IUPUI at Valparaiso - Tuesday, April 13 - 3 p.m. (DH)
Valparaiso at Purdue - Thursday, April 15 - 2 p.m. CDT (DH)
*Valparaiso at UIC - Saturday, April 17 - 1 p.m. (DH); Sunday, April 18 - 1 p.m.
The Matchups: After playing just two games last week, Valparaiso (24-8, 6-1 Horizon) has a busy slate on tap this week. The Crusaders will play mid-week non-league doubleheaders Tuesday versus IUPUI (10-28) and Thursday at Purdue (17-21) before heading to Chicago this weekend for a Horizon League three-game series against UIC (9-26, 2-4 Horizon).
Previously in Valpo Softball: Valparaiso split a Horizon League twinbill on Tuesday against Butler, winning the opener 3-0 before falling by the same score in the nightcap. Alex Lagesse picked up the three-hit shutout in the first game, while Sadie Conner delivered all three runs with a homer off the left-field foul pole. Wednesday’s scheduled series finale was canceled due to rain.
Series Histories: IUPUI - Valparaiso owns a slight 25-23 advantage in the all-time series against its former Mid-Con rival. The Crusaders and Jaguars split a twinbill last year on March 23 in Indianapolis, with IUPUI earning a 10-1 win in the opener before Valpo rebounded for an 8-7 win in the nightcap. Ashley Wolter led the Crusaders at the plate in the win, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs, while Steph Kelly picked up the complete-game victory.
Purdue - The Boilermakers are 21-8-1 all-time against Valpo, but since Coach Schneider’s arrival, the Crusaders own a 5-4-1 edge in the series. The two teams split a doubleheader on April 16 last year in Valpo, with Purdue winning 7-1 before a 3-2 Crusader victory. Whitney Warner delivered the walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh for the win in the second game.
UIC - The Crusaders are just 7-48 all-time against the Flames, but hold a 2-1 advantage in the three matchups since Valpo joined the HL. The last meeting came on May 8, 2008 in the first round of the HL Championship, with UIC coming out on top in a 2-0 game.
Following the Crusaders: Valpo’s student-run radio station, WVUR, 95.1 FM, will be broadcasting the second game against IUPUI on Tuesday afternoon, but will not be carrying any other games this week. Live stats for all seven games this week will be available at www.valpoathletics.com, as well as live chats during the games at Purdue and UIC.
Yet Another Record Matched: In a season that has already seen many Crusader program records surpassed or tied, another such mark was reached last Tuesday with Valpo’s 3-0 win in the opener over Butler. The win was the Crusaders’ ninth straight, matching the 1987 squad for the longest winning streak in Valpo softball history.
Rewriting the Record Books: Tying the program record for the longest winning streak is just the latest in the marks this year’s Valpo squad has matched or broken. In no particular order, this year’s record-setting performances include (single game records for team runs and RBIs are all-time, all other team and all individual categories are since 1999):
-Tied program record for runs in a game (18, 4/2 G2 @ Detroit...tied 4/20/1985 18-7 win over Notre Dame)
-New record for RBIs in a game (18, 4/2 G2 @ Detroit)
-New record for hits in a game (18, 4/2 G2 @ Detroit)
-New records for total runs over two games (34, 4/2 G2 & 4/3 @ Detroit), three games (44, Detroit series) and four games (58, 3/31 G2 NIU & Detroit series)
-New record for most consecutive games scoring in double figures (4, 3/31 G2-4/3)
-New record for most consecutive wins by run rule (5, 3/31-4/3)
-Tied record for most consecutive shutouts (4, 3/24 G2-3/31 G1...tied 1987 team)
-KC Boldt matches individual single-game marks for hits (4) and RBIs (6) in G2 4/2 @ Detroit
Milestone Win: Last Saturday’s win in the finale of the series at Detroit also marked a couple of milestones for the Crusader program. It clinched Valpo’s best start through 30 games in program history at 23-7, while also making seniors Carrie Franson and Whitney Warner the winningest class in Valpo softball history with the 105th victory over their four years.
Offensive Firepower: The Valpo offense has dominated opponents all season long and currently ranks among the nation’s best in a number of categories. The Crusaders currently have six regulars hitting above .300, including a pair above .400, and eight players in all above .300. As of last week, Valpo was tied for the national lead in doubles/game (2.03), third in batting average (.346) and among the top-50 in the nation in five other offensive categories.
Pitchers Getting it Done: Since returning from the spring break trip, the Crusader pitching staff has been top-notch in the circle. In the past 11 games, a stretch in which Valpo has gone 9-2, Crusader pitchers have combined for a 0.76 ERA and have only allowed opponents to hit .203 against them while striking out 54 batters and walking just 13 in 64.1 innings of work. In that 11-game stretch, the Crusaders have not allowed more than three runs in any game and have tossed six shutouts in that time.
Raking in the Honors: Valparaiso has dominated the Horizon League weekly awards to this point of the season, bringing home eight honors while competing in just seven weeks. Kelsey Phalen and Shaleigh Jansen swept the Batter and Pitcher of the Week honors, respectively, following the Crusaders’ opening weekend of action February 15. Jordan Rutkowski was named the Batter of the Week March 1, while Alex Lagesse earned Pitcher of the Week accolades March 8. Most recently, Lisa DeBruzzi was awarded Batter of the Week honors March 15, and Lagesse earned her second Pitcher of the Week award March 22. On March 29, Valpo again earned a double honor, as Sadie Conner was named Batter of the Week, while Lagesse repeated as Pitcher of the Week, her third honor of the season. This past week marked the first week in which the Crusaders played this year that they did not receive at least one individual weekly league honor.
Youth Shall Be Served: The 2010 edition of the Valparaiso softball team is an extremely young edition, as this year’s Crusaders have just two seniors (catcher Whitney Warner; pitcher Carrie Franson). Five juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen round out the 19-player squad.
Conner on Fire: Junior Sadie Conner has been nearly unstoppable at the plate over her current nine-game hitting streak, going 20-for-34 with five doubles and four homers, OPSing 1.699 over the nine-game span. Conner has crossed the plate 13 times over the seven games and has driven in 15 runs as well. The junior earned HL Batter of the Week honors last Monday for her performances in wins over NIU and Detroit, and hit a three-run homer to account for all three runs in Valpo’s win over Butler. On the year, Conner is second on the team and fifth in the league with a .415 batting average, over 110 points better than she hit last season. Her slugging percentage this year is up to .691, on pace for the best single-season in Valpo history, while her career slugging is up to .511, which is fourth-best all-time at Valpo.
Strickland Solid at the Top: Sophomore Sara Strickland, coming off a 2009 rookie season in which she was named HL Newcomer of the Year, has moved back to her natural outfield position this year and has continued to be consistent at the plate. Since returning from the spring break trip, Strickland is hitting at a .429 clip with eight runs scored and five doubles over 11 games. On the year, the sophomore is batting .380, is tied for the team lead with 25 runs scored and 15 walks and has also stolen a team-best nine bases. Strickland has picked up enough at-bats as well to qualify for Valpo’s career charts, and is currently best in Crusader history in both batting average (.373) and on base percentage (.464).
Phalen Brings Runs Home: Sophomore Kelsey Phalen has been a fixture in the middle of the order for the Crusaders this season and has taken advantage of the opportunities to drive in runs. Phalen, who currently ranks third on the team with a .396 batting average and a .667 slugging percentage, has driven in a team-best 26 runs this season in just 32 games, tied for fourth among Horizon League players. Her 26 RBIs are just one shy of Valpo’s single-season top-five in the category, and with so many games left to play, the single-season mark of 40 is within reach for the sophomore.
Ichiyama Racks Up the Hits: Sophomore Joylyn Ichiyama has quietly put together an eight-game hitting streak, starting with the second game against Green Bay March 27. Over that time frame, she is 11-for-21 (.524) with six runs scored and four RBIs out of the two-hole in the lineup. Ichiyama has raised her batting average 64 points over the course of the hitting streak and is now batting .318 this year.
J-A-N-S-E-N Spells Relief: Sophomore Shaleigh Jansen has already set Valpo’s single-season saves record while proving to be a force as the Crusaders’ closer. In 14 relief appearances this year, Jansen is 2-1 with seven saves and a 1.11 ERA, striking out 22 batters while walking just four in 19 innings of work. She currently ranks second nationally, just one save off the individual lead.
Lagesse Keeps Mowing Foes Down: Sophomore Alex Lagesse has been honored by the Horizon League as its Pitcher of the Week three times this year already and has been dominant in the circle all year long. Last week, the sophomore tossed a three-hit shutout in the opener against Butler. While she gave up an unearned run in relief against the Bulldogs to snap a 27.2 inning shutout streak, Lagesse still has not given up an earned tally in her last 29.1 innings. She is now 10-3 on the year with a 1.23 ERA, and has been even better in Horizon League action, going 3-0 in five appearances with a spotless ERA. Against league foes, she has struck out 16 batters and walked just one in 20.1 innings, while opponents are hitting just .157 off of her.
McGee Wins as Well: Sophomore Sam McGee has teamed up with Lagesse to form a formidable 1A and 1B punch in the circle for Valpo this year. McGee took a tough-luck loss in the nightcap against Butler, giving up two runs despite allowing just one hit in 4.2 innings of work. Still, the sophomore is 9-2 on the year and ranks among the league leaders in both victories and ERA. She has walked just 15 batters while striking out 56 in 73.1 innings of work this year, and opponents are hitting just .242 against her.
Quickly: Sophomore Jordan Rutkowski continues to pace the Crusaders with a .427 batting average, good for fourth in the league ... freshman Jessie Marinec has been a solid presence in the Valpo lineup as well, hitting .346 on the season with 23 runs scored ... in seven league games, Valpo has outscored its opponents 58-6 ... the shutout loss in the nightcap against Butler was the first time the Crusaders had been blanked since the first game March 9 at Marshall ... following the Purdue twinbill Thursday, Valpo has 15 league games and just one non-league contest left on the regular season schedule.