Valparaiso did everything in its power to complete the opening game of a scheduled three-game series with Cleveland State on Saturday, but in the end, the umpires ruled the field unplayable and suspended the game with the Crusaders leading 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning. The game will be resumed Sunday at noon, with one game following the conclusion of the suspended game.
The rain started Saturday in the top of the fourth inning, starting to come down in earnest as the teams swapped sides and headed to the bottom of the frame. Eventually, increasingly heavy rains, combined with lightning in the area, forced the game to enter a weather delay at 1:58 p.m., exactly an hour into the contest. The tarp remained on the field for just about an hour, being taken off the diamond as the clock struck 3 p.m.
For the next couple hours, the Crusaders, joined by efforts of coaches, family, fans and staff members, worked feverishly to try to prepare the field for play. Finally, with the infield having been re-lined and both squads in the midst of warmups, the umpires returned to the field, met with the coaches and eventually ruled that portions of the field were still unplayable, necessitating the game's suspension.
Prior to the delay, it was the Crusaders with all the momentum, as Valpo plated four runs in the bottom of the fourth, accounting for the entirety of its 4-0 lead, and will be batting with still nobody out and a runner on second. Senior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) and junior Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) lined back-to-back singles to left field to start off the frame. Senior Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) then laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt that rolled to the left of CSU pitcher Tess Sito and into no-man's land, allowing Conner to reach with a single and loading the bases.
Junior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) followed with a one-hopper to third base, where Viking third baseman Gabby Gillilan attempted to come home for the force. But her throw hit Boldt in the back and bounced away, allowing both Boldt and Rutkowski to score to give the Crusaders a 2-0 lead. An ensuing wild pitch plated Conner, while junior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) then laced a double to the fence in center to easily score Phalen and increase the Valpo edge to 4-0. Lagesse will be on second with nobody out and freshman Amanda Wisniewski (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Huntley) batting when the game resumes.
Lagesse, also the starting pitcher for the Crusaders, kept Cleveland State off the board through four innings, but had to escape a couple jams to do so. An error and a pair of walks loaded the bases for the Vikings in the second, but Lagesse induced a pop-up on the infield and then struck out Alicia Nichols to keep the game scoreless. Andrea Nagy led off the Viking fourth with a double down the right-field line, but a pair of strikeouts and a foul flyout stranded her in scoring position.
Valparaiso and Cleveland State will now play just two games of the three-game series, as league rules do not allow for parts of three games to be played on the same day. The Crusaders still have an outside shot at the league title, needing to sweep both games tomorrow, as well as a Detroit win over Loyola. A sweep and a Loyola win would put Valpo in the two seed for the league tournament and the corresponding bye.