Freshman pitcher Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) threw Valparaiso’s first no-hitter since April 16, 2007, while fellow freshman Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) connected for two home runs as the Crusaders cruised to a 12-0 victory over Bryant in its opener Monday at the Rebel Spring Games. Senior Stephanie Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) tossed a three-hitter in the nightcap as Valpo completed the sweep with a 1-0 win over Sacred Heart.
Lagesse dominated the Bulldog hitters Monday, giving up just two walks, neither of which advanced past first base. Only two balls were even hit to the outfield by Bryant in the run-rule shortened game. The freshman, who lowered her ERA on the season to 0.45 and improved to 2-0 with the complete-game no-hitter, tossed the first no-no since Kelly and Carrie Franson (Arlington, Wis./Poynette) combined to blank IPFW at home during the middle of the 2007 campaign.
Phalen connected for two home runs in Valpo’s big fourth inning, when the Crusaders put eight runs on the scoreboard en route to the run-rule victory. The freshman led off the frame with a solo shot and later tallied a two-run bomb with two outs to cap the scoring. She also connected for an RBI single in the first inning in her first collegiate start, contributing to three first-inning runs, which would be all the scoring Valpo would need for the win.
“We were all obviously really excited about Alex pitching the no-hitter to open the day today,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “Kelsey, also as a freshman, did a great job in her first start offensively, hitting the two home runs in the same inning. It was just an overall very well-played ballgame by our team in all facets of the game.”
Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran) joined Phalen with three hits in the opener, while Sara Strickland (Phoenix, Ariz./Horizon) walked three times, stole three bases and scored three runs. Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) went 2-for-3 with three RBIs in the win, while KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) contributed a pinch-hit two-run double in the big fourth inning. Stephanie Barrett took the loss for Bryant in the circle.
Kelly was nearly as sharp in the nightcap against Sacred Heart, giving up just three hits and three walks while not letting a Pioneer baserunner past second base. The senior improved to 2-2 on the season with the win, striking out six in her second shutout at the Rebel Spring Games.
“Steph pitched a stellar game,” said Schneider. “She did a great job working herself out of a couple jams. Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) did a great job behind the plate calling pitches. She has shown early on the ability to work well with Steph in figuring out her strengths.”
The lone run of the game would score immediately in the bottom of the first inning. Korb led off the game with a single and proceeded to steal second base. After Strickland walked, Korb took off for third on a steal attempt and came all the way around to score on an overthrow by the Sacred Heart catcher.
Korb went 2-for-3 in the nightcap, improving her team-best batting average through 11 games to .500. The senior has also scored 13 runs on the season and is a perfect 12-for-12 on the basepaths. Jen Russell took the tough-luck loss for the Pioneers, allowing just five hits and the one run in a complete-game effort.
“Russell was one of the best pitchers we’ve seen so far, so we knew we were in for a tighter ballgame,” said Schneider. “Karen did a fantastic job using her speed after getting on base out of the leadoff spot to score the run that was the difference in the ballgame. We need to get better at getting key hits when we have runners in position to score, but I was very pleased with our pitching and defense. We made a conscious decision a few days ago to really focus on those aspects for the rest of the trip to help us get on the winning track, and it’s certainly paying off so far.”Valparaiso (7-4) will look to extend its four-game winning streak on Tuesday morning with two more games in Orlando. The Crusaders will take on La Salle at 8 a.m. CST before facing South Dakota at 10 a.m.