Valparaiso (17-9, 4-2 Horizon)
April 4 [DH] & 5 - Green Bay (1-16, 0-3 Horizon)
Next Up in Crusader Softball: The Valparaiso University softball team continues a 10-game homestand at the Valpo Softball Complex this week as the Crusaders welcome Green Bay to town for a doubleheader on Tuesday and a single game on Wednesday. Because the Horizon League series was originally slated to be hosted by Green Bay before being moved to Valpo, the Phoenix will be the designated home team for all three games of the series.
Previously: Valpo opened its home schedule last week with a 7-3 victory in mid-week action over IUPUI, and then claimed its second straight series in Horizon League play by taking two of three from Youngstown State. The Penguins earned the win in the series opener, 6-1, but Valpo bounced back with 4-1 and 6-5 victories in the final two games.
Looking Ahead: The Crusaders have their bye in the league schedule this weekend, but return to action next week with two Horizon League series. Valpo will host UIC in mid-week action next week before making the trip to Cleveland State for a weekend series.
Following the Crusaders: All three games will have live stats, and are also scheduled for radio broadcast by Valpo's student radio station, 95.1 FM, WVUR (Wednesday's game Internet-only). Most league home games and select road games will will be available on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
Head Coach Kate Stake: Kate Stake was hired as head coach of the Valparaiso softball program on July 23, 2014 and is in her third season as head coach, owning 51 victories. Stake led the Crusaders to the 2016 Horizon League Championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament - the third in program history. Stake arrived at Valpo with eight seasons of assistant coaching experience at the Division I level, most recently serving as an assistant at mid-major power Hofstra.
Series Notes: Green Bay holds a 25-17 advantage in the all-time series with the Crusaders, but Valpo owns the 15-12 edge since joining the Horizon League prior to the 2008 season. Last season, the two teams traded run-rule wins in Valpo, as the Crusaders won the opener of a doubleheader, 11-1, before falling 12-4 in the nightcap.
Scouting the Opposition: Green Bay has struggled so far this season, as the Phoenix enter this week's series at 1-16 overall and 0-3 in Horizon League play, dropping all three games to Wright State last weekend - their first games since March 12. Three GB players are hitting at .340 or better, led by a .407 average from freshman Chyanne Onstad, but the Phoenix have surrendered 136 runs through 17 games.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in third place in the Horizon League standings in 2017 in the preseason poll, as picked by the league’s head coaches. UIC claimed seven of the nine first-place votes and finished with 62 points, while Wright State received the other first-place nod and 55 total points. The Crusaders tallied 47 points in the polling.
Looking Back at 2016: The 2016 season saw Valpo make a run for the ages, as the Crusaders needed a win on the final day of the regular season just to make the Horizon League Championship. But once there, Valpo more than proved it belonged, rolling through the first three days of the tournament before rallying from a four-run deficit in the seventh inning to defeat Wright State and claim the Horizon League title and the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Returning award winners in 2017 include Carly Trepanier (Second Team All-League; All-Tournament Team), Sam Stewart (league tournament MVP) and Lanie Callaghan (league tournament batting champion).
Experienced, Yet Youthful: The 2017 Crusader softball team features a distinct mix of veterans and newcomers. Seven starters return from last year's lineup, but the Crusaders also welcome nine first-year players to the program this season - seven of whom are true freshmen.
Stewart Sets New Program Record: It's simple - every single game this season, senior Sam Stewart has reached base at least once for the Crusaders. But the walk she drew in the fourth inning of Saturday's nightcap against YSU meant a little more, as it was the 25th consecutive game Stewart had reached base for Valpo, breaking the program's previous record of 24 - set by Sara Strickland in 2011.
Moving Up the Charts: With her strong first half of the season, Stewart is climbing the Valpo career record book in a number of categories. The senior enters this week fifth in program history with 22 home runs, seventh all-time with 95 RBIs and ninth in Crusader lore with 59 walks drawn.
Keep On Keeping On: Sophomore Carly Trepanier continues to prove proficient at reaching base out of the leadoff spot for the Crusaders. Trepanier, whose .435 batting average would set a new program single-season record, reached at least twice in all four games last week - including three times apiece in all three games in the series with YSU. For the week, Trepanier hit .583 (7-for-12) with four runs scored, three walks and one hit by pitch.
Among the League Leaders: Stewart and Trepanier combine to rank among the Horizon League leaders nearly across the board offensively. Stewart paces the league in a pair of Triple Crown categories with eight home runs and 31 RBIs, while she ranks fourth in batting average. The senior is also first in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored and total bases, and currently sits third in doubles. Meanwhile, Trepanier leads all Horizon League players in batting average, ranks second in hits and on-base percentage, and is fourth in runs scored.
Lawton Rides Hot Streak: Sophomore Jaymee Lawton's Crusader career got off to a slow start at the plate, as after Valpo's win over South Dakota on March 18, Lawton was hitting just .213 through 17 games with one homer, six RBIs and six runs scored. But in the last nine games, Lawton has seen her batting average jump 65 points and she's excelled across the board, recording three doubles, three home runs, nine runs scored and 10 RBIs in that stretch. Over Valpo's four games last week, Lawton went 5-for-11 with four runs scored, two walks and a pair of doubles.
Grossmann Picks Up Wins: Junior Kenzie Grossmann took the ball in the circle for three starts last week for Valpo, and earned victories in all three games - highlighted by a four-hit performance in the middle game of the three-game series with Youngstown State. The junior has tallied a league-best 10 victories this year.
One Final Turn At Bat: Trailing 4-3 entering the seventh inning against South Dakota March 18, Valpo scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to claim a come-from-behind 5-4 win. Three games later, in the series opener at NKU, the Crusaders trailed 3-2 entering the seventh before exploding for five runs in a 7-4 win. How rare is that? Valpo was 10-308 (.031) when trailing after six innings since 1999 prior to the game against the Coyotes. The Crusaders are now 2-7 on the year when trailing after six innings - matching the most come-from-behind wins in such situations in a single year since at least 1999. Most recently, in the series finale versus YSU, while it wasn't a seventh-inning rally, Valpo did score twice in its final at-bat to come from behind and win 6-5.
Weekly Honors: Kenzie Grossmann was named the Horizon League Pitcher of the Week by the league office on March 20, giving Valpo four league weekly awards from the Horizon League office in as many weeks of competition to open the season, after Valpo had had just five total honorees the last three years. Perhaps most impressively, the four awards went to four different Crusaders.
March 20 - Kenzie Grossmann - Pitcher of the Week - 2-1, 5-hitter in win over South Dakota State, 11 strikeouts in 12.1 innings
March 13 - Ashlyn Montgomery - Pitcher of the Week - 1-1, 1 save, 1.11 ERA, .229 opponent batting average, 4-hitter at #9/11 Alabama
March 6 - Carly Trepanier - Player of the Week - 9-for-15 (.600), 4 runs scored
Feb. 20 - Sam Stewart - Player of the week - 6-for-11 (.545), 1.727 SLG, 4 home runs, 8 runs, 7 RBIs
High Five: The Crusaders' win over Stony Brook on March 3 was their fifth consecutive to open the season, setting a new program record for the best start in team history at 5-0. Valpo had previously started 4-0 in 1986, 2000 and 2002, but all three of those squads dropped their fifth game of the season.