The Valparaiso softball team wrapped up its 2008 fall season with an undefeated 6-0 record while also getting the chance to play eight intra-squad scrimmages.
“With the graduation of eight seniors and the fact that 75% of our team is underclassmen, our #1 goal this fall was to get our kids balanced with softball and school,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “We felt it was important, with so many underclassmen, to build the players up instead of breaking them down. This meant a lot of team activities, teaching them how to train properly, getting them comfortable with their academic lives and instructing them on our philosophies.”
The Crusaders won all six of its contests during the fall campaign, combining to outscore its opponents 42-6. Schneider said, “We chose to play against NAIA teams and then have eight intra-squad scrimmages, instead of facing Division I opposition during the fall season, for a reason. We are a team that works to manufacture runs, and our best opportunity to learn that with so many new players is to get kids on base and let them make mistakes along with finding success. Also, our schedule allowed each player to get 40+ at-bats and also see ample time in the field, giving us as a staff the chance to properly evaluate all of our players.”
Valpo had five players hit better than .400 during the fall season, led by senior Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver), who returns after leading the Crusaders with a .324 average and six home runs in 2008. Sophomore Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher), who saw action in 26 games last year for Valpo, also hit over .400, while a trio of freshmen: infielder Joylyn Ichiyama-Nipahali (Torrance, Calif./Redondo), catcher Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) and outfielder Sara Strickland (Phoenix, Ariz./Horizon) all surpassed the .400 mark as well.
Freshman Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Bloomington Jefferson) posted the best numbers in the circle, tallying a miniscule 0.73 ERA in 20 innings of work. Senior Stephanie Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield), Valpo’s most experienced returning hurler, registered a 1.33 ERA while striking out 29 batters in 21 innings. Freshman Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) also stood out on the rubber, posting a 1.67 ERA and 16 K’s in 20 innings.
“All in all, we are truly excited about the upcoming season,” said Schneider. “While we definitely still have to get better, we made great strides during the fall. Our leadership this year is fantastic and everybody is working extremely hard. With our strength and speed up and down the lineup, we have the ability to win games, and I truly feel we’ll be competitive with every team in the league in 2009.”