Junior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) retired 15 of the last 16 batters she faced, while senior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) delivered the deciding blow with a leadoff homer in the sixth as Valparaiso stayed alive at the 2011 Horizon League Softball Championship with a 2-1 victory over Cleveland State Friday. With the win, the Crusaders play again Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Boldt, who homered twice against the Vikings in Sunday's second game to account for all three Crusader runs in that contest, stepped to the plate with the game tied to lead off the top of the sixth. The senior worked a 1-1 count before connecting on a changeup, sending it to straightaway center for the game's decisive run. The homer was Boldt's 11th of the season, a new single-season Crusader record, while she is also now tied with junior Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) atop Valpo's single-season RBI chart with 42.
The Vikings got on the scoreboard first in Friday's elimination contest, striking in the bottom of the first. Lagesse got the first two outs of the inning, but an infield single by Tess Sito kept the CSU inning alive. Dara Toman followed with a walk to put two on, and then Andrea Nagy hit a hard grounder that ricocheted off Sadie Conner's (Washington, Ill./Washington) glove at third base and over towards Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) at shortstop.
Doerffler attempted to make the flip back to Conner for the force and the final out of the frame, but her throw was too high for the Crusader third baseman, allowing Sito to come all the way around and score to give CSU a 1-0 lead. The Vikings still had runners on second and third with two outs, but Lagesse induced a full-count grounder from Katelyn Ciminelli to the right of second baseman Amanda Wisniewski (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Huntley), who made the play on her backhand and made the throw to first for the final out.
Neither team had a substantial threat until Valpo tied up the contest in the top of the fourth. Junior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) reached on an error by Toman at second base to lead off the frame, and Boldt followed with a first-pitch rocket just inside the third-base bag for a double, advancing Strickland to third.
Two batters later, Conner grounded a ball deep into the 5-6 hole, where Andrea Nagy got to it and made the long throw to first. Conner beat the throw by a step, and Strickland, who held at third initially, took off on the throw to first. Ciminelli attempted to fire home to nail Strickland, but catcher Amy Powell was ruled to have obstructed the Crusader junior's attempt to score, tying the game. Valpo still had runners on second and third with one out at that point, but Sito got a groundout and a foul flyout to keep the game tied at one apiece.
Boldt's leadoff homer in the sixth would be the only remaining hit of the game for the Crusaders, but it turned out to be plenty, as Lagesse shut the Vikings down after the first inning. The junior did not allow a CSU runner past first base the remainder of the game, at one point retiring 14 straight Cleveland State batters. CSU's last threat came in the bottom of the seventh, when Ciminelli grounded a full-count single through the left side with two outs, but Lagesse got Brittany Bate to ground out to Conner to close out the victory.
Lagesse improved to 13-12 on the season with the complete-game win, allowing just the unearned run on three hits and two walks. Sito fell to 25-18 for Cleveland State (29-21), surrendering five hits and two runs despite striking out 10 batters. Boldt and Conner both picked up multi-hit games in the Crusader victory.
Valparaiso will play for a shot to advance to Championship Saturday at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, taking on the loser of the Butler/UIC game earlier in the day. Live stats, live video and live chat for the game will all be available at www.valpoathletics.com.