The Valparaiso softball team continued the best start in program history and extended its winning streak to six straight games with a pair of victories Saturday at the UTEP Invitational in El Paso, Texas. The Crusaders opened the day with a 10-2 run-rule win over Brown before defeating UTSA in the nightcap, 10-6.
“Our approaches at the plate were again very good today,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “Shaleigh did a nice job as well keeping us in the second game against UTSA, which is a quality opponent.”
The Crusaders have now scored in double figures in three straight games as well and now have four double-digit efforts on the season. Leading the offensive yet again on Saturday was senior catcher Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden), who continued her torrid stretch of play with a 5-for-6, 4 R, 6 RBI effort over the two games. Rutkowski tallied a pair of doubles in the opener before blasting two home runs against UTSA, giving the senior six round-trippers on the year, already tied for eighth-most in a single season in program history.
But Rutkowski got plenty of offensive help Saturday, as Valpo hit .451 as a team over the two contests. Redshirt sophomore Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) went 5-for-7 with four runs scored, while redshirt junior Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union) posted a 3-for-5 day with two triples, two runs scored and two RBIs. Sophomore Amanda Wisniewski (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Huntley) drove in four runs on Saturday as well.
The Crusaders never trailed in the opener against Brown, as an RBI single by senior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) and a sacrifice fly by Rutkowski gave Valpo a 2-0 lead after one inning. After putting up one run in the second, the Crusaders exploded for six in the third inning, including a 2-RBI double by Rutkowski and sac flies from Ichiyama-Drewry and freshman Lindsey Norway (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Christian).
Then, one run shy of a run-rule win, Rutkowski doubled with one out in the fourth and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) to secure the shortened victory. Senior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) earned the complete-game win to improve to 4-1 on the year, while Sam Brady took the loss for Brown (1-2).
Valpo also led for the entirety of the game against UTSA, but the Roadrunners stayed in the game throughout. The Crusaders opened the scoring with a four-run second inning on a solo homer by Rutkowski and a three-run blast from Wisniewski. The teams then traded single runs before UTSA scored three in the third to cut Valpo’s lead to 5-4.
The Crusaders added another run to their lead in the top of the fourth thanks to an RBI double by Wisniewski, and then scored three more in the fifth inning. Rutkowski launched her second long ball of the game, this one of the two-run variety, and Phalen added an RBI as well to push the lead to 9-4. Valpo’s lead was six entering the bottom of the seventh, but UTSA loaded the bases with two runs already in and two outs, bringing the tying run to the plate. Lagesse set down Molly Fichtner looking on strikes to end the game.
Senior Shaleigh Jansen (Ottawa, Ill./Ottawa Township) earned the win in relief to improve to 2-0, throwing four innings of two run ball after entering in the third inning. UTSA (7-10) starter Katy Akins took the loss for the Roadrunners.
Valparaiso (10-2) looks to extend its winning streak on Sunday as the Crusaders face host UTEP in their tournament finale. Live stats for the game, which is scheduled for a noon CST first pitch, will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.