Valparaiso opened its home campaign at the Valparaiso
University Softball Field, along with the Horizon League slate, with a pair of
shutout victories over Green Bay Saturday
afternoon, defeating the Phoenix
8-0 in the opener and 3-0 in the nightcap.
Shaleigh Jansen (Ottawa, Ill./Ottawa Township) set
Valpo’s single-season saves record and moved into a tie for first nationally,
picking up her seventh save of the year in the latter game.
“It’s obviously huge for
us to start off league play with two victories,” said Crusader assistant coach Rachel Folden. “Before the games, Coach Schneider talked to
the team about the importance of getting off to a strong start in the league,
and that’s exactly what we did today.
It’s especially awesome to have the wins be two shutouts, says a lot
about how strong both our pitching and our defense performed for us today.”
Neither team could crack
the scoreboard in the second game of the day through three and a half innings,
despite both squads getting runners on third multiple times during that
stretch. Valpo would record the game’s
first run in the bottom of the fourth, though, as Sadie Conner (Washington,
Ill./Washington) led off the
inning with a single.
Pinch-runner Hayley Bridwell (Lemont, Ill./Lemont)
eventually made her way to third with Lisa
DeBruzzi (Carlisle, Mass./Concord-Carlisle) reached on an error. DeBruzzi stole second with two outs, and when
Green Bay’s catcher
attempted to pick Bridwell off of third on the play, her throw ricocheted off
of Bridwell and down the left-field line, allowing the freshman to score the
game’s opening run.
Bay looked in position to
tie or take the lead in the fifth, as the Phoenix
loaded the bases with one out. Jansen
relieved Sam McGee (Bloomington,
Minn./Jefferson) and induced a flyout to
medium-deep left field on which Phoenix baserunner Sam Schmeltzer was unable to advance from third. Sara Junion then grounded to short, where Jessie Marinec (Alsip,
Ill./Marist) went for the force play at second
and Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance,
Calif./Redondo Union) corralled the throw and tagged the base just before the
Phoenix baserunner to maintain the one-run Crusader advantage.
Valpo added a pair of key
insurance runs in the bottom half of the fifth.
Sara Strickland (Phoenix, Ariz./Horizon)
led off the frame with a single, and a pair of Green Bay errors loaded the bases with nobody
out. A fielder’s choice erased the
Crusaders’ lead runner, but with one out, Conner delivered a two-RBI single
through the left side that pushed the Valpo lead to 3-0, plating Ichiyama and Jordan Rutkowski (Alden,
N.Y./Alden). The Phoenix would put one runner on in the sixth
and two on in the seventh, but neither time could advance anybody to even third
base as Jansen and the Crusaders preserved the clean sheet.
McGee scattered seven
hits in her 4.1 innings of work, striking out four Green Bay hitters as she improved to 7-1 on
the season. Jansen gave up back-to-back
infield singles in the seventh, but otherwise was flawless as she earned her
seventh save of the year to set Valpo’s new single-season mark, breaking Andrea
Zappia’s record of six set in 2006.
Katie Cooney took the complete-game loss for the Phoenix, falling to 2-5 despite not giving up
an earned run.
The first game saw the
Crusaders jump out to a three-run lead in the second inning and never look
back. Conner led off the frame by
drilling a solo homer to straightaway center field, and later in the inning
both DeBruzzi and Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher)
would cross the plate on a double ripped down the left-field line by
Valpo kept the train
rolling in the third with another three-spot.
With one out, Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) roped a double
to center field and then scored on a single by Marinec. DeBruzzi followed with a deep fly ball that
got up into the wind and landed just beyond the left-field fence for her first
career home run, a two-run shot that pushed the Crusader advantage to 6-0. Bridwell scored on a wild pitch in the fifth
and DeBruzzi followed with a sacrifice fly that plated Marinec to close out the
opener via run rule in five innings.
Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) was stellar in the circle for
Valpo in the opener, tossing a complete-game three-hitter to improve to 7-3 and
lower her ERA this year to 1.60. Lauren
Beres took her first loss of the year for Green
Bay (11-6, 0-2 Horizon), falling to 4-1 after giving
up six runs in 2.2 innings of work.
“In the first game, I
feel like we just came out really aggressive at the plate,” said Folden. “We talked about being aggressive at bat, and
it really paid off in the opener. The
second game, Green Bay’s
pitcher was throwing a few more balls, and so we started to get comfortable
with taking more pitches, maybe too many.
Once we started being aggressive again, we got runners on base and made
plays happen to bring runs across the plate.”
Strickland led the
Crusaders at the dish on the day with a 5-for-6 effort which included three
doubles. Conner went 4-for-6 with a
homer and tied for team-high honors with three RBIs, while DeBruzzi also
brought home three runs and scored two tallies of her own. Meanwhile, the pair of shutouts by the Valpo
pitching staff extended its scoreless streak to 19 straight innings.
Valparaiso (18-7, 2-0
Horizon) attempts to sweep the three-game series on Sunday when the Crusaders
host the Phoenix in the final game of the set at the Valparaiso University
Softball Field at noon. Live stats are
available at www.valpoathletics.com.