A pair of solo home runs in the sixth inning helped Valparaiso slice two runs off a three-run deficit Friday afternoon at the Valparaiso University Softball Field, but the Crusaders would be unable to push the tying run across home plate, falling 3-2 to Green Bay in the league opener for both squads.
Neither team was able to get a runner past second base until the fourth inning Friday, when Green Bay cracked the scoreboard. A two-out bunt single by Kelli Hutchinson brought up Alyssa Johnson, who connected on her second home run of the season to make it 2-0 Phoenix.
Valpo looked to answer in its half of the fourth, as fifth-year senior Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union) and sophomore Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) opened the frame with back-to-back singles. Redshirt junior Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) drew a walk to load the bases two batters later, but a pair of strikeouts ended the Crusaders’ threat.
The Phoenix added a run in the top of the fifth on a one-out RBI double from Stacey Butts, but that would be all the scoring for Green Bay, as Crusader pitcher Taylor Weissenhofer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township) retired nine of the last 10 batters she faced.
The Crusaders finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth, as Ichiyama wasted no time, leading off and driving the first pitch she saw high into the air over the left-center fence to make it a 3-1 game. With two outs, Marinec stepped in and connected on a line drive which kept carrying until it cleared the right-center wall as Valpo moved back within one run. But the tying run eluded the Crusaders, despite a one-out single from senior Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison) in the bottom of the seventh.
Weissenhofer took the loss for Valpo, falling to 6-6 on the season. Allison Goecks earned the complete-game win for Green Bay (7-12), improving to 3-5 this year. Ichiyama was the only Crusader to record a multi-hit game, while Marinec also reached base twice.
Valparaiso (13-12) closes out the league-opening series with the Phoenix on Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader beginning at noon. Live stats for both games will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.