Valparaiso (2-2, 0-0 Horizon)
at Ragin’ Cajun Invitational (Lafayette, La.)
Friday, Feb. 14 - vs. #6/4 Michigan (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) - 11:30 a.m.
at #20/20 Louisiana (2-2-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) - 2 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 15 - vs. Central Arkansas (1-4, 0-0 Southland) - 9 a.m.
vs. Boston College (0-0, 0-0 ACC) - 2 p.m. [at Teurlings Catholic H.S.]
Sunday, Feb. 16 - vs. Memphis (1-3, 0-0 American) - 11:30 a.m.
Next Up in Crusader Softball: The Valparaiso softball team continues the 2014 campaign this weekend at Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajun Invitational in Lafayette, La. The Crusaders will play five games over three days, highlighted by games on Friday against #6/4 Michigan as well as the 20th-ranked hosts. Valpo will also take on Central Arkansas, Boston College and Memphis at the tournament.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats for all of this weekend’s games, except for the Boston College game, will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Jordan Stevens: In his fourth season at the helm of the Valparaiso softball program, Jordan Stevens has led the Crusaders to new heights through his first three years, as Valpo has captured the Horizon League Championship each of the last two seasons and earned the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win last year. Stevens enters this weekend with a 113-69-1 record at the helm of the Crusaders.
Series Notes: This weekend marks the Crusaders’ first meeting against both Louisiana and Memphis. Valpo is 1-0 all-time against Central Arkansas, earning a 7-3 win last season on Feb. 10. The Crusaders are 0-5 against Boston College, but the two squads have not met since March of 1998, a 3-2 BC win. Meanwhile, the game against Michigan marks a rematch of last season’s opener at the Ann Arbor regional of the NCAA Tournament, a 5-0 win by the Wolverines, who are now 4-0 all-time against Valpo.
Crusaders Picked Atop Preseason Poll: For the first time since joining the Horizon League, Valparaiso has been chosen atop the league’s preseason poll, conducted by the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders, defending tournament champions, narrowly edged out UIC, which won the regular season last year, for the top spot in the polling. Both teams received four first-place votes, while Valpo finished with 46 points and UIC 45 points.
A Challenging Schedule: The Crusaders’ 2014 schedule will prepare the team well for Horizon League play, featuring at least ten games against NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago. Valpo is currently slated to take on four teams ranked nationally - two this weekend in #6/4 Michigan and #20/20 Louisiana, as well as #24/22 Arizona and #10/10 Oregon during its spring break trip. The Crusaders will also face two other squads currently receiving votes in Hawai’i and Notre Dame.
Experience Returns in the Lineup...: Valpo returns six of its nine most regular starters from last year’s Horizon League championship squad for the 2014 campaign. In fact, six of the seven players who started 50 or more of the Crusaders’ 62 games return, with the only departure among that group being Joylyn Ichiyama, who now serves as an assistant coach. The Crusaders also lost Brittany Duncan, who led the team in batting average, to transfer.
...and in the Circle: One year after returning just 1.2 innings of work at pitcher from the previous year, Valpo returns 83.4% of its innings pitched from the 2013 squad this season. The only loss in the circle was graduated senior Amanda Bolton, who saw 69.1 innings of work last season. Taylor Weissenhofer, Sierra Pico and Ashlyn Michalak combined to throw 347.1 innings last year.
Taking on Ranked Foes: Valpo’s games against Michigan and Louisiana on Friday will mark the ninth and tenth time under Jordan Stevens the Crusaders have taken on a team ranked in the top-25 nationally. Stevens is still looking for his first victory over a top-25 program, as the Crusaders’ last win over a nationally-ranked foe came in March of 2008, a 7-5 win at #23 Maryland.
Record-Setting Game: Quite simply, the Crusaders shattered a number of records in last Saturday’s 24-1 win over Seton Hall. The 24 runs easily set a program record for runs scored, besting the mark of 18, done twice before - most recently against Detroit in 2010. The 24 RBIs and 23-run margin of victory were both records as well, while the 21 hits and 34 total bases are records dating back to at least 1998 (as far back as single-game records are available).
And Individually...: Tarah McShane went a perfect 5-of-5 in the win over the Pirates, becoming the first Crusader since 1998 to post a five-hit game. Janelle Bouchard drove in a career-high seven runs, matching the program’s single-game mark since 1998. In addition, Bouchard, Kaitlyn Ranieri and Sam Stewart all scored four runs to match that record as well.
McShane Strings Together Hits: Junior Tarah McShane followed her five-hit day against Seton Hall, which included four singles and a double, with hits in her first two at-bats against UMass Lowell - a single and a home run. McShane would make an out in her final at-bat versus the River Hawks, ending her streak of consecutive hits at seven.
Lindeman Picks Up First Win: Sophomore Mollie Lindeman, a transfer from PNC, made the most of her first career Division I start, tossing a two-hitter against Seton Hall to earn the win against the Pirates. Lindeman gave up just a solo homer to miss out on the shutout.
Other Firsts: Freshmen Taylor Lawson and Sam Stewart started all four games on their first weekend as Crusaders, while Jorgi Calombaris started both victories ... all three picked up hits, runs and RBIs in the opening weekend ... Stewart and sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri each hit their first career home run ... sophomore Sierra Pico earned her first career save, shutting the door in the win over UMass Lowell.