Three games all decided by two runs or loss all went against the Valparaiso softball team on Sunday in the final day of action at the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classic in Bowling Green, Ky. The Crusaders fell in the resumption of Saturday's suspended game to South Dakota State, 3-2 in eight innings, before dropping games to Pitt (7-5) and Western Michigan (2-1).
“We were in every game today, but just being in games isn't good enough,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “Our at-bats today, especially with runners on base, just weren't very good. We didn't play terribly this weekend; however, we didn't have the toughness to win the close ones. We have to find that in the next three days. It's disappointing because we're better than what we showed, but today, our opponents took it to us.”
The day started by picking up where the Crusaders and Jackrabbits left off before a power outage Saturday evening, in the top of the eighth of a 2-2 game. SDSU resumed with runners on second and third and one out, and following a walk to load the bases, the Jackrabbits plated the game-winning run on a grounder on which the Crusaders were able to just record one out. Valpo had a chance to score the tying run in its half of the eighth, but the Crusaders had a runner thrown out at the plate on a one-out single.
Freshman Sierra Pico (North Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy) took the loss for the Crusaders against SDSU, falling to 1-2 despite not giving up a hit in her 2.1 innings of relief work. Fifth-year senior Amanda Bolton (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon [Arizona]) started and scattered seven hits in 5.2 innings. Jennifer Sutton earned the complete-game win for South Dakota State (5-8). Offensively, sophomore Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) and freshman Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) each tallied multi-hit games versus the Jackrabbits.
Valpo then picked up regularly scheduled action against Big East foe Pitt in its first full game of the day. The Panthers jumped out to a 6-0 lead on the Crusaders, scoring three runs in the third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth. Valpo rallied with four runs in its half of the sixth, getting RBI base hits from sophomore Tarah McShane (Streamwood, Ill./St. Edward Central Catholic), senior Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison) and freshman Janelle Bouchard (Kennebunk, Maine/Kennebunk). The Crusaders had a chance to add more tallies to their side of the scoreboard, as they had the bases loaded with just one out, but a pair of outs kept the deficit at two runs.
Pitt added another run in its half of the sixth on a two-out RBI double to make it a 7-4 game before the Crusaders attempted a furious rally in the top of the seventh. Fifth-year senior Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union) led off the inning with a solo home run to bring the Crusaders within 7-5, and Valpo then loaded the bases on a walk, a single and a Pitt error to move the tying run into scoring position. But a pair of pop-outs and a groundout closed out the game without Valpo plating any more runs.
Freshman Taylor Weissenhofer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township) took the loss in the circle, falling to 1-2 after giving up five runs in 3.1 innings while striking out six hitters. Savannah King improved to 3-2 with the win for Pitt (5-4). McShane finished the matchup against the Panthers with three hits, while Brown and Ichiyama each tallied a pair of base knocks.
Valpo claimed the early lead against Western Michigan in the bottom of the second, as McShane led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a two-out bases-loaded walk from Ranieri. The Broncos got an RBI single in the top of the third to tie the game and scored the eventual game-winning run on a one-out double in the sixth. The Crusaders had the potential tying run in scoring position with two away in both the sixth and seventh innings, but could not push the run across either time.
Bolton earned a no-decision in the start against WMU, giving up just two hits and one run in 4.2 innings of work. Pico took the loss, falling to 1-3 on the season. Mackenzie Shepeck went the distance to improve to 1-2 for Western Michigan (3-8). Ranieri tallied a pair of base hits to lead the Crusaders' six-hit attack.
Valparaiso (3-5) continues the 2013 campaign next weekend at the Buccaneer Invitational in Charleston, S.C., hosted by Charleston Southern. The tournament begins with a game against UNC Wilmington on Friday, Mar. 1.