Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) tossed a one-hitter with a career-high 12 strikeouts, while Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]) gave Valpo all the offense it would need with a first-inning grand slam as the Crusaders defeated South Dakota State in the opener of a doubleheader Saturday, 5-1. The Brown and Gold completed the doubleheader sweep, taking the nightcap from the Jackrabbits, 5-2.
The two wins continue the Crusaders' charge toward the school record in victories in a single season, as Valpo now owns 24 wins on the campaign. Only the 1986 and 1987 Crusader squads, both of which won 27 contests, own more victories than this year's Valpo team.
The Crusaders jumped all over the Jackrabbits right away in the opener, scoring all five of their runs in the top of the first inning. Taylor Callahan (Pendergrass, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian) led off the game with a single. Two batters later, Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) moved her over to third with a single, and Callahan would score on a passed ball.
Megan Carroll (Eaton Rapids, Mich./Eaton Rapids) tallied a single of her own, while Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) walked to load the bases and set up Korth's first career round-tripper, making the score 5-0 after one-half inning.
From that point forward, Zappia took care of business, allowing just an RBI double to SDSU's Samantha Heinzman in the sixth inning. The junior's 12 strikeouts matched a Mid-Con season high, as she moved to 6-6 on the season with the win. Jenna Marston took the complete-game loss for the Jackrabbits, falling to 7-13.
The Crusaders would again score all the runs they would need in the top of the first inning in the nightcap, plating three in their first time at-bat. Callahan led off the game with a double, extending her Valpo season-best hitting streak to 11 games. Three batters later, the senior crossed the plate on the back end of a double steal with Robinson to score the first run of the game.
Carroll singled to move Robinson over to third, and Warner brought Robinson home with a grounder that was misplayed by SDSU's Denise Leon. Carroll would later score on an RBI fielder's choice from Korth to give Valpo the 3-0 edge.
Chris Halstead (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) went five strong innings, giving up just four hits, but allowed the first two batters of the sixth frame to reach. Zappia came in, but was greeted with a 2-RBI double from Kiley Schwedhelm to cut the Valpo lead to 3-2. But Zappia settled down, retiring the next three batters in order. Robinson added a 2-run home run in the top of the seventh frame for the final margin.
Halstead improved to 9-1 with the victory, while Zappia picked up her fifth save of the season, among the top-10 in the nation in the category, and 14th of her career. Kim Westendorf pitched the first 2 2/3 innings for SDSU and took the loss, falling to 4-13.
Carroll led the Crusader offensive attack, going 5-for-7 at the plate over the two games with two runs scored. Robinson picked up three hits, three runs scored and two RBIs, while Callahan also recorded three hits and three runs scored.
Valparaiso (24-11) will close out its trip to the Dakotas with a doubleheader Sunday morning at North Dakota State. First pitch of the twinbill is slated for 10 a.m.