Softball Inks Eight to Play at Valpo
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Valparaiso University softball coach Randy Schneider has signed eight players to National Letters of Intent during the spring singing period.

Joining the Crusaders in the fall will be Alicia Ashburn, Kayla Grutz, Chris Halstead, Courtney LeFerle, Shannon Robinson, Ann Sievert, Emily Tkaczyk, and Andrea Zappia.

Ashburn is a shortstop/utility player from Mishawaka, Ind. The Mishawaka High School product has hit over .350 and tied the school record for triples in 2002. In 2002, she played for the Indiana ASA Class A state championship team.

?Alicia will be a great addition to Valparaiso softball," Schneider said. ?She is the type of player you can build a championship program around. She will be in a position to complete for playing time as a freshman in this program."

Grutz was a First Team All-State pitcher for Bellevue High School in Bellevue, Iowa in 2003. She led the school to the Class 1A state championship, and posted a 39-5 record with a 0.52 ERA.

?We are truly excited about Kayla and her future at Valparaiso University," said Schneider. ?Kayla will have an immediate impact on our program and in the Mid-Continent Conference. To win championships, you have to recruit kids that have experience playing in championship situations."

Halstead joins Valpo from Indianapolis, Ind. A pitcher, she posted a 17-5 record with a 0.50 ERA at Cathedral High School in 2003, leading them to the state semifinals. In addition, she was named Indianapolis Player of the Year, adding a .302 average at the plate.

?Chris has all the tools to be a top NCAA pitcher," remarked Schneider. ?She is a very talented athlete who can pitch and hit. Her presence on the mound, competitiveness, and maturity will have an immediate impact on our program."

LeFerle is an infielder from Elgin, Ill. She was a First Team All-State selection for Larkin High School in 2003, and named to the 2004 World Cup Softball Team. She also was named to the McDonalds/Mitsubishi All-Star Softball Team in 2003.

?If first impressions are lasting impressions, I feel Courtney is a future All-American candidate," said Schneider. ?Courtney stands out on the field because of her athletic savvy and competitive nature."

Robinson is a catcher from Toronto, Ont. She started for the 2002 Canadian national champions. The Father John Redmond High School product also had the quickest pop time at the 2004 Ringor Showcase.

?The first time I watched Shannon perform athletically I was in awe!" Schneider stated. ?She is athletic enough to play anywhere on the field and her toughness impressed me. More impressive was her ability to swing the bat from both sides of the plate."

Sievert arrives at Valpo having played at Muscatine Community College. A native of Davenport, Iowa and Assumption High School, she is the starting third baseman for the pre-season #1 ranked team in NJCCA Division II. Last year, she was an NFCA All-Region member and this year's squad is currently 34-5.

?Ann enjoyed a very successful high school career that has carried over to her community college," Schneider said. ?She is a very athletic player that brings experience and a winning attitude to Valparaiso University."

Tkaczyk is an outfielder from Hawthorn Woods, Ill. The Mundelein High School product hit .366 while scoring 38 runs in 2003. Able to pitch as well, she posted a 1.25 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 73 innings pitched.

?Emily is a power slapper that leads off for the highly rated Mundelein Mustangs," remarked Schneider. ?Most impressive to Emily's resume is her arm strength matched with her speed and agility. We truly feel we picked up a diamond in the rough!"

Zappia is a pitcher from Indianapolis, Ind. A 2003 All-Conference selection for Franklin Central High School, she also has extensive ASA experience.

?We feel Andrea will be a great addition to Valparaiso University as a student-athlete," said Schneider. ?Her potential is unlimited on the mound as she has the ability to throw consistently in the low 60s with great movement."

?We are excited about the new class of 2004-2005," Schneider said about the group as a whole. ?Our goal was to recruit student-athletes that will have an immediate impact in the classroom and on the field. We feel we accomplished that goal with this recruiting class. Each of these young ladies are leaders on their respective teams and have the ability to achieve great success. These eight student-athletes, along with Mallory Gill and Kara Romsa should be dominant for four years. They are the first step in building a championship program here at Valparaiso University."