softball team took full advantage of a tripleheader Saturday at Horizon League
foe Youngstown State, sweeping the three games by
scores of 13-8, 3-1 and 8-0. Freshman Sara Strickland (Phoenix, Ariz./Horizon)
set the Crusader single-season runs scored record, crossing the plate eight
times on the day to increase her season total to 37.
“I’m really proud of our
players today,” said Crusader head coach Randy
Schneider. “They’ve been working
really hard at maintaining focus over a full day, coming out and being more
mentally tough, toughness you need not just when you’re behind, but also when
you’re ahead to hold on to leads. I
thought we did a great job of exhibiting that toughness today, enabling us to
win all three ballgames. Whenever you
can get a three-game sweep on the road, you feel like you can eat a little bit
The Crusaders jumped out to
an early 2-0 lead in the opener, as Strickland homered in the first and Whitney Warner (Greenwood,
Ind./Center Grove) drove in Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington)
with an RBI single in the second. The
game quickly turned into a high-scoring affair however, as the Penguins pushed
across two runs in the bottom of the second to tie the game.
Valpo responded immediately
in the third frame, as Strickland led off with a single and eventually came
around to score on a wild pitch. Later
in the inning, Warner came up with a two-run single, plating Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden)
and Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance, Calif./Redondo
Union), to increase the Crusader edge to 5-2.
But YSU took the lead for the first time in the bottom of the third, as
a three-run home run by Jordan Ingalls and a solo shot two batters later by
Kristen Philen chased Valpo starter Stephanie
Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield).
The Crusaders didn’t trail
for long, retaking the lead in the top of the fourth on an RBI single by Ashley Wolter (Denver,
and a sacrifice fly by Rutkowski. Valpo
added another tally in the fifth when Jill
Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) drove in Conner, and put some
distance in the lead in the sixth.
Conner drove in the first run of the inning with a sacrifice fly, and
later in the frame with two runners on base, Jacobson sent a shot over the
fence in right field for her first career home run to push the Valpo lead to
12-6. The Crusaders would add another
run in the seventh on an RBI groundout by Rutkowski as they scored in each of the
Shaleigh Jansen (Ottawa, Ill./Ottawa Township) got the
job done in the circle for Valpo, allowing just one hit and one run in her
three innings of relief to improve to 2-3.
Cheryl Cale took the loss for Youngstown State, allowing 17 hits and 13
runs, all earned, in a complete-game effort, falling to 5-13. Warner led the Crusaders at the plate in the
opener, going 4-for-4 with three RBIs, while Strickland and Wolter each
registered three hits. Strickland also
scored four times, while Jacobson drove in a team-best four runs.
The middle game of the
tri-bill was a complete 180 from the opener, as the two teams engaged in a
pitchers duel. The Crusaders’ Sam McGee (Bloomington,
put up matching zeros with the Penguins’ Ingalls in the circle through the
first three innings. Valpo finally broke
the ice in the fourth inning, as Kelsey
Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) led off the
frame with a single and came around to score on a YSU error. The same scenario presented itself in the
fifth, as Strickland started a two-out rally with a double, moved to third on a
wild pitch and scored on an error to give Valpo a 2-0 edge.
The Penguins cut the lead in
half in the bottom of the sixth, as with one out, Ingalls doubled to the
right-center gap and scored two batters later on an RBI single by Autumn
Grove. But that was all the scoring Youngstown State would get off of McGee, and the
Crusaders added an insurance tally in the seventh when Strickland registered a
one-out triple and scored on a groundout by Phalen.
McGee earned the
complete-game victory, improving to 8-2 on her rookie campaign as she scattered
six hits. Ingalls took the loss for the
Penguins despite registering five strikeouts in her seven innings of work. Rutkowski and Strickland each recorded two
hits in the game at the plate for Valpo.
Ingalls started the nightcap
in the circle for YSU as well, but the Crusaders greeted her rudely. Karen
Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran) led off the game with a
hard-hit single, followed by a Strickland walk.
A sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position for Wolter,
who drilled a two-run double into the right-center gap. Following a Rutkowski single, Ingalls was
taken out for reliever Erin Schindler.
Ichiyama welcomed her with a perfectly executed squeeze bunt to score
Wolter to give Valpo a 3-0 lead.
That was all the scoring
Valpo would need, as Kelly rebounded from a rough outing in the opener with a
three-hit shutout to improve to 7-5. The
Crusaders added a pair of runs in the second on a two-run single by Katie Williams (Chicago, Ill./Lane
Tech [Kishwaukee C.C.]), while Conner connected on a two-out solo home run in
the third. They concluded the scoring in
the fourth on an RBI single by Strickland and an RBI groundout from Williams,
giving the Crusaders an eight-run lead to end the game after five innings via
Ingalls took the loss in the
circle for Youngstown
State (6-27, 3-11
Horizon), her second decision of the game to fall to 1-12 in 2009. Eight different Crusaders combined for the
eight hits in the game, while Korb scored three runs and Williams registered a
career-best three RBIs.
Over the three games,
Strickland led the way, going 6-for-10 with her eight runs scored to surpass
Gina Rhoda’s single-season record of 33 runs scored, a record which had stood
since 1986. Warner went 5-for-8 with
three RBIs, while Conner and Korb each scored three runs apiece over the
tripleheader. Valparaiso also set a single-season program
record for RBIs, surpassing the previous record, set by last year’s squad, on
Strickland’s RBI single in the fourth inning of the finale.
“I was really proud of Sara
today, she just had an All-American caliber day for us at the plate,” said
Schneider. “Lisa DeBruzzi (Carlisle,
Whitney both did a good job behind the plate for us, as well as hitting the
ball. It was also great to see Jill get
her first career home run today.”
Valparaiso (21-15, 7-5 Horizon) returns to the
Valparaiso University Softball Field on Thursday with a non-league twinbill
against Big Ten rival Purdue, a series that the Crusaders lead 4-3-1 since
Schneider’s arrival. First pitch of the
opener is set for 2 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1
and online at www.valpoathletics.com
. The official Crusader website will also have
links for live stats.