The Valparaiso softball program earned the outright Horizon League regular season championship on Friday evening, thanks to a 7-0 victory at Cleveland State. The outright title means that Valpo also earns hosting rights for the 2012 Horizon League Championship next Wednesday-Saturday at the Valparaiso University Softball Field, with the tournament champion earning the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The victory on Friday also marked the 35th of the 2012 season for the Crusaders, matching the program’s single-season wins record.
“It’s really great for our program – great for our players to see all of their work pay off,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens on the championship. “It’s also good for our athletic department and for our university, to continue to get recognition for our school and continue the success by our teams this year. It was something that our team wanted, especially after coming so close last year, but more importantly it just shows our consistent play throughout the year. Our players have really taken a consistent approach on a day-in, day-out basis this year, and this really epitomizes our high-five work.”
The Crusaders got a complete-game shutout in the circle from senior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher), her third consecutive shutout as the regular season comes down the stretch. Lagesse scattered five Cleveland State hits and didn’t walk a batter in improving to 17-8 on the season. The senior struck out four CSU batters and didn’t allow a Viking baserunner past second base.
Offensively, Valpo got the only run it would need with one out in the third, as senior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) drove a 1-0 pitch deep down the right-field line for a solo homer, her first round-tripper of the year. The Crusaders added another run later in the frame as sophomore Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) knocked a single back up the middle and eventually scored on a single into the 5-6 hole by freshman Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn).
The Crusaders then added four insurance runs in the top of the fifth to break the game open. Doerffler picked up her third hit of the game with a double to the wall in center and scored two batters later when she slid in ahead of the tag at the plate on an infield grounder. Later in the inning, senior Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union) sent a fly into shallow right field just out of the grasp of the CSU fielders, and a ricochet off a fielder’s glove sent the ball down the line for a 2-RBI triple, as both Duncan and redshirt sophomore Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) crossed the plate.
An infield single by senior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) brought home Ichiyama-Drewry to cap the four-run frame and push the Crusader advantage to 6-0. Valpo closed the scoring in the top of the sixth when Strickland led off the frame with a first-pitch double down the left-field line and came home with two outs on an RBI single by Duncan.
Megan Bashak took the loss for Cleveland State (17-37, 9-13 Horizon), giving up six runs in five innings of work to fall to 4-17. Doerffler had three hits and scored two runs to pace the 12-hit Valpo offensive attack, while Duncan, Strickland and senior Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) each had two hits apiece.
“I did think we swung the bat better today,” said Stevens. “We didn’t give away a lot of outs, which was nice. Even our outs were good at-bats and quality hit balls, which was a good thing to see from our offense.”
Valparaiso (35-16, 17-5 Horizon) closes out the regular season with a doubleheader tomorrow against the Vikings, beginning at 11 a.m. CDT. Live stats, live video and live chats for both games will be available through www.valpoathletics.com.
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