Valparaiso (9-6, 0-0 MVC)
at Aggie Invitational (Davis, Calif.)
Friday, March 9 - vs. Nevada (10-11, 0-0 MWC) - 11 a.m. CT
vs. Utah State (9-7, 0-0 MWC) - 1 p.m.
Saturday, March 10 - at UC Davis (12-8, 0-0 Big West) - 5:15 p.m.
Sunday, March 11 - vs. Northern Colorado (10-11, 0-0 Big Sky) - 2:30 p.m.
at UC Davis - 5 p.m.
Next Up in Crusader Softball: The Valparaiso University softball team faces five games against four opponents over three days in the back end of its Spring Break trip, as the Crusaders take the field at the Aggie Invitational in Davis, Calif. Valpo will take on the hosts from UC Davis twice, and also face Nevada, Utah State and Northern Colorado once apiece.
Previously: Valpo went 3-3 over six games in Phoenix at the Lopes Up Classic. The Crusaders took down South Dakota and Princeton and split a pair of contests with UNLV last weekend, and then after an off day Monday, faced host Grand Canyon twice on Tuesday, losing both games.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats for all five games from Davis will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Kate Stake: Kate Stake was hired as head coach of the Valparaiso softball program on July 23, 2014 and is in her fourth season as head coach, owning 71 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: Valpo has faced only one of this weekend’s four opponents previously in program history. The Crusaders dropped a game with Utah State in March of 2016 at UNLV’s Rebel Classic.
Crusaders Picked Ninth in Preseason Poll: Valpo was tabbed ninth in the 2018 Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll, picked to finish ahead of Indiana State in the preseason polling of the conference’s head coaches. Four different programs received at least two first place votes in the polling, with Illinois State edging out Southern Illinois and UNI for the top spot in the poll.
Looking Back at 2017: Valpo posted a 28-23 record overall last season and finished Horizon League play at 14-10, good for a tie for third place in the nine-team league. Senior Sam Stewart was named the Horizon League Player of the Year after leading the league in eight different offensive categories, including all three Triple Crown categories, while senior Jorgi Calombaris joined Stewart as a First Team All-League honoree and sophomore Carly Trepanier was a Second Team All-League and Third Team All-Region selection.
A New Journey: The Crusader softball program embarks on a new journey in 2018 as Valpo competes in the Missouri Valley Conference for the first time. The conference move presents a challenging slate for the Crusaders, as each of the other nine MVC programs finished last season with an RPI of 181 or better, whereas Valpo’s league opposition last season featured just one program with an RPI better than 181.
Plenty of Experience Back: Valpo has welcomed back an experienced group for its first season of play in The Valley in 2018. 16 letterwinners return from last year’s squad, including seven starters on offense and a trio of pitchers who combined to throw nearly 88% of the team’s innings last season.
Going Back, Back to Cali, Cali: This weekend marks just the second time in program history that Valpo has played games in the state of California. The Crusaders’ only previous trip to the Golden State came in 2012, when Valpo closed its Spring Break trip at the San Diego Classic II. Ironically, that tournament got cut down from five games to two for the Crusaders due to a trio of rain-outs, while back home, residents of Northwest Indiana were enjoying abundant sunshine and record-high temperatures.
Among the Nation’s Best: Junior Jaymee Lawton currently ranks among the top-35 in the nation in a trio of statistical categories, highlighted by her fifth-place ranking in RBIs/game. Lawton already owns 22 RBIs this year in 14 contests - just one shy of matching her total of 23 from the 2017 season - after delivering eight runs over the six games last week. Lawton ranks 24th nationally in home runs/game and 32nd in slugging percentage as well, and paces all MVC hitters in RBIs, home runs (5) and slugging percentage (.844).
Running Wild: Lawton isn’t the only Crusader to rank among the top-10 in the nation in a statistical category, as fifth-year senior Taylor Lawson has been wreaking havoc on the basepaths this season for Valpo. Lawson is 14-for-15 in stolen bases this season over the Crusaders’ first 15 games and enters the weekend ranked sixth nationally in stolen bases/game. Already twice this year, Lawson has swiped three bases in a single game to match Valpo’s single-game record for steals, and she is now the only player in program history to steal three bases in a game on three separate occasions.
This Time’s the Charm: Just eight days after coming within two outs of a no-hitter, sophomore Emily Richardson took the circle against North Carolina Central in the finale from Charleston Southern on Feb. 18 and completed the task, tossing Valpo’s first no-hitter since 2013 in a 3-0 win. Richardson struck out a career-high 11 batters and picked up her second win in as many starts after registering just one win as a freshman. The no-hitter was the 10th known no-hit effort in program history and was the first seven-inning no-no since 2002.
Picking Up the Wins: Senior Kenzie Grossmann continued her strong pitching in Valpo’s early-season action last weekend, going 2-1 in three appearances with a 2.00 ERA. Grossmann’s ERA to date of 1.69 ranks sixth in The Valley, while she also is tied for sixth in the conference with five victories despite not being among the top-10 in innings pitch.
Taking Extra Bases: Sophomore Morgan Matalin enjoyed one of the stronger performances by a Valpo player last week, as making five starts, Matalin went 4-for-11 with a pair of runs scored. Three of Matalin’s four hits were of the extra-base variety, connecting on a pair of doubles and a triple. Matalin’s three extra-base hits last week matched her career total of three extra-base hits entering last weekend, which had come in the first 49 games of her career.