The Valparaiso softball team got back on the winning track Wednesday afternoon at the Valparaiso University Softball Field, dispatching of Horizon League foe Butler 9-1 in just five innings in the first game of the doubleheader before earning a 5-1 victory in the nightcap.
“It was just good to get back on the field today after the weekend,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “I thought we did a nice job getting back to doing the things which we typically do well. It was nice to see a good bounce-back performance today from a lot of people, all over the field.”
The Crusaders wasted no time claiming the lead in the opener, putting a four-spot on the scoreboard in the first inning. Senior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) walked to lead off the bottom of the frame, and sophomore Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) followed with a soft single through the left side of the infield. Redshirt sophomore Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) then deadened a bunt perfectly just out in front of home plate for a single, loading the bases with nobody out.
Freshman Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) stepped up and knocked a single back through the circle that Butler pitcher Leah Bry could only slow down, scoring Strickland with the game's first run. As the ball continued through the middle, it went between the legs of Butler's second baseman for an additional error on the play as Doerffler took advantage to cross the plate and make it 2-0. Two batters later, after a wild pitch had put both runners in scoring position, senior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) delivered a single into shallow left-center field to score two and make it a 4-0 Valpo lead.
Valpo utilized the long ball to add additional runs to its side of the ledger one inning later. Leading off the inning, sophomore Amanda Wisniewski (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Huntley) fell behind 0-2 before taking a pair of balls to even the count at 2-2. The next pitch left the yard, as Wisniewski cleared the scoreboard in left-center field for her seventh home run of the season. Three batters later, Marinec decided to add her seventh round-tripper of the year, drilling a no-doubt solo shot on the first pitch she saw to push the Crusader edge to 6-0.
Butler cracked the scoreboard in the third on a two-out RBI double by Lauren McNulty, but Crusader senior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) registered a strikeout looking to avoid any further damage and then set down the side in order in both the fourth and fifth innings. Meanwhile, Valpo needed three more runs to set up the run-rule win and would get those tallies in the bottom of the fourth. Doerffler worked a one-out walk and Marinec reached on an error by Butler's second baseman, putting two on for Duncan. The freshman set a new Valpo rookie record with her seventh home run of the season, launching a three-run bomb to right center to cap the scoring.
Lagesse improved to 14-7 on the year with the complete-game win, giving up just two hits over her five innings of work while striking out six. Bry, the first of three Butler pitchers, took the loss as she surrendered six runs in 1.2 innings. Valpo's eight-hit attack was led by a pair of hits apiece from Marinec and Duncan, the former scoring three runs and the latter matching her career high with four RBIs.
In the nightcap, Valpo senior Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson) was dominant early on, as after Butler's leadoff hitter was caught stealing following a single, she set down 10 hitters in a row, the last seven all on groundouts. A two-out RBI single in the fifth would be the only run McGee surrendered, as she avoided any damage in the fourth inning with two runners on with two out, as well as the final frame, when Butler had runners on the corners with one away.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders got all their runs in one fell swoop in the bottom of the third to give McGee and the defense plenty of breathing room. A walk by Wisniewski and singles by Strickland and Doerffler loaded the bases with nobody out, and two batters later, Duncan continued her big day with a hard-hit single back through the middle, plating the first two baserunners. A strikeout threatened to strand the pair of runners left on the basepaths, but senior Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union) turned on the first pitch she saw and sent a three-run homer over the left-field fence, her seventh four-bagger of the year, to cap the five-run inning.
“We just did a better job of having good at-bats and our swings were better,” said Stevens of the offense's 14-run output Wednesday. “We got away from that over the weekend, but I thought we got back to it today, which is what we have to do to stay successful.”
McGee scattered eight hits while striking out four in the complete-game effort, pushing her record this season to 12-3. Nine out of the 11 groundouts McGee induced went to Ichiyama-Drewry at third base, who also registered a pair of putouts in the nightcap. Bry took her second loss of the day after starting the second game as well for Butler (20-29, 10-10 Horizon), falling to 8-17 on the season after going three-plus innings. Ichiyama-Drewry and Strickland each had two-hit games in the nightcap for Valpo.
“I thought both Alex and Sam pitched well today,” said Stevens. “They both did a good jobs limiting the damage when runners got on base.”
Valparaiso (31-13, 15-2 Horizon) looks for the series sweep on Thursday afternoon with a single game from the Valparaiso University Softball Field at 3 p.m. All the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.