It was only apropos that on Senior Day at the Valparaiso University Softball Field Sunday afternoon, senior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) drove in all three Valparaiso runs in the nightcap with a pair of home runs as the Crusaders won 3-0 over Cleveland State. The Crusaders also claimed a victory in the resumption of the suspended game, 4-2, to close the regular season in second place in the Horizon League standings.
Between games Sunday, the Crusaders honored their trio of seniors, Boldt, Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) and Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher). The triumverate will end their careers as Valpo's all-time winningest class, having already won 122 games over their four years as Crusaders, and find their names plastered all over Valpo's record books.
“I can't say enough about our senior class,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “I just want to thank them for their four years as part of this program. Their leadership on and off the field, as well as the way they have handled themselves as student-athletes, has been exemplary. They have certainly left their mark on this program in an extremely positive fashion. It has been an honor to work the three of them this season and I wish them nothing but the best in their future endeavors.”
After being honored between games, Boldt took it upon herself to provide Valpo with all the offense it would need in the nightcap. The senior led off the second inning by driving the first pitch she saw over the left-center wall for a no-doubt solo homer to give the Crusaders the 1-0 lead. Then, in the fourth, after a one-out double by junior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon), Boldt again drilled the first pitch of her at-bat, this time to straightaway center field for a 3-0 Valpo advantage. The pair of homers gives Boldt 10 round-trippers on the season, tied with teammate Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) for the most in a single year in Valpo history, and 40 RBIs, tied for second-most in a single season all-time at Valpo.
The three runs was more than enough for junior Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson), who went the distance for the three-hit shutout. McGee allowed Vikings into scoring position in just two frames, escaping the biggest CSU threat in the fourth inning. Cleveland State placed runners on first and second with one out before a fielder's choice made it runners on the corners with two away. A steal put two in scoring position for CSU, but McGee induced a groundout to Conner at third to close the inning. Dara Toman reached second with two down in the seventh as well for the Vikings, but McGee closed the game with a strikeout of Amy Powell to earn the doubleheader sweep.
McGee struck out four in the complete-game effort, improving to 16-6 on the year. Tess Sito took the loss in the circle for Cleveland State (28-19, 13-8 Horizon), falling to 24-16 on the season. Boldt's home runs accounted for two of the Crusaders' four hits in the win, while Strickland and junior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) also picked up hits.
The Crusaders didn't need any more offense in the opener, as the four runs they scored before play was stopped on Saturday afternoon were more than enough. Valpo plated the four-spot in the bottom of the fourth thanks in large part to three straight singles to lead off the inning. A Viking error scored Boldt and Rutkowski, while Conner followed by scampering home on a wild pitch. Lagesse drove an RBI double to the wall in center to score junior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) with the final run of the inning.
When play resumed Sunday, Lagesse made the four runs stand up in the circle. The junior faced two on with two out in the fifth, but induced a grounder to freshman Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) at short, who made the nice flip to second to escape the jam. A one-out hit batsman in the sixth went for naught as well for the Vikings. A two-out single by Sito was followed by a home run from Toman to cut the lead in half, but Lagesse got Andrea Nagy to pop out to Doerffler to close the opening win.
Lagesse went the distance in the opener, which took 23 hours and 37 minutes from first pitch to last pitch. The junior improved to 12-11, surrendering just the two runs with two out in the seventh while striking out six Viking hitters. Sito tossed a complete game for CSU as well in the opener, with three of the four runs she allowed charged as earned.
Valparaiso (31-19-1, 14-7 Horizon) finishes in second place in the league regular season standings with Sunday's doubleheader sweep, just one-half game back of Loyola. By virtue of finishing second, the Crusaders earn a first-round bye in the 2011 Horizon League Championship and will kick off tournament action Thursday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. against the winner of third-seeded Butler and sixth-seeded Wright State. The tournament actually begins on Wednesday morning at Loyola, which earned the right to host by virtue of capturing the regular season title.