Valparaiso (3-10, 0-0 Horizon)
at Springhill Suites Invitational (Boise, Idaho)
Friday, Mar. 7 - vs. Weber State (9-5, 0-0 Big Sky) - noon CT
Saturday, Mar. 8 - vs. Weber State - 11 a.m.
at Boise State (7-10, 0-0 MWC) - 3 p.m.
Sunday, Mar. 9 - vs. Indiana (2-14-1, 0-0 Big Ten) - 11 a.m.
at Boise State - 1:15 p.m.
Next Up in Crusader Softball: The Valparaiso softball team continues its 2014 spring break trip this weekend at the Springhill Suites Invitational, hosted by Boise State in Boise, Idaho. The Crusaders will play two games apiece against the host Broncos and Weber State, while also taking on Indiana once.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats will be available for all five of this weekend’s games - links will be published on 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 114-77-1 record at the helm of the Crusaders.
Series Notes: Valpo has never faced Boise State or Weber State on the softball diamond. Valpo has met Indiana eight times, with the Hoosiers holding a 6-2 series edge, but the two squads have not completed a game since Mar. 23, 2002 - a 5-4 IU win in Bloomington. Valpo and IU actually began a game last weekend at Arizona, but it was suspended in the top of the fifth inning - there is the possibility of it being completed this weekend.
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 as well. The Crusaders lost a narrow-one run game to #20/20 Louisiana in their last tournament, and faced #10/9 Arizona last weekend. Later in the spring break trip, Valpo will take on #2/5 Oregon, and a matchup against #21/22 Notre Dame awaits later this spring.
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.
Snapping a Skid: The Crusaders broke an eight-game losing streak in their finale at Arizona, downing Longwood 7-6 on a walk-off homer by Amanda Wisniewski. Wisniewski’s round-tripper was her team-best fourth of the season, giving her 22 career home runs, tied for third-most in Crusader history. The eight-game losing streak had been the Crusaders’ longest since dropping 22 straight to open the 2005 campaign.
Pico Picks Up a W: For as tough luck as sophomore Sierra Pico’s season has been so far in the circle, it was perhaps fitting that she earned her first win of the year against Longwood by registering just the final out, throwing just two pitches. Earlier in the day, she threw a five-hitter, giving up just one run in a 1-0 loss to UT-Arlington. Pico, who boasts a 2.89 ERA so far this year, has surrendered no more than three earned runs in any of her five starts, including two or fewer in four of the five.
Wisniewski Earns Accolades: Senior Amanda Wisniewski earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team at Louisiana and was named Horizon League Player of the Week for her stellar weekend at the plate. She hit .538 (7-of-13) over the Crusaders' five games, scoring four runs, driving in four runs, hitting two homers and walking three times. On the year, Wisniewski is OPSing at an impressive 1.221 clip, hitting .333 (11-of-33) with two doubles and four home runs.
Ranieri Keeps it Going: Moving from the leadoff spot in the order to the three-hole hasn’t slowed down sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri so far this season. The All-League honoree last year is hitting .333 on the year with eight runs scored and five RBIs while striking out just twice in 42 at-bats. Ranieri now has picked up enough at-bats to qualify for the Crusaders’ career charts, where she ranks fifth all-time in on-base percentage (.412) and eighth in batting average (.318).
Record-Setting Game: Quite simply, the Crusaders shattered a number of records in their 24-1 win over Seton Hall on opening weekend. 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.