The Valparaiso softball team split a pair of games to open the San Diego Classic II on Friday, defeating CSU Bakersfield 10-2 in six innings via run rule before dropping a 1-0 decision to the University of San Diego.
The Crusaders gave up a run in the top of the first to CSU Bakersfield in the day’s opener, but answered right back with three runs in the bottom of the frame. Freshman Lindsey Norway (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Christian) led off with a walk, and after a pair of outs, fellow rookie Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) walked as well. Senior Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) stepped up and delivered her eighth home run of the season to put Valpo ahead 3-1 after one inning.
The Roadrunners got an unearned run in their half of the second, but senior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) teamed up with Duncan to plate the game’s next two runs. In the bottom of the third, Strickland singled with two outs and came around to score on an RBI double by Duncan. Two frames later, the duo again combined for a two-our run, as Strickland reached on an infield single and Duncan drove her in with a two-bagger to make it 5-2 Crusaders.
Valpo then closed out the game via run rule with a five-run sixth inning. Redshirt sophomore Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) drove in two runs with a single to push the lead to 7-2, and two batters later Norway plated Marinec with a single of her own. With two runners in scoring position and one out, Strickland delivered the decisive blow, doubling to drive in both Norway and sophomore Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) to give the Crusaders the eight-run win.
Strickland led the Crusader offense in the opening win, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs, while Duncan also posted a pair of hits and Norway added a pair of runs. Senior Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson) improved to 5-2 with the complete-game win, giving up just one earned run in her six innings of work while scattering five hits. Marissa Hiller took the loss in the start for CSUB (6-17), falling to 1-3 after giving up three runs in two innings of work.
The nightcap proved to be a pitcher’s duel, as senior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) battled with San Diego’s Cassidy Coleman through three scoreless innings. The Crusaders put two runners on with nobody out in the fourth, but couldn’t push a run across, and a two-out RBI double by USD’s Morgan Kurtz put the Toreros ahead 1-0 in the bottom half of the frame.
Valpo had a pair of optimum scoring opportunities in the final two innings, but couldn’t plate the game-tying run. A single, walk and hit by pitch loaded the bases for the Crusaders in the sixth with nobody out, but a double play forced the potential tying runner at the plate and a flyout ended the inning. Then, in the seventh, Valpo placed runners on first and third with one out, but a strikeout and flyout closed out that threat.
Lagesse took the hard-luck loss, falling to 5-5 on the year despite surrendering just the lone run on four hits in her six innings of work. Coleman earned the win for San Diego (13-11), improving to 5-4 with five-plus shutout innings, while Jenny Lahitte earned her second save by tossing the final two frames.
“We really battled well in the first game, where we got off to a slow start and just stuck to it,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “Sam threw well and we got rolling in that game. It was a good way to start the weekend. In the second game, we did too many things to ourselves that cost us the victory, and that is a shame because Alex threw one of the best games of the year in a difficult environment.”
Valparaiso (12-9) takes to the field for two more games on Saturday on the campus of San Diego State. The Crusaders take on the host Aztecs at 6:30 p.m. CDT before facing Long Beach State at 9 p.m.