Valparaiso (2-2, 0-0 Horizon)
at Hatter Classic (DeLand, Fla.)
Friday, Feb. 25 - vs. Charleston Southern (3-7) - 10 a.m. CST
at Stetson (4-5) - 3 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 26 - vs. Bethune-Cookman (3-7) - 12:30 p.m.
at Stetson - 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 27 - vs. TBA - TBA
at UCF (Orlando, Fla.)
Tuesday, Mar. 1 - vs. #9/7 Michigan (10-0) - 1 p.m.
at UCF (3-7) - 3:30 p.m.
Next Up in Crusader Softball: Valparaiso kicks off its annual spring break trip to Florida at Stetson’s Hatter Classic Feb. 25-27, playing five games over the course of three days. The Crusaders then take to the field Mar. 1 at UCF, playing a top-ten Michigan squad in addition to the host Knights.
Previously: Valpo kicked off the 2011 campaign two weekends ago at the Cyclone Indoor Invitational, hosted by Iowa State. The Crusaders lost to Creighton, 2-1, and defeated Western Illinois, 9-4, on the first day of action. Valpo then split a doubleheader with the host Cyclones, falling 11-4 before run-ruling ISU, 11-2, in the nightcap.
Following the Crusaders: Live video from both Stetson and UCF for the games against the home teams will be available through the host institutions’ websites for a fee, while links for live stats for all games at both locations can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Jordan Stevens: Jordan Stevens is in his first season at the helm of the Crusader softball program. Stevens came to Valpo from Union [N.Y.] College, where he led the Dutchwomen to their most successful season in program history in 2010, winning 32 games and conference regular season and tournament crowns. Stevens also previously spent time as an assistant at Rhode Island and Niagara.
Series Notes: Valpo has never faced off against Charleston Southern in softball. The Crusaders are 0-2 all-time against Stetson, dropping a twinbill in DeLand on Mar. 5, 1986. Valpo owns a 3-2 edge in the series against Bethune-Cookman, but lost the most recent matchup, 9-1, on Mar. 3, 2003. Two days later, the Crusaders played UCF for the only time in program history, falling 5-0. Valpo also is 0-2 against Michigan, losing both ends of a doubleheader in Ann Arbor on Mar. 28, 2004.
Looking Back at 2010: Valpo enjoyed the best season in program history in 2010, winning a school-record 35 games and advancing to the final day of play at the Horizon League Championship, placing third. The Crusaders set a total of 13 new team single-season records, while individually, four different players combined to set six new individual single-season marks.
Plenty of Experience Returns: While Stevens is in his first go-round as coach of the Crusaders, he has an experienced team at his disposal, as 15 of 18 letterwinners from last year’s squad are back in 2011. Included among the 15 returnees are eight starters and both primary starting pitchers from last year’s squad.
Crusaders Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish fifth in the Horizon League this season according to the preseason poll. Cleveland State edged out UIC for the top spot in the polling, while Butler and Wright State tied for third place, just ahead of the Crusaders.
A Rigorous Slate: The Crusaders will have a number of challenges on their hands in the pre-league portion of the 2011 season. 11 of Valpo’s first 13 games are against squads which won at least 30 games a year ago, with 13 total such games scheduled before the Crusaders return from Florida. Six of those games are against teams which advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 as well.
Run-Ruling All Comers: Valparaiso won 12 games via run rule last season, and had a game called due to run rule in the opening weekend, beating Iowa State 11-2 in five innings. It was the first time the Crusaders have run-ruled a BCS opponent in the modern era.
Strickland Zooms Up the Charts: Junior Sara Strickland overcame a hitless game in the season opener to go 5-for-10 over the last three games of opening weekend, including a 3-for-3, 3 R, 2 RBI effort in the run-rule win over Iowa State. Strickland scored five runs on the weekend, moving her from fourth to second place on Valpo’s all-time chart in the category with 94 career runs scored. She is now just 10 runs shy of Karen Korb’s all-time record of 104.
Rutkowski Swings Away: Junior Jordan Rutkowski had a stellar opening weekend for the Crusaders, picking up hits, runs and RBIs in all four games at the Cyclone Indoor Classic. Her weekend was highlighted by a grand slam in the win over Iowa State. Rutkowski went 6-for-14 with five runs scored and seven RBIs on the weekend, ascending up Valpo’s career RBIs chart from outside the top-10 to sixth place, with 66 career runs driven in. Rutkowski is now just four RBIs shy of the all-time top-five.
Phalen Delivers Long Balls: Junior Kelsey Phalen, who tied for second on the team last year with six home runs, cranked out a homer in each end of the doubleheader with Iowa State two Sundays ago. The pair of round-trippers gives Phalen 12 career home runs, tied for fourth-most in Crusader history.
Lagesse Lets Loose: Junior Alex Lagesse posted a pair of solid pitching performances in Valpo’s first weekend of play. Lagesse took a tough-luck loss against Creighton, giving up just two runs on five hits while striking out seven. The junior then limited Iowa State to two runs on five hits as well in the Crusaders’ run-rule win over the Cyclones.
Rookies Produce: Freshmen Angie Doerffler and Amanda Wisniewski made big impacts on the Crusader lineup in their first collegiate action at Iowa State. The duo combined to go 6-for-13 with six runs scored over the tournament’s four games, with Doerffler tallying two doubles and Wisniewski going yard once.