The Valparaiso softball team continued its strong start to the 2012 campaign as it continued its spring break trip with a 9-1 victory over New Mexico State Tuesday evening in Las Cruces, N.M.
Senior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) had one of her best outings of the season to date in the circle on Tuesday, going the distance and giving up just a single run on a two-out RBI triple in the sixth inning. Lagesse scattered four hits over her seven innings of work and struck out five Aggie batters en route to improving to 5-1 on the season.
The Crusaders opened the scoring in the top of the third inning with a trio of runs. Redshirt sophomore Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) led off the frame with a single, while freshman Lindsey Norway (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Christian) reached on an error. The duo moved up into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt, and then senior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) came through with a two-out two-run triple to give the Crusaders a 2-0 lead. Freshman Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) followed with an RBI single to plate Strickland and make it 3-0.
Valpo added a single run in the sixth as another leadoff hit came around to score. Senior Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden), fresh off her second consecutive HL Player of the Week honor, led off the inning with a double, advancing to third on an error by the Aggie center fielder. A passed ball then let Rutkowski come home to make it 4-0 Valpo. New Mexico State responded with an RBI triple by Tiare Jennings in its half of the sixth to cut the lead to three entering the final inning.
The Crusaders then threw a five-spot on the board in the seventh. Singles by sophomore Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) and Duncan were sandwiched around a walk to Strickland, loading the bases with nobody out. Three batters later, senior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) stepped in and delivered a grand slam to break the game wide open. Marinec followed with a round-tripper of her own to close the scoring.
Marinec led the Crusaders with a 3-for-4 effort at the plate, scoring a pair of runs as well, as Valpo tallied 12 hits on the night. Strickland added a 2-for-3, 2-R, 2-RBI performance, while Duncan and Phalen each contributed two hits as well. Amber Olive tallied two of four hits for New Mexico State (13-10), which saw starter Alex Newman take the loss after throwing three innings, falling to 8-6.
Valparaiso (11-3) looks to continue its strong start to the season on Friday as the Crusaders open play at the Diamond Devil Classic, hosted by Arizona State. Valpo actually opens the tournament against this same New Mexico State squad at 2 p.m. CST before taking on the host and nation’s fifth-ranked team at 6:30 p.m.