Valparaiso earned its second victory of the season over Iowa State on Friday afternoon by putting together one of the best offensive outputs in program history, downing the Cyclones 16-7 in its opener at the UTEP Invitational in El Paso, Texas.
“We took a lot of good at-bats today up and down the lineup,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “We also did a very nice job responding to Iowa State’s threats.”
The Crusaders got the scoring started innocuously in the first inning, plating just a single run. Senior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) reached on an error with two outs, stole second base and then came home on an RBI single from freshman Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) to open the scoring. Iowa State came back with three in its half of the first to take a 3-1 lead.
But Valpo would claim the lead for good in the top of the second frame. A leadoff single by senior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) quickly turned into a run, as redshirt sophomore Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) drove in Phalen with a first-pitch double into left. Sophomore Amanda Wisniewski (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Huntley) then drew a walk, and the pair of sophomores advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt.
A wild pitch scored Marinec to tie the game at 3-3, and two batters later, Strickland came up with an infield single to plate Wisniewski and give Valpo the lead. Duncan kept the inning alive with a single of her own and Rutkowski then registered her second double in the first two innings to score Strickland, capping a four-run frame which ended with the Crusaders owning a 5-3 lead.
The teams played scoreless softball until the Cyclones added a run in the fourth to cut their deficit in half. But the Crusaders answered quickly with another four-spot in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, sophomore Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) delivered a two-run double to push the lead to 7-4. Strickland followed with a sacrifice fly to score freshman Lindsey Norway (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Christian), and Doerffler later scored on an illegal pitch, making it 9-4 Valpo after four and a half frames.
Wisniewski scored Phalen with an RBI double in the sixth to extend the lead to six runs, but Iowa State made a dent in the lead in its half of the sixth, scoring three times to cut the Crusader advantage to 10-7. But Valpo capped one of its top-five offensive outputs in program history with a six-run seventh. Doerffler walked and Strickland doubled to lead off the frame, both later scoring on an ISU error. Rutkowski then smacked a two-run homer, her fourth in the last four games, and Phalen would cap the scoring later in the inning with a two-run inside-the-park round-tripper of her own.
All nine Crusader starters picked up at least one hit and scored at least one run on Friday. Duncan, Phalen and Rutkowski all had three-hit days, while Phalen and Strickland scored three runs apiece. Rutkowski drove in a team-best three runs. Senior Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson) improved to 4-1, earning the victory with 5.2 innings in the circle in her start, while senior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) recorded the last four outs, striking out two. Iowa State (4-10) starter Tori Torrescano took the loss, falling to 4-5 on the year.
Valparaiso (8-2) will look to extend its best start in program history on Saturday in a pair of games. The Crusaders take on Brown at 3 p.m. before facing UTSA at 7:30 p.m. Both games will have live stats available through www.valpoathletics.com.