Pitching her second game of the day, Valparaiso’s Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) hooked up with three-time league Pitcher of the Year Amanda Macenko in a pitcher’s duel, but in the end, the top-seeded Cleveland State Vikings earned a 1-0 victory in eight innings over the fourth-seeded Crusaders at the Horizon League Championship in Cleveland, Ohio. The loss sends Valpo into the elimination bracket to face UIC Friday morning at 9 a.m. CDT.
“I thought Alex pitched really well today,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “She did everything we asked of her, coming back after throwing a game earlier in the day, something we haven’t had her do all year. She got a lot of ground balls and got outs in key situations to keep us in the game. She really pitched a very good game for us.”
Lagesse, who just hours earlier had tossed a five-hit shutout against Green Bay, came back out against the regular season champion Vikings and pitched her way out of a tight jam in the first inning. Two base hits sandwiched an error to load the bases for CSU with one out, but Lagesse struck out Amy Powell looking and induced a Gabby Gillilan groundout back to the circle to escape without any damage.
The pair of outs to close the first started a stretch in which the Crusader sophomore retired 20 out of the last 22 batters she faced in regulation. Only lone singles in the second and fifth innings marred Lagesse’s second through seventh innings.
But on the flip side, Macenko was handling the Crusader lineup as well. Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) picked up two-out singles in the third and fifth innings, but could not advance past first either time. Valpo’s best threat came in the fourth, when Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union) led off with a single and advanced to second three batters later when Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) reached on an error. But a strikeout, one of ten Macenko recorded on the day, ended the Crusader scoring chance.
With the game scoreless through seven, the first time Valpo has had a game go 0-0 that long this season, the two squads entered extra innings. The Crusaders were set down 1-2-3 in their half of the eighth, while CSU’s Megan Bashak led off the bottom of the eighth with an infield single. Lagesse registered a strikeout, but Tess Sito followed by taking an 0-2 pitch outside and hitting it the opposite way for a double down the right-field line, advancing Bashak to third.
The Crusaders intentionally walked the next Viking hitter to load the bases with one out, setting up a force at any base, and then an epic battle between Lagesse and Lia Gordon ensued. The pair battled through 14 pitches, 11 of them foul balls, before Lagesse got Gordon to strike out swinging for the second out. But Valpo would be unable to escape this jam, as Powell grounded a 1-1 pitch back up the middle to score the game’s only run.
Lagesse took the hard-luck loss, going the whole way, scattering seven hits and striking out seven hitters. The sophomore threw 146 pitches, 110 of them for strikes, but fell to 14-11 on the year. Macenko improved to 37-13 for Cleveland (43-13), giving up just three hits in her eight innings of work.State
“I was disappointed in our hitting,” said Schneider. “We just couldn’t come up with enough hits to put runs on the scoreboard. We needed to make more adjustments at the plate, but give Macenko credit. She’s a very tough pitcher, one of the top mid-major pitchers in the country, and she pitched a very good game as well for Cleveland State.”
Valparaiso (33-20) returns to action Friday morning in the elimination bracket, facing off against third-seeded UIC in an elimination game. First pitch is scheduled for 9 a.m. CDT. Live stats and live chat will be available for the game at www.valpoathletics.com.