The Valparaiso softball team made it two straight wins to close out the opening weekend of play Sunday at the Hampton Inn Invitational in Buies Creek, N.C., defeating UMass Lowell by a final score of 5-2.
“We finished the weekend with another strong performance,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “We continued to swing the bat well and got quality pitching and defense.”
While it wasn’t quite the offensive explosion the Crusaders put forth on Saturday in their victory over Seton Hall, Valpo did score all five of its runs on Sunday before the River Hawks put a runner on base for the first time. The Crusaders started the scoring in the bottom of the third, as senior Kimberlin Wallace (Newton, Ill./Community [Lake Land C.C.]) led off the frame by reaching via error and eventually came around to score on a two-out RBI single from sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central).
Valpo then exploded for its fifth inning of at least four runs in the last two games, plating four runs in the fourth inning. Sophomore Janelle Bouchard (Kennebunk, Maine/Kennebunk) reached on an error to lead off the inning and junior Tarah McShane (Streamwood, Ill./St. Edward Central Catholic) followed with a two-run homer to make it 3-0 Crusaders. For McShane, it was her seventh consecutive base hit dating back to the start of Saturday’s win.
Senior Amanda Wisniewski (Skokie, Ill./Huntley) quickly pushed the lead to four runs, as she followed McShane’s round-tripper with one of her own. The homer was the 19th of Wisniewski’s Crusader career, moving her into a tie for fifth place in program history. Wallace kept the ball rolling with a single and scored her second run of the game on an RBI fielder’s choice from senior Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran).
Staked to a five-run lead, sophomore Taylor Weissenhofer (Orland Park, Ill./Lockport Township) mowed down the UMass Lowell lineup for most of the game, setting down the first 14 River Hawk batters in order and only allowed a solo homer to Melissa King, which came with two outs in the fifth, over the first six innings. Weissenhofer ran into a bit of trouble in the seventh, allowing a pair of singles within the first three batters. Sophomore Sierra Pico (Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy) entered at that point, and while UMass Lowell pushed the lead run across and had the potential go-ahead run at the plate with two outs, Pico induced a groundout back to the circle to close out the win.
McShane tallied a pair of hits and two RBIs to pace the Crusader offense, as six different players combined for Valpo’s seven hits. Wisniewski reached base twice as well, drawing her team-best fifth walk of the weekend to go along with her home run. Weissenhofer earned the win to improve to 1-1 as she surrendered just three hits in 6.1 innings of work while striking out eight, while Pico tallied her first career save.
Four different UMass Lowell (1-3) players tallied one hit apiece, with King adding a walk to her solo home run. Marielle Handley took the loss in the circle for the River Hawks, falling to 0-2 as she surrendered four runs, two earned, in three-plus innings.
Valparaiso (2-2) returns to action next weekend at the Ragin’ Cajun Invitational in Lafayette, La., hosted by Louisiana-Lafayette, which was ranked #13 in the NFCA preseason poll. The Crusaders will take on Central Arkansas and the host Ragin’ Cajuns on Friday, Feb. 14 to open the three-day tournament, which also features Boston College and Memphis.