Valparaiso was sharp in all aspects of the game in a
doubleheader sweep of Northern Illinois
Wednesday at the Valparaiso University Softball Field, downing the Huskies 9-0
in the opener and 14-2 in the nightcap.
The Crusaders matched their program record of four straight shutouts
with the blanking in the day’s first game, and also got to 20 wins the fastest
of any team in program history.
“It was great to see the
way we came out ready to play today,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “We obviously hit the ball extremely well and
were very aggressive at the plate in conditions that warranted being aggressive
(wind blowing out at 20+ MPH). I also
credit our pitching and defense for working hard, getting ground balls and
keeping the ball in the park. Other than
a couple rough innings in the second game, we did a pretty good job spreading
out NIU’s hits and keeping their score down.”
Valpo got the scoring
started quickly in the opener, as sophomore Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) launched a two-run homer in
the bottom of the first, followed immediately by a solo shot from junior Sadie Conner (Washington,
Ill./Washington). Later in the frame,
freshman Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison)
delivered a two-out double down the left field line to increase the Crusader
lead to 5-0 after just one inning.
Sophomore Sara Strickland (Phoenix, Ariz./Horizon)
kept the scoreboard rolling by leading off the second inning with a solo homer
to right-center field. Conner would come
around to put up another tally after doubling and completing the journey around
the bases on a single by sophomore Kelsey
Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia). The Crusaders closed the scoring in the third
as an RBI double by sophomore Joylyn
Ichiyama (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union) plated junior Lisa DeBruzzi (Carlisle,
Mass./Concord-Carlisle) and Strickland followed right behind DeBruzzi thanks to
an NIU error.
Sophomore Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher)
earned the victory in the opener, improving to 8-3 after tossing three innings
of one-hit ball. Freshman Amanda Bolton (Phoenix,
and senior Carrie Franson (Arlington, Wis./Poynette)
closed out the game with one perfect inning apiece, each striking out one NIU
batter. Whitney Owen took the
complete-game loss for the Huskies, falling to 2-4, while also delivering NIU’s
The nightcap again saw
the Crusaders jump out to a lead they would not relinquish in the bottom of the
first. A Strickland single, Ichiyama
double and Rutkowski walk loaded the bases with nobody out, and Conner and
Phalen brought home runs with RBI groundouts to give Valpo a 2-0 lead after one
frame. Two innings later, freshman Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist)
delivered a two-RBI single to increase the lead to four runs. Freshman Jennifer
Hermanson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) connected on an RBI single
later in the inning and later scored on an NIU error, while Brown added an RBI groundout
to push the Valpo advantage to 7-0 after three.
Illinois cracked the
scoreboard for the first time in the top of the fourth, posting two runs on a
leadoff homer and a sacrifice fly. But
the Crusaders put a seven-spot on the scoreboard in their half of the frame,
highlighted by a three-run homer from Phalen and RBI pinch-hits from junior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) and
senior Whitney Warner (Greenwood,
Ind./Center Grove), as Valpo closed out its second run-rule win of the day.
Sophomore Sam McGee (Bloomington,
Minn./Jefferson) pitched three shutout innings
in the day’s second game to improve to 8-1, while sophomore Shaleigh Jansen (Ottawa,
Ill./Ottawa Township) closed out the game by
tossing the game’s final two frames.
Monica Segura took the loss for NIU (10-18), throwing all four innings
to drop to 2-7 on the year.
Strickland led the
Crusaders at the plate on the day out of the leadoff spot, tallying four hits
and tying for team-high honors with four runs scored, a number which Conner
matched. All three of Ichiyama’s hits
were two-baggers, while Phalen delivered a team-best five RBIs.
Valparaiso (20-7) returns to Horizon League action on
Friday afternoon at noon CDT with a doubleheader at Detroit.
Live stats and live chat for both games will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.