A pair of solid pitching performances and the home run ball helped the Valparaiso softball team to a pair of wins to open play at the Hatter Classic in DeLand, Fla. on Friday. The Crusaders opened play with a 4-1 win over Charleston Southern before defeating host Stetson by a count of 5-2.
“Playing outside for the first time this year wasn't an issue for us today,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “Coming in, we were a little concerned because practice got canceled yesterday and we hadn't fielded a ball off of dirt in six months or seen a ball hit high in six months. But it turned out to be a total non-factor for us.”
Junior Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson) shut down the Buccaneers in the opener, scattering five hits and allowing just one unearned run in the complete-game win to improve to 2-0. McGee struck out 7 CSU hitters while walking just one. Then, against the Hatters, fellow junior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) went the distance to go to 2-1 on the season. Lagesse allowed just six hits in her complete-game victory, striking out four batters along the way.
“Even when teams got runners on base today, we felt that Sam and Alex both had control of their games,” said Stevens. “We never got nervous that it might be the start of a rally for our opponents, because both of them had command from inning one. It was a comfortable feeling today, because both Sam and Alex had good stuff and threw really good games.”
The Crusaders got the scoring started against Charleston Southern in the bottom of the third inning. Sophomore Jennifer Hermanson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) got on base with one out on a single to right field, and then junior Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) followed with a two-run homer to left-center, her third round-tripper of the year.
One inning later, senior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) led off the frame with a single back through the circle and promptly scored on the next pitch, as sophomore Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) delivered a triple to deep center. Marinec crossed the plate herself on a wild pitch to close the Crusaders’ scoring. A two-out rally by Charleston Southern in the sixth inning plated its lone run on a single and a double, but McGee squelched out any semblance of a threat with a strikeout to close the inning.
Hermanson and Marinec both picked up a pair of hits against the Lady Bucs to lead the Valpo offense. Charleston Southern (3-8) had five different players tally its five hits, while starting pitcher Morgan Dowdy took the loss to fall to 2-4 after surrendering all four runs in her four innings of work.
Against the host Hatters, Valpo struck first in the top of the second, scoring the game’s first run on back-to-back doubles by Boldt and Marinec, the latter’s coming on a 0-2 pitch. Stetson had an opportunity to put up a crooked number in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases with nobody out, but Lagesse induced a 6-4-3 double play ball and then racked up one of her four K’s to get out of the inning with the score tied at 1-1.
Then junior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) took over offensively. Strickland led off the top of the third with a solo homer to left field, her first longball of the year. Two innings later, freshman Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) singled with one out to get back to the top of the order. Strickland followed by taking the first pitch and depositing it in nearly the same spot beyond the left-field fence for a two-run home run, her first career multi-homer game. Later that same inning, Rutkowski connected on a solo shot on a full count, giving her home runs in three straight games.
“Sara made a nice adjustment in her approach at the plate from game one to game two with similar pitchers,” said Stevens. “It’s all about taking quality swings and swinging at good pitches. If we can continue to do that throughout our lineup, our offense will be in good shape.”
Strickland added an infield single in the seventh to close out a 3-for-4, 2 R, 3 RBI game, leading the Crusader offense from the top of the order. Stetson (4-6) got two hits from Rachel Lowe, while relief pitcher Courtney Gunby took the loss, surrendering four runs in 5.2 innings of action to fall to 2-3 on the season.
Valparaiso (4-2) continues play at the Hatter Classic on Saturday afternoon with a pair of games. The Crusaders face off against 2010 NCAA Tournament participant Bethune-Cookman at 12:30 p.m. CST before taking on Stetson again at 5:30 p.m. Links for live stats for both games will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.