For the second straight weekend, the Valparaiso softball team split a Horizon League doubleheader, as the Crusaders fell in the opener Sunday in Chicago against UIC, 10-2, before leading start-to-finish in a 6-2 win in the nightcap. The games were moved from Flames Field and were played at Cacciatore Stadium on DePaul’s campus.
“I was happy with the way we came out in game two, especially after a rough defeat in game one,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “Coming out with a split on the day is better than being swept - although we’d always like to win every game, after the way the first game went, I was happy with a split.”
Coming off a loss in game one, sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) gave Valpo the lead just six pitches into the nightcap. Moved into the leadoff spot in the order for the first time since the season’s first day, Ranieri worked a full count before driving the 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center field to put the Crusaders ahead 1-0.
Two innings later, Ranieri stepped to the plate to lead off again. This time, she only ran the count to 2-2 before finding a pitch that was to her liking, turning and sending a no-doubt blast over the fence in right-center, where it ricocheted off a giant mural of St. Vincent de Paul on the side of a dorm beyond the wall in right. Ranieri’s second home run of the day doubled her career total entering the game and gave the Crusaders a 2-0 lead.
UIC cut Valpo’s lead in half in the bottom of the third on an RBI infield single by Natalie Hernandez, but Crusader pitcher Taylor Weissenhofer (Orland Park, Ill./Lockport Township) registered a pair of outs with two runners on to keep Valpo in the lead. Faced with a bases-loaded situation in the fourth after three straight two-out singles, Weissenhofer again came through, inducing a pop-up on the infield to strand all three runners.
The Crusaders moved ahead decisively, putting three runs on the board in the top of the fifth. A trio of walks loaded the bases with one out, and senior Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) stepped up and delivered a two-run double just out of the reach of the UIC right fielder to make it 4-1 Valpo. Two batters later, sophomore Janelle Bouchard (Kennebunk, Maine/Kennebunk) laced a double to the wall in the right, plating Doerffler to extend the lead to 5-1.
UIC scored two batters into its half of the fifth to move within three runs, but was only able to get one runner on base the remainder of the game. Meanwhile, Valpo added an insurance run in the seventh when freshman Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) knocked a two-out single through the right side of the infield to score pinch-runner Amanda Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran) .
Weissenhofer improved to 5-5 on the year with the complete-game win, scattering seven hits. Alice Fitzpatrick started and took the loss for UIC (6-13, 1-1 Horizon), going 4.1 innings and giving up four runs to fall to 1-5. Ranieri reached in all four of her plate appearances, walking twice after opening the game with the pair of round-trippers, while Bouchard went 3-for-3 as well with a walk.
“Taylor did a nice job keeping us in the game during game two, working around runners on base,” said Stevens. “We also had some really good performances at the plate – we still need to find consistency with our at-bats throughout the lineup, but we did swing the bat much better in the second game.”
UIC jumped on top from the start in the day’s opener, scoring three runs in the first inning and adding three more in the second. The Crusaders cut into the deficit in the top of the fifth, as a bases-loaded double by fifth-year senior Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) drove in a pair of runs to make it 6-2. Later in the frame, Valpo actually had the potential tying run to the plate, but a double play ended the threat, and UIC would score four times in the bottom half of the fifth to win via run rule.
Bridget Boyle improved to 3-3 for the Flames, picking up the win, while Elaine Heflin tallied her second save in relief. Sierra Pico (Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy) took the loss for the Crusaders in the circle. Valpo was limited to just three hits in the opener – two of them by Doerffler.
Valparaiso (7-21, 2-2 Horizon) looks to get its home slate underway with non-league action on Tuesday afternoon, as the Crusaders are scheduled to host Western Michigan at the Valparaiso University Softball Field. The single game is slated for a 3 p.m. start, with live stats available through ValpoAthletics.com.