Valparaiso defeated Western Illinois 8-2 on Saturday afternoon at the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament in Macomb, Ill. to advance to the championship round and face Centenary in a rematch of the opening game of the day.
The Crusaders and Ladies will meet approximately 4:15 p.m. with Valpo needing to win this afternoon and again tomorrow against Centenary to win the title. The Ladies need just one victory.
Valpo jumped in front with five runs in the opening inning sending ten batters to the plate. Taylor Callahan (Grayson, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian H.S.) led off with a double and Kelly Silvey (Indianapolis, Ind./Bishop Chatard H.S.) laid down a sacrifice bunt but also reached on a fielding error. After Silvey stole second, Karen Constien (Carol Stream, Ill./Glenbard North H.S.) hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate the game's first run and advance Silvey to third.
Tricia Speziale (Elmhurst, Ill./York H.S.) then singled home Silvey and Beth Adamski (St. John, Ind./Lake Central H.S.) followed with a base hit to put runners on first and second. Monica Rowan (Evergreen Park, Ill./Evergreen Park H.S.) singled home Speziale and advanced Adamski to third. Rowan then stole second and an error by the Westerwinds allowed Adamski to cross the plate. Amanda Gilbertson (Murrieta, Calif./West Albany H.S.) then doubled to plate Rowan and give the Crusaders a commanding 5-0 lead.
Western Illinois answered with a run in the first on a Lindsay Diehl RBI single but left the bases loaded as Gilbertson worked herself out of a jam. Diehl then added an RBI ground out in the fifth to cut Valpo's lead to 5-2, but the Brown and Gold added three insurance runs in the sixth.
Ashlee Blankenbaker (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso H.S.) led off with a walk and moved to second on Megan Carroll's (Eaton Rapids, Mich./Eaton Rapids H.S.) sacrifice bunt. Callahan then doubled to left center to plate Valpo's sixth run. Silvey singled to put runners on the corners. After Silvey stole second, Speziale, who went 3-for-4 in the game, singled to right to score a pair and give Valpo its 8-2 advantage.
Callahan had a pair of hits for Valpo, while Rowan also went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks. Cassandra Hallstrom went 4-for-4 for Western Illinois (28-29), as the Westerwinds were eliminated with the loss.
Gilbertson got the win for Valpo, working 3.2 innings striking out three and allowing eight hits. Blankenbaker registered the save pitching the final three innings of scoreless action. KarenMarie Pena suffered the loss for the Westerwinds, pitching 5.1 innings and allowing nine hits and four walks.