Valparaiso jumped out to an early lead with a four-run second inning, but Wright State countered with nine runs in the third frame and the Crusaders could not come back, falling 10-5 in the series finale Wednesday afternoon in Fairborn, Ohio.
For the third straight game, the Raiders claimed a lead in the bottom of the first inning. Just like it did in the second game yesterday, Wright State loaded the bases with nobody out in the opening frame, but again Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson) pitched out of the jam giving up just one run. A foul-out to left field scored Kristen Bradshaw, but McGee induced back-to-back groundouts to escape down just 1-0.
But the Crusaders gained the lead for the first time in the series with an offensive outburst in the second inning. Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) led off with a double down the left-field line and Lisa DeBruzzi (Carlisle, Mass./Concord-Carlisle) followed by working a full-count walk. Jennifer Hermanson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance both runners, and two batters later, Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison) connected on a triple over the right fielder’s head to give Valpo a 2-1 lead.
Sara Strickland (Phoenix, Ariz./Horizon) followed with a hard-hit double down the left-field line to score Brown, and after a walk by Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden), the Raiders went to their bullpen to bring in Melanie Heyne to replace Allison Cox. Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) greeted Heyne rudely, though, swinging at the first pitch and hitting a grounder through the left side of the infield to plate Strickland to increase the Crusader lead to 4-1.
The Raiders responded in a big way in the third inning, however, sending 13 batters to the plate en route to scoring nine runs. A two-RBI double by Mollie Berry tied the game at four apiece, and Jamie Perkins followed with an RBI two-bagger of her own to give Wright State the lead for good. In all, seven different Raider hitters drove in runs during the inning as they took a 10-4 advantage.
Valpo put together a belated attempt at cutting into the lead in the seventh inning, as Rutkowski led off the inning with a double to left. Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) pinch-hit later in the inning with two on and two outs and delivered an RBI single to score Rutkowski to cut the deficit to 10-5, but the Crusaders could get no closer.
Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) took the loss in relief for Valpo, allowing eight runs (six earned) in 0.2 innings of work to fall to 12-9. Heyne improved to 10-12 for Wright State (23-24-1, 14-7 Horizon), giving up just one unearned tally in 5.1 innings in relief. Marinec connected on a pair of doubles for her two hits, while Strickland also had a two-hit day for the Crusaders.
“I wouldn’t change anything with the way we pitched this series, but I’m pretty disappointed about the fact we couldn’t pick up a ball and throw it to first,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “Giving up 38 runners, mostly on balls in the infield, you’re going to obviously struggle to win games. I thought we hit the ball pretty well all series as well, picking up 24 hits and also hitting a number of hard line drives that turned into outs. But just like I’ve said all year, there’s three components to the game, and if one isn’t working, you have to hope the other two are on fire. To me, we were good pitching and good hitting, but extremely poor defensively. We just have to keep working on getting better and preparing for a big series this weekend against Youngstown State.”
Valparaiso (29-16, 9-6 Horizon) returns home for its final series of the year at the Valparaiso University Softball Field this weekend as the Crusaders host Youngstown State. Saturday’s doubleheader and Sunday’s single game are both scheduled for a noon start time, and on Saturday, Crusader seniors Warner and Carrie Franson (Arlington, Wis./Poynette) will be honored as part of Senior Day ceremonies. All three of this weekend’s games will be broadcast on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats.