Valparaiso (6-19, 1-1 Horizon)
Thursday, Mar. 27 - at Eastern Illinois (20-9, 2-2 OVC) - 4 p.m.
Saturday, Mar. 29 - at UIC (5-12, 0-0 Horizon) - 1 p.m. [DH]
Sunday, Mar. 30 - at UIC - 1 p.m.
Next Up in Crusader Softball: The Valparaiso softball team will attempt to continue its spring schedule with four road games this week. The Crusaders are slated to travel to Eastern Illinois for a single game Thursday afternoon before making the short trek to Chicago for a three-game Horizon League series versus UIC this weekend.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats will be available for all four of this week’s games through ValpoAthletics.com. In addition, a link for Eastern Illinois’ audio broadcast of Thursday’s game will be available as well.
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 117-86-1 record at the helm of the Crusaders.
Series Notes: Valpo is just 3-11 all-time against Eastern Illinois, but has won two of the last three meetings, most recently a 6-1 victory over the Panthers on Feb. 24, 2008 in Tulsa, Okla. Meanwhile, the Crusaders are just 14-56 in program history versus UIC, but are 9-9 against the Flames since joining the Horizon League. Each of the last two seasons, Valpo and UIC have split four meetings, with UIC claiming two of three in the regular season each year before the Crusaders eliminate the Flames in the league tournament.
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 has prepared the team well for Horizon League play, featuring at least ten games against NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago. Valpo has already taken on three teams ranked nationally as well. The Crusaders lost a narrow-one run game to #20/20 Louisiana early in the season, and faced #10/9 Arizona in the first weekend of their spring break trip. Valpo took on #2/4 Oregon out in Hawaii, and a matchup against #25/24 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.
Weather Not Doing Any Favors: It only seems as if every day this spring has featured a schedule adjustment thanks to weather for the Crusader softball team. Below is a list of changes so far this spring:
- vs. Indiana (at Arizona) suspended in the 5th inning; completion later this spring a possibility
- home vs. Western Michigan postponed from March 19 to April 1
- series finale at Youngstown State March 23 canceled
- at Eastern Michigan postponed from March 26 to March 27
Wiz Goes Yard: Senior Amanda Wisniewski launched home runs in back-to-back at-bats over two games at YSU last weekend, the first a three-run shot which proved to be the deciding blow in the Crusaders’ 7-4 win. Wisniewski now has a team and league-best six home runs on the year and has pushed her career total to 24 round-trippers, which ranks third in program history, just one out of second place. She is also tied for second in Crusader history in walks (87), ninth in runs scored (92) and tenth in RBIs (78).
1-2 Punch: Freshman Taylor Lawson and sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri teamed up to deliver a 1-2 punch out of the second and third spots in the batting order at YSU. Lawson went 4-of-8 with five runs scored and two RBIs over the two games, while Ranieri was 4-of-7 with a walk, four runs scored, a home run and two RBIs. On the year, Ranieri is hitting .311 with team highs of 17 runs scored and 13 walks, while Lawson raised her batting average 31 points for the season with last weekend’s performance.
Weissenhofer Rounding Into Form: After early-season struggles, sophomore pitcher Taylor Weissenhofer - College Sports Madness’ preseason HL Pitcher of the Year - seems to be rounding into form. Over her last five appearances (three in Hawaii, two at YSU), Weissenhofer is 2-0 with a 1.11 ERA, giving up just nine hits and four walks in 12.2 innings of work while striking out 12 batters.
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.