senior Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) tied Valpo’s individual single-season wins record with the complete-game effort in the opener, moving to 17-6 on the season. Zappia allowed just three hits while striking out nine YSU batters. Becky Hibner took the loss for the Penguins, falling to 1-6.
After two scoreless innings in the nightcap, Youngstown State scored three runs in the third, getting a 2-RBI triple from McDonnell and an RBI single from Jamie Fornal. The Crusaders responded with a run in the bottom of the fourth frame, as Wolter stole home on the back end of a double steal to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The Penguins put the game out of reach in the fifth, however, as McKenzie Bedra delivered a 3-run home run to straightaway center to push the lead out to 6-1. Pinch-runner Aubrey Sundling (Huntington, Ind./Huntington North) crossed the plate on an error in the sixth to cut the YSU lead to four, but Bedra added a solo shot in the seventh to cap the scoring.
Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) started in the circle for Valpo and took the loss with 2.2 innings of work, falling to 2-4 on the year. Cheryl Cale threw six innings to earn the win for Youngstown State (11-30, 5-13 Horizon), improving her record to 7-6.
LaFerle, Wolter and Mallory Gill (Beloit, Wis./Memorial) led the Crusader offense on the day with three hits apiece. Ashburn, Gill, Grutz, Chris Halstead (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral), Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]), LaFerle, Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) and Zappia were all honored following the day’s doubleheader as part of Senior Day festivities.Valparaiso (28-15, 10-4) returns to the field tomorrow as it hosts the Penguins for the final game of the three-game set. First pitch is slated for noon.