The Valparaiso softball team got the 2013 campaign off to a quick start Saturday morning at the Belmont Spring Kickoff in Nashville, Tenn., downing Jackson State via run rule in five innings, 13-1. The Crusaders couldn’t complete the day one sweep, however, falling to the host Bruins Saturday afternoon in extra innings, 2-1.
"We came out very aggressive today with an excited mindset, but failed to match that in the afternoon," said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. "We had some nice production from our freshman and some smart play on the bases that helped lead us to the win over Jackson State. Against Belmont, we were never able to put them in any real danger until the last inning, when we just couldn't do the little things to win. I was pleased with our pitching and defensive efforts, but we are going to have to be much better at the plate tomorrow to beat two good teams."
Valpo wasted little time taking the lead on the Lady Tigers in the season opener, posting a four-spot in the bottom of the first inning. All four runs scored with two outs, as fifth-year senior Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union) knocked home junior Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) with an RBI single, freshman Janelle Bouchard (Kennebunk, Maine/Kennebunk) plated sophomore Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) on an RBI fielder’s choice grounder and senior Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison) came up with a two-run single.
Brown drove in two more runs with two out in the bottom of the third, cracking a double into the left-center gap to score Ichiyama and junior Amanda Wisniewski (Skokie, Ill./Huntley) to make it 6-0. Valpo then broke the game open in the fourth with five more runs, capped by a grand slam for Bouchard in her Crusader debut. Jackson State scored a pair of runs in the fifth, but it was not enough to prevent Valpo from completing the run-rule win.
Freshman Sierra Pico (North Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy) made her debut in the circle and was solid, scattering five hits and two walks to earn the victory. Brown finished the opener 3-for-3 with four RBIs, while Bouchard drove in five runs and Ichiyama and Wisniewski scored three runs apiece. Jasmine Warren took the complete-game loss for Jackson State (1-2).
Runs were not nearly as plentiful in the nightcap against host Belmont, but Valpo did claim the lead in the bottom of the third. Senior Hayley Bridwell (Lemont, Ill./Lemont) reached with one out, coming all the way around to third base on a pair of errors by the Bruins. Doerffler then delivered the run-scoring base knock with a single to right, scoring Bridwell to give the Crusaders the 1-0 lead.
Valpo had a runner on second with one out in the fourth, but could not capitalize, and then Belmont tied the game in the sixth. The Bruins loaded the bases with one out, and while freshman Taylor Weissenhofer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township) induced a foul-out to take care of one threat, a walk would force in the game-tying run. The Crusaders got a runner into scoring position with two out in the sixth and one away in the seventh, but could not push the go-ahead run across.
As the game entered extra innings, the international tiebreak rule was implemented, placing a runner on second base with nobody out. Belmont scored in its half of the eighth with a sacrifice bunt, followed by a sacrifice fly, and while the Crusaders loaded the bases twice in the bottom half of the frame, they were unable to score the tying run.
Valpo tallied just three base hits in the nightcap, but did draw six walks, led by three free passes issued to Wisniewski. Weissenhofer took the hard-luck loss in her first game as a Crusader, as she tossed a two-hitter with six strikeouts, giving up just one earned run. Carolyn Snodgress picked up the win for Belmont (2-1).
Valparaiso (1-1) closes out action at Belmont on Sunday with two more games. The Crusaders face Central Arkansas at 9 a.m. before ending the tournament against Western Illinois at 1:15 p.m. Live stats for both games will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.