The Valparaiso softball team entered this weekend with a chance to earn the Horizon League regular season championship, but following Saturday’s action, it was Green Bay which had the chance to celebrate a title, as the Crusaders dropped a pair of road games to the Phoenix by final scores of 5-0 and 3-1.
Valpo ended the day in a tie for third place in the Horizon League standings, and with a win in the regular season finale on Sunday, would secure the third seed for next week’s league tournament. A loss on Sunday could leave the Crusaders in anywhere from third to fifth place in the final standings.
The Crusader offense struggled in the opener on Saturday, as just twice was Valpo able to get a runner into scoring position and only one runner made it as far as third base. Meanwhile, Green Bay opened the scoring in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to a two-out, 0-2 two-run double from Katelyn Huemmer, followed by an RBI double by Miranda Spangberg. The Phoenix added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings as well.
Valpo starter Taylor Weissenhofer (Orland Park, Ill./Lockport Township) fell to 13-11 in the loss, starting and throwing 5.2 innings. Ashley Nannemann went the distance for Green Bay, improving to 8-7 on the year.
In the nightcap, Valpo had a strong opportunity to start off the game, as sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) led off the game with a double and moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt, but she would be stranded there. Green Bay scored single runs in the first, second and fourth innings to claim a 3-0 lead, as the Crusaders also put a runner in scoring position in the third and fourth innings with nothing to show for it.
The Crusaders finally got the offense going in the top of the fifth. Freshman Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) led off the frame with a slap down the left-field line for a single, and Ranieri followed by dropping a single into shallow center. Freshman Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) knocked a single into right to load the bases with nobody out. Two batters later, junior Tarah McShane (Streamwood, Ill./St. Edward Central Catholic) worked a walk to force in Lawson and cut the deficit to 3-1, but the next two batters made outs to end the threat. Valpo brought the potential tying run to the plate in the top of the seventh, but was unable to push anything more across the plate.
Sophomore Sierra Pico (Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy) took the loss to fall to 4-13, giving up three runs, two of which were earned, in three-plus innings of work. Fellow sophomore Mollie Lindeman (Hebron, Ind./Hebron [PNC]) entered in relief and threw three innings of one-hit ball. Heather Sanderson improved to 6-3 for Green Bay (24-11, 11-4 Horizon) as she went the distance. Ranieri went 3-for-4 in the nightcap, while Calombaris also tallied a pair of hits.
Valparaiso (20-32, 10-8 Horizon) closes out the regular season against Green Bay with a single game Sunday at noon. Live stats will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.