The Valparaiso softball team bounced back from a loss in Saturday’s opener against Cleveland State in a Horizon League doubleheader, overcoming a three-run deficit in the nightcap for a 6-4 win to pull out a spit of the twinbill. The Vikings hit a two-run homer in the top of the seventh to send the Crusaders to a 3-2 loss.
"I was pleased with the way we just stuck with it today,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “There were a lot of times we could have got down on ourselves or could have been taken out of what we were doing – but instead we stayed level-headed. We were able to make some really good adjustments in the second part of the second game to come out with the win.”
Cleveland State took the lead in the nightcap just three pitches into the game, as Jenessa Rivera-Keahi led off the game with a solo homer into the jet stream to left field. Valpo had a prime chance to even things up in the bottom half of the inning with the bases loaded and one out, but a pair of strikeouts ended that threat.
The Vikings added two runs to their lead in the fourth, as after an intentional walk loaded the bases with one away, Nena Doran drove a double to the right-center gap to push the CSU lead to 3-0. But Valpo struck back immediately in the bottom of the inning to pull back within one run. Fifth-year senior Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) walked with one out and moved up to second when senior Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) was hit by a pitch. Freshman Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) stepped up and drove a pitch to left-center over a drawn-in outfield, scoring both runs to make it a 3-2 game.
The Crusaders then exploded for four runs in the fifth to take the lead for good. Freshman Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) lined a double to the wall in left-center to lead off the frame and scored immediately when the CSU defense threw away a sacrifice attempt by senior Amanda Wisniewski (Skokie, Ill./Huntley). Sophomore Tarah McShane (Streamwood, Ill./St. Edward Central Catholic) then gave Valpo the lead, working a full count before driving a two-bagger to score Wisniewski.
Two batters later, another Viking error extended the inning, and freshman Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) made CSU pay, driving a double over the right fielder’s head to plate McShane and extend the lead to two runs. Following a pitching change, Doerffler drove in the fourth run of the inning with a fly ball to right, easily deep enough to allow Marinec to score on the sacrifice fly and make it 6-3 Crusaders.
The Vikings scored a run in the top of the sixth on a Crusader error, cutting the Valpo advantage to two runs, but with two on and two outs, sophomore Sierra Pico (Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy) got Rivera-Keahi to chase a 2-2 pitch and strike out swinging. Pico then pitched around a one-out double in the seventh to secure the win.
Pico went the distance in the nightcap to improve to 3-11 on the year, scattering eight hits and striking out five batters. Cleveland State (18-12, 2-2 Horizon) starter Alex Radjen fell to 5-2 with the loss after giving up six runs, three earned, in 4.1 innings of work. Sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) led the Valpo offensive effort, going 2-for-3 with a walk in the win.
“Sierra just kept fighting today – she just fought throughout the whole game,” said Stevens. “She weaved her way in and out of trouble and made a lot of good pitches to keep Cleveland State off balance. I thought she pitched a good game, and I thought Taylor threw a good game in the first game as well.”
Cleveland State took the lead in the top of the second inning of the opener on a solo homer from Erica McNew, but Valpo answered immediately on an RBI single from Ranieri to score Doerffler. The Crusaders pulled ahead in the fourth, as with two runners in scoring position and one out, Lawson grounded a ball to short and the throw home wasn’t in time, as Marinec slid in ahead of the tag to go ahead 2-1.
Valpo maintained the lead into the top of the seventh, but an inadvertent loose ball out of the bullpen resulted in time being called just before the Crusaders would retire McNew to lead off the frame. Given a second life, McNew doubled, and two batters later, Katelind Phillips gave CSU the lead with a two-run homer to center. The Crusaders put the potential tying run into scoring position with no outs in the bottom of the seventh, as Ranieri singled and moved up 60 feet on a passed ball, but she would be stranded on second base to end the game.
Sophomore Taylor Weissenhofer (Orland Park, Ill./Lockport Township) took the loss for Valpo, falling to 9-6 despite giving up just six hits and striking out eight in a complete-game effort. Susan Knight improved to 8-9 for Cleveland State as she went the distance in the circle as well. Ranieri went 2-for-3 in the opener as she had a pair of multi-hit games on the day, while Marinec also went 2-for-3 in the day’s first game.
Valparaiso (14-24, 6-3 Horizon) looks to earn the series win on Sunday as the Crusaders host the series finale against Cleveland State. First pitch is at 11 a.m. – moved up one hour from the original start time – and all the action can be seen live on the Horizon League Network and heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso. Links for the live video and audio, as well as live stats, will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.