Valparaiso used a four-run sixth inning to snap a three-game losing streak as it defeated Robert Morris, 4-2, in its second game of the day Tuesday at the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla. The Crusaders dropped a 2-0 decision to South Dakota in the day’s opener.
“Our goal for game two was just to get a win, and it didn't matter how it came,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “We did not care how it happened, but we needed to make sure we were doing the things we needed to do to get a win. It ended up being a scary one in the final inning, but it was a win, and we got out of today with a split. Now we get to come back tomorrow on a winning note.”
Valpo was held off the scoreboard through the first five innings against Robert Morris by Colonials pitcher Alexa Bryson, who registered 10 strikeouts in the opening five frames. The Crusaders got a runner on second with one out in the first on a double by freshman Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) and in the third on a single and stolen base by sophomore Hayley Bridwell (Lemont, Ill./Lemont), but could not plate either runner.
But at the same time, Crusader starter Shaleigh Jansen (Ottawa, Ill./Ottawa Township), with some help from her defense, blanked Robert Morris over the first five frames as well. With runners on the corners and two outs in the third, the Colonials attempted the double steal, but Doerffler cut off the throw down to second and returned it to catcher Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) to cut down the lead runner. Then in the fifth, RMU had a runner on second with two outs, but on a single up the middle, junior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) made a perfect throw to the plate in plenty of time for Rutkowski to tag the runner attempting to score and maintain the shutout.
The Crusaders finally broke out in the sixth inning, putting four runs on the board. Doerffler led off the frame with a single, and Strickland followed with a single of her own, advancing to second on the throw to third base to put two runners into scoring position. Senior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) lifted a fly ball to deep center for a sacrifice fly, scoring Doerffler and advancing Strickland to third. Rutkowski followed by reaching on a sacrifice bunt, as the Colonials attempted to make the play at home, but Strickland beat the tag to give Valpo a 2-0 lead.
Senior Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) then connected on her first career triple, plating Rutkowski, and later scored on an error by Robert Morris’ catcher to cap the Crusaders’ scoring. Robert Morris threatened in the seventh, as a pair of Valpo errors contributed to the Colonials scoring two runs and having the bases loaded with two outs, but junior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) induced a groundout to short to secure the victory.
Batting in the second spot in the order for the first time in her career, Doerffler delivered two hits to lead the Crusader offense, while Conner reached base twice as well, also reaching on a walk. Leading off for the first time this season, Bridwell delivered a hit, while Strickland also tallied a base knock while batting third for the first time in her career
“We had to try to do something, because we had combined for three total hits in our last two games,” said Stevens on the lineup switches. “We had to move people around, so the players that were producing at the plate were going to be in positions to hopefully drive runners in. We’re trying to see if we can find something that works, so we can get back to swinging our bats the way we're supposed to swing them.”
Jansen earned her first victory of the season Tuesday, scattering six hits over her 6.2 innings of work while giving up two unearned runs. Lagesse picked up her second career save in the victory as well. Bryson fell to 1-2 for Robert Morris (3-6) despite striking out 11 batters in a complete-game effort.
“Shaleigh had a good day and kept us in the ballgame,” said Stevens. “She threw the ball well, and was able to get out of some jams to keep Robert Morris off the scoreboard. She did exactly what we needed to help us get a win out of that game.”
Against South Dakota, the Crusaders could not get their bats going, as a one-out single by Strickland in the third would be their only base knock of the game. Valpo did draw four walks and managed to get three runners into scoring position, twice thanks to steals by Strickland, but could never push a run across the plate. Erica Denney improved to 2-0 for South Dakota (4-6) with the complete-game one-hitter.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes got the only run they would need in the first, as Stephanie Hall tripled with one out and then scored on a groundout by Mel Johnson. Christine Broders added a solo homer to lead off the second to cap the scoring. Crusader starter Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson) shut down South Dakota the rest of the way, scattering a total of six hits and striking out a career-high 10 batters.
“Sam came out slow today, and struggled in her first couple innings,” said Stevens. “But then it was like a switch went off, and she threw very, very well in innings three through seven. She threw better those five innings than she did in her last outing against Gardner-Webb, which had been the best game she had pitched this season.”
Valparaiso (8-10) plays two more games in Kissimmee on Wednesday morning, facing Florida A&M at 8 a.m. CST before turning right around and playing Temple at 10 a.m.