VALPARAISO (14-8, 4-2) at NOTRE DAME (19-12) and OAKLAND (7-16, 2-1)
IVY FIELD - NOTRE DAME, IND./OU SOFTBALL FIELD - ROCHESTER, MICH.
APRIL 4, 2007 - NOTRE DAME/APRIL 6-7, 2007 - OAKLAND
This Week's Matchups: Valpo will face off against in-state rival Notre Dame in a single game Wednesday afternoon before heading to Michigan this weekend to take on Oakland in a three-game Mid-Con series. Valpo holds an 11-26 record all-time against the Fighting Irish, but have not defeated the Big East foe since 1989. Against the Golden Grizzlies, the Crusaders are 11-13 all-time.
Last Meetings: Valpo held a 2-1 lead over Notre Dame after two innings, but the Irish scored three in the third inning and went on to win 6-2 on April 27, 2006. Beth Adamski registered two hits, including an RBI single, to lead the Crusader attack at the plate.
The Crusaders split a four-game set with Oakland on March 31 and April 1, 2006. The two squads combined for just 13 runs over the four contests in the pitching-dominated series. Chris Halstead pitched 11 shutout innings over the two days and earned one of the victories, while Andrea Zappia registered the other win for the Crusaders. Megan Carroll recorded a hit in all four games, while Taylor Callahan and Shannon Robinson each had a multi-hit game in the series.
Last Time Out: Valpo split a doubleheader with Southern Utah last Saturday to move to 4-2 in Mid-Con play and 14-8 overall. The Crusaders found themselves trailing 6-1 in the opener before a six-run fifth-inning explosion put Valpo on top for good in a 7-6 win. Mallory Gill hit her first career grand slam to get the scoring going in the crucial frame. Andrea Zappia registered four strikeouts in two innings of work for the save. In the nightcap, SUU's Kristina Brooks held Valpo to just two hits in an 8-0 loss.
On The Air: None of this week's games will be broadcast. Valparaiso's student radio station, WVUR 95.1 FM, is scheduled to broadcast each of the Crusaders' 15 home games as well as selected road games. The broadcasts will also be available online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.
400 Wins: Valparaiso's 7-6 win in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader against Southern Utah not only gave the Crusaders their fourth conference win of the season, but also marked the 400th win in program history. 69 of those 400 wins have come since the 2004 season, when current head coach Randy Schneider took the helms of the program.
Putting Runs on the Board: Valpo exploded for a 10-run third inning in its 14-1 rout of UMKC in the series finale March 24. That kind of offensive explosion is something that has not been seen in Schneider's four seasons, as only one other time since 2004 has a Valpo team even scored 10 runs in a game, much less a single inning. The Crusaders scored 14 runs in a 16-14 loss to Southern Utah during the 2004 campaign. The last time Valpo scored 10 or more runs in an inning came on March 12, 2002 when the Crusaders hung an 11-spot on St. Thomas Aquinas in the fourth inning of a 15-0 mercy rule win.
Best Start Ever: Valparaiso started its season 9-3 at the Rebel Spring Games, marking the best 12-game start for a Crusader squad in program history. The previous best 12-game start was 8-4, first accomplished in 1983 and matched by the 1985 team.
Stringing Together the Victories: Included in that 9-3 start at the Rebel Spring Games was an eight-game winning streak to close out the competition. The eight straight victories matched the second-longest such streak in Crusader history, as the 1988 team also enjoyed eight consecutive wins. The school record winning streak was set in 1987, when Valpo reeled off nine straight victories. The eight wins came over a five-day span against eight different opponents.
Cutting it Close: Each of the last five victories in Valpo's eight game winning streak came by the exact same margin - one run. The five straight one-run victories set a new program record for most consecutive one-run wins.
Valpo Picked Fourth in Mid-Con: The Valparaiso University softball team has been tabbed to finish in fourth place in the Mid-Continent Conference in preseason polling of the league's head coaches. Valpo garnered 18 points in the polling, which granted seven points for a first-place vote. Western Illinois is the preseason favorite to take top honors in the Mid-Con, registering 32 points, including three first-place votes. Centenary and Southern Utah each received two first-place votes and tallied 30 and 29 points, respectively. IUPUI checked in at 17 points, good for fifth place, while Oakland (13) and UMKC (8) rounded out the voting.
Senior Leadership: The 2007 Crusader squad boasts five seniors who are attempting to lead Valpo to a Mid-Continent Conference championship for the first time in program history. Included among the five seniors are two of the most prolific hitters in Crusader history: infielder Taylor Callahan and outfielder Megan Carroll. Also counted among the Valpo senior leaders are infielder Beth Adamski, outfielder Jessica Schultz and catcher Allison Whitesell.
Robinson Leads the Way: Junior catcher Shannon Robinson has been stellar at the plate for the Crusaders over the first month of the season. Robinson leads Valpo in most offensive categories, including batting average (.368), runs scored (14), total bases (37), walks (6), on-base percentage (.427) and slugging percentage (.544). Her batting average is good for second in the Mid-Con. In the field, the junior has been just as dependable, committing just two errors in 116 chances and throwing out six of 16 would-be base stealers.
Callahan Getting it Done: Senior infielder Taylor Callahan started the 2007 season slowly, but has bounced back with hits in 13 of her last 16 games, hitting .375 over that stretch. Callahan earned Mid-Con Player of the Week honors March 26 after going 6-for-9 in the three-game sweep of UMKC. In the middle game, Callahan went 2-for-3 and tied the game in the fourth inning by stealing home. But she saved her best performance for the series finale, going a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles, two runs scored, and four RBIs in the Crusaders' 14-1 victory. Callahan helped spark a 10-run third inning with two base hits, one run, and two RBIs.
Zappia Zaps Opponents: Junior pitcher Andrea Zappia has continued her stellar pitching from her sophomore year in the opening half of the 2007 season. Zappia currently leads the Crusaders and the Mid-Con with her 2.55 earned run average, .221 opponents batting average, and 3.80/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. She earned Mid-Con Pitcher of the Week honors March 12 for her three-win, one-save performance at the Rebel Spring Games, and threw her first career shutout March 23 against UMKC, allowing just three hits while striking out nine.
Kelly and Halstead Also Stand Out: Zappia is just one-third of Valpo's three-pronged attack in the pitcher's circle in 2007. Junior Chris Halstead and sophomore Stephanie Kelly have combined with Zappia to make the Crusader pitching one of the team's strongest components. Halstead is currently a perfect 4-0 in 11 appearances with a 2.60 ERA, while Kelly has appeared in 15 of Valpo's 22 games and owns a 6-4 record with a 3.36 ERA, as well as one save. The duo combined for Valpo's second shutout of the season against Georgetown, as Halstead earned the win in the start, going five-plus scoreless innings while scattering five hits. Kelly came in and threw a perfect final two frames against the Hoyas, striking out four batters.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish roll into Wednesday's matchup on a 10-game winning streak after winning two Big East contests apiece this past weekend against Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The wins improve Notre Dame to 19-12 overall and make them a perfect 10-0 at home this season. The offense has been led by senior All-American Stephanie Brown, who is hitting at a .477 clip this season and has scored 24 runs. In the circle, Brittney Bargar has paced the Irish with 19 starts, including 15 complete games. Bargar owns a 2.00 ERA and a 12-7 record, having struck out 130 batters in 126 innings pitched.
Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies took two out of three games at Southern Utah in their only conference series to date. Sarah Clark paces the Grizzlies at the plate with a .308 batting average and nine RBIs, while Julie Owen has scored 12 runs this year. Jessica Granger has been a workhorse in the circle for Oakland, pitching 88.2 of its 147.2 innings played this year and holding a 3.00 ERA, second-best in the conference.