Valparaiso (42-17, 19-5 Horizon)
NCAA Regional - Louisville, Ky. (Ulmer Stadium [2,200])
May 18, 2012 - at #9/7 Louisville (53-3, 20-2 Big East) - 6 p.m. CDT
May 19, 2012 - vs. #21/19 Michigan (39-15, 18-5 Big Ten) or #-/RV Kentucky (29-28, 15-13 SEC) - TBA
May 20, 2012 - vs. TBA
Next Up in Crusader Softball: After capturing the Horizon League Championship last weekend, Valparaiso embarks on its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament this weekend. The Crusaders will kick off the tournament at the Louisville Regional against the 15th seed nationally, #7/9 Louisville, at 6 p.m. CDT on Friday on ESPN2. The other two teams in the double-elimination regional are #21/19 Michigan and #-/RV Kentucky. Every game of the regional will be either on ESPN2 or ESPN.
Previously: Valpo hosted the Horizon League Championship on campus by virtue of winning the regular season and won the tournament in dramatic fashion, winning five consecutive games after losing its first of the tournament. The last three of the Crusaders’ wins came in walk-off fashion, with tournament MVP Angie Doerffler delivering the walk-off blows in both of the wins over Loyola on championship Saturday.
Following the Crusaders: Every single game of the Louisville Regional at the 2012 NCAA Tournament will be broadcast live on either ESPN or ESPN2, with Beth Mowins and Jessica Mendoza on the call. The Crusaders’ first game Friday night against Louisville will be carried on ESPN2. The games will also be broadcast online on ESPN3.com, with direct links to the live video, as well as live stats, available at www.valpoathletics.com. WVUR, 95.1 FM - Valparaiso, will also be providing live audio broadcasts which will also be available online through the official Crusader website.
Head Coach Jordan Stevens: Jordan Stevens is in his second season at the helm of the Valparaiso University softball program in 2012 after leading the Crusaders to a successful season in his first year in charge in 2011. Stevens, who now owns a record of 76-38-1 at the helm of the Crusaders, guided Valpo to 34 victories in his debut campaign, just one win shy of the program's single-season record, and has led the Crusaders to a record-setting 43 wins already this year. He has also led Valpo to second and first place finishes in Horizon League play in his first two years, and guided the Crusaders as they captured their first-ever tournament championship this season.
Series Notes: Louisville - First meeting
Michigan - The Crusaders are 0-3 all-time against the Wolverines, losing a doubleheader in Ann Arbor in 2004 (10-0, 7-0) before fighting the fifth-ranked team in the nation down to the wire on Mar. 1, 2011, falling 2-1 on an unearned run in the bottom of the seventh.
Kentucky - Valpo and Kentucky have faced off just twice in program history, with both teams earning one win in Lexington on Mar. 12, 1997. The Crusaders captured the opener that day, 6-2, before falling 5-4 in the nightcap.
Plenty of Experience Returns: For the second straight year, the Crusaders brought back the vast majority of their team from a season ago. Of the 18 letterwinners from the 2011 season, 15 are back on the Valpo roster for 2012, including seven of the nine regular position players, as well as all four pitchers.
Claiming the Title: A nail-biting final day and a half capped Valpo’s wild ride through the 2012 Horizon League Championship. The Crusaders earned the right to host and a first-round bye thanks to winning the regular season title, but found themselves having to win five games in a row to claim the tournament crown. After consecutive shutout wins over UIC (3-0) and Youngstown State (10-0 ), Valpo needed a walk-off win in extra innings to defeat Butler (3-2) to advance to championship Saturday. The Crusaders then walked off twice against Loyola on Saturday, both by 2-1 scores (the first in nine innings) to earn their first league tournament championship in program history and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
Tournament Tidbits: Valparaiso became the first #1 seed to claim the Horizon League tournament title since 2004, when UIC swept through the tournament as the top seed. The Crusaders also were the first team since Detroit in 1987 (the first year the Horizon League held a softball tournament) to lose their first tournament game and rally to win the championship.
Doerffler Earns MVP Honors: Sophomore Angie Doerffler might have literally come up with the biggest hit of her life three times in a seven at-bat span to help Valpo claim the tournament title. It was Doerffler’s solo homer leading off the bottom of the sixth, the first of her career, which tied the first Loyola game at one. Then, it was her single to the left-center gap in the bottom of the ninth which plated Lindsey Norway to give Valpo a 2-1 win and force the if-necessary game. And improbably, it was Doerffler with the big hit again in the bottom of the seventh of the championship game, as her double to right-center scored Amanda Wisniewski with the title-winning run. Doerffler, whose leadoff walk in the sixth of the title game set up Valpo’s first run as well, earned the Tournament MVP honor after closing the tournament 7-for-18 (.389) with five RBIs over the six games.
More Tournament Awards: Doerffler was far from the only Crusader to be honored at the conclusion of the 2012 Horizon League Championship. Senior Jordan Rutkowski was named the tournament’s Batting Champion after going 9-for-15 (.600) with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs. Senior Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry claimed the Defensive Player of the Championship honor as she tallied eight putouts and 18 assists at third base over the duration of the tournament. Meanwhile, Rutkowski, fellow seniors Alex Lagesse and Sara Strickland and sophomore Amanda Wisniewski all joined Doerffler on the All-Tournament Team.
Regular Season Champions: Valpo’s win over Cleveland State on May 4 guaranteed the Crusaders the outright Horizon League regular season championship, a crown they earned by 3.5 games in the end. The titled marks the first league championship of any sort in program history. This also is the third time in Valpo’s five seasons as a Horizon League member that it has finished within the top two, as the Crusaders previously finished in second place in 2008 and 2011.
Crusaders Outpace Preseason Pick: For the third consecutive year, Valparaiso finished higher in the standings than where it was projected by the league’s coaches in the preseason. The Crusaders had been selected fourth in this year’s preseason poll before earning the regular season title.
Most Wins Ever: While earning the Horizon League title has been the main goal for the Crusaders all season long, they have also reached another significant milestone. Valpo has smashed the previous program record for victories in a season, with its five wins at the tournament giving the team 42 on the season, surpassing the previous program record of 35 set in 2010. The Crusaders now have four 30+ win seasons in program history, all of which have come within the last five years.
More Records: This year’s Crusader squad has completely re-written the program’s record book. 14 different individual single-season records, as well as 14 team single-season marks, have been surpassed already this season. Meanwhile, current team members also hold 13 unique career records as well. A full updated record book can be found at the back of the postseason guide.
Versus the Tournament Field: Valpo has played just three games this season against the 2012 NCAA Tournament field. The Crusaders defeated UT-Martin, the OVC champion, on Feb. 25 (8-4) and fell at Arizona State on Mar. 9 (6-2). Valpo also traveled down the road to Notre Dame on Apr. 18, losing 6-3.
Historic League Start: While the Crusaders finally dropped a Horizon League game in the nightcap of a doubleheader at UIC, it halted one of the best starts ever in league play by a softball team. Valpo won each of its first four league series by sweeping all three contests and then took the series opener against the Flames for a 13-0 start, the second-best start in league play ever by a Horizon League program. Only the 1997 UIC squad, which finished a perfect 14-0 in Horizon League action, won more consecutive games to start off the league season.
Double-Digit Winning Streak: The Crusaders’ loss to Notre Dame in non-league action on April 18 snapped just the second double-digit winning streak in program history. Valpo carried an 11-game winning streak prior to the loss against the Fighting Irish, trailing just the 2011 squad, which won 13 straight at one point, for the longest winning streak all-time. The Crusaders, who went nearly three full weeks between losses, won nine of their 11 during this winning streak within Horizon League play, as opposed to the record streak, in which just three of the 13 games were league contests.
Record Rally: Given that the first game of the Saturday doubleheader against YSU April 14 was a 4-3 decision, nobody could have seen coming what happened in the nightcap. The Penguins torched Valpo for 11 first-inning runs and added another tally in the second to go up 12-0 through two frames. But that only set the stage for the largest come-from-behind win in Crusader softball history and what is believed to be the largest comeback in NCAA Division I softball this season. Valpo scored four in the third, three in the fourth and four in the fifth to cut the deficit to just one run before scoring one in the sixth to tie it and getting a walkoff single in the seventh for the 13-12 win. The 12 runs also marks the most Valpo has ever surrendered in a victory.
Winning by Run Rule: The Crusaders won their second elimination game of the 2012 Horizon League Championship over Youngstown State 10-0 in six innings, capped by a three-run homer by Amanda Wisniewski, for their tenth victory via run rule this season. Valpo still has yet to be on the wrong end of a shortened victory in 2012. Last season, the Crusaders won eight games by run rule and lost three times. Since joining the Horizon League, Valpo boasts a 22-3 record in league games shortened via run rule.
League Weekly Award Winners: The Crusaders ended the regular season having tallied eight Horizon League weekly award winners. Senior Jordan Rutkowski earned a team-best three Player of the Week nods this season, while freshman Brittany Duncan received the honor for the first and for the last week of play. Redshirt sophomore Jessie Marinec, senior Sam McGee and senior Alex Lagesse each also captured one weekly honor from the league office.
A Look at the Honorees: Valpo boasts the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year, four First Team All-League honorees and one Second Team All-League recipient. The Crusaders became the first Horizon League softball program to have four players receive First Team recognition since joining the league in 2008. Here’s a look at each of the Crusaders’ five postseason honorees:
Brittany Duncan - Duncan received Newcomer of the Year accolades and also earned a spot on the First Team and the All-Newcomer Team after a remarkable rookie season. The freshman designated player is hitting .388 with 13 doubles and nine home runs and has driven in 51 runs, which surpassed Valpo’s previous single-season record and now ranks second in a single year in Crusader history. She also has walked 27 times, giving her an on-base percentage of .482. Duncan especially stood out within Horizon League play, leading all league players with a .471 batting average and 31 RBIs.
Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry - Ichiyama-Drewry earned her spot on the First Team after coming back from a redshirt season stronger than ever. The senior third baseman is hitting .299 with 44 RBIs, which is good for third in the league. She has picked up 24 extra-base hits on the year, including 13 doubles and eight home runs, giving her a slugging percentage of .546, which ranks seventh league-wide. She also has set a new school record and leads the league in the field with 181 assists while manning the hot corner for the Crusaders. Within Horizon League action, Ichiyama-Drewry led all league players with nine doubles and tallied 29 RBIs, good for second behind Duncan. This marks Ichiyama-Drewry’s second league postseason honor, as she was a member of the league’s All-Newcomer Team in 2009.
Alex Lagesse - Lagesse received First Team honors after a regular season in which she cemented herself as one of the league’s top pitchers. The senior has registered a league-best 22 victories with a 1.98 ERA, which ranks second, and 162 strikeouts, good for fifth league-wide. Within Horizon League play, Lagesse picked up 10 of her victories, tying for league-high honors, and earned a 2.05 ERA with 69 strikeouts. Opponents this season have hit just .216 against the right-hander, an average she lowered to .205 in league-only action. This is Lagesse’s second postseason honor from the Horizon League, as she was tabbed a Second Team All-League honoree last season.
Jordan Rutkowski - Rutkowski repeats as a First Team All-League honoree after re-writing the Crusader record books this year. The senior catcher broke Valpo’s single-season records for both home runs and RBIs just past the midway point of the 2012 campaign, and currently holds the season records in both with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs, the latter also a league-leading mark. Rutkowski is hitting .428 on the season, good for second in the league and poised to become Valpo’s first .400 hitter since 1998. She also leads the league in doubles (19) and total bases, ranks second in slugging percentage (.795), on base percentage (.515), and hits (71), as well as third in runs scored (44). For Rutkowski, it is her third career postseason Horizon League honor, as she was a Second Team selection in 2010 prior to her First Team nod last year.
Jessie Marinec - Marinec earned a spot on the All-League Second Team after bouncing back from a medical redshirt season last year. The sophomore second baseman is hitting .331 on the season with nine doubles and seven homers while scoring 44 runs, which is one off the team lead and ranks third in the league. Marinec also ranked among the league’s top-ten in batting average (10th), hits (58, 8th) and assists (100, t-5th). For Marinec, it is her second postseason honor from the league office, as she was an All-Newcomer Team honoree in 2010.