The Valparaiso softball team struck for five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 7-5 lead into the seventh inning Thursday in its 2013 home opener at the Valparaiso University Softball Field, but Western Illinois scored five runs of its own in the top of the seventh as the Crusaders would fall by a 10-8 final score.
“Today was not our best team effort, but we don’t have time to dwell on it with league play starting tomorrow,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “This will make us better in the long run.”
The Crusaders got the scoring started in the bottom of the third inning with a timely two-out hit. Junior Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) got on base with a one-out single, and two batters later, sophomore Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) worked a full-count walk. Sophomore Tarah McShane (Streamwood, Ill./St. Edward Central Catholic) then drove the third pitch of her at-bat down the right-field line, out of the reach of the diving attempt by the Leatherneck right fielder, for her first career triple, scoring both Doerffler and Duncan to make it 2-0 Valpo.
The Leathernecks tied the game in the top of the fourth, scoring a pair of runs, loading the bases with two outs and nobody on with a hit batsman and two walks before a run-scoring walk and an RBI infield single tied the game at 2-2. Western Illinois claimed the lead in its half of the fifth on a two-out single by Megg Kelly, and brought home two more runs in the sixth on a two-run double from Karissa Kouchis to push its lead to 5-2.
Valparaiso roared back with five runs in the bottom of the sixth to claim a two-run advantage entering the final frame. The inning started off innocuously enough, as redshirt junior Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) led off with an infield single before back-to-back outs. Senior Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison) kept it going with a first-pitch single, moving Marinec over to third, and then a Leatherneck error kept the inning alive as Marinec crossed the plate to make it 5-3.
The Crusaders took full advantage of the Western Illinois miscue, registering four consecutive RBI base hits. Doerffler, fifth-year senior Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union) and Duncan all tallied RBI singles, the last of which gave Valpo a 6-5 lead. McShane capped the scoring in the Valpo sixth then with an RBI double, her third extra-base hit of the game, as the Crusaders took a 7-5 lead into the seventh.
But Western Illinois would counter with a five-run inning of its own in the top of the seventh. The Leathernecks were helped by wildness out of the circle, as three Crusader pitchers combined to walk the first four WIU batters of the inning, the last cutting the Valpo edge to 7-6. Alex Pflieger then came up with the key hit, a two-run single which landed just inside the left-field line, and Western Illinois added two more RBI base hits later in the inning.
Junior Amanda Wisniewski (Skokie, Ill./Huntley) drew a one-out walk in Valpo’s last at-bat and crossed the plate two batters later on an RBI double from freshman Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) to bring the Crusaders within 10-8 and bring the tying run to the plate, but a groundout ended the game.
Fifth-year senior Amanda Bolton (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon [Arizona]) took the loss for the Crusaders, starting and throwing four innings before re-entering in the seventh and facing a pair of batters, the first of which would be the go-ahead run for the Leathernecks. Bolton fell to 2-1 despite giving up just two hits in her four-plus innings of work. Teagan Walsh earned the victory in relief for Western Illinois (8-10), improving to 2-2 by registering the final four outs.
Doerffler and McShane tallied three hits apiece to lead the Crusaders’ 13-hit attack, the latter also leading the team with three RBIs. Eight different Valpo players crossed the plate to account for the Crusaders’ eight runs.
Valparaiso (13-11) keeps a condensed stretch of home games going with its Horizon League opener on Friday afternoon against Green Bay. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m., with live stats available through ValpoAthletics.com.