Valparaiso split a Horizon League doubleheader with Wright State on Thursday afternoon in Dayton, Ohio, taking the opener 3-2 in nine innings before falling 4-2 in the nightcap. The Crusaders tied the school record for victories in a single season with the win in the first game, while Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) broke the program record for strikeouts in a single season in the opener.
Valpo hit the board first in the opener in the top of the third inning. Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]) led off the inning with a walk and moved over to third base on a one-out double by Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka). Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ont./John Redmond) followed with a groundout that plated Korth with the game’s first run.
Zappia, who came into the day needing three strikeouts to match Valpo’s single-season strikeout record at 139, tied the mark with the final out of the second inning and registered the record-breaking K on Wright State’s Jamie Perkins to end the third frame. But she found herself in trouble in the fourth, loading the bases with none out on a single and two hit batsmen. Zappia recorded another strikeout to get the first out, and reliever Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) picked up the second out via strikeout. But an illegal pitch call during the next at-bat knotted up the game at one.
The Crusaders had shots to pull ahead in the fifth and sixth innings, as they had a runner on third with less than two outs in both frames, but could not score the go-ahead run and the game remained tied until the ninth inning. In the decisive frame, Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) reached on a one-out Wright State error, and Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) followed with a single down the left-field line. Two batters later, Korth knocked both Wolter and pinch-runner Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) in with a double to the left-center gap.
Valpo’s two-run lead was sliced in half with the first batter of the bottom of the ninth, as Kristen Bradshaw hit a solo homer over the left-field wall to cut the lead to 3-2. But that was as close as Wright State would get, as the Raiders stranded a baserunner at first to end the game.
The Crusaders also started the scoring in the second game, as Mallory Gill (Beloit, Wis./Memorial) came home on an RBI groundout by Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) in the top of the second. A sacrifice fly by Wolter in the third scored Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) and gave Valpo a two-run lead.
The Raiders quickly jumped back into the game, scoring a run on an RBI single in the bottom of the third and another on an RBI double in the fourth. But the critical hit for Wright State came in the fifth, as Bridget Henry connected on a two-run homer to put the Raiders ahead 4-2. Valpo threatened in the sixth, putting runners on second and third with nobody out, and brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but could not score another run.
“Coming away with a split on the road today is not a bad position to be in,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “We played hard, but just didn’t come up with key hits when we needed them. We had our chances, but left too many runners on base. Wright State deserves a lot of credit. They hit the ball well today and constantly put pressure on us.”
Zappia earned the decision for Valpo in both games, moving to 16-6 on the season. She threw ten innings on the day, giving up five runs while striking out ten Wright State hitters, giving her 146 strikeouts on the year. Heather Bauer took both decisions for Wright State (25-23, 10-7 Horizon) to go to 3-2 on the year.
Korth led the Crusaders at the plate on the day, going 4-for-6 with three doubles and two RBIs. Warner also had four hits on the day for Valpo.
“We did a good job today keeping the score down and giving ourselves chances to win both games,” said Schneider. “Staying in the hunt for the league championship is the key at this stage of the season, and we are still right in the thick of things. Now we have to come out this weekend and play our best softball to keep ourselves in the race.”
Valparaiso (27-14, 9-3 Horizon) returns to the Valparaiso University Softball Field this weekend for a three-game series against Youngstown State. Saturday’s doubleheader is slated to begin at 2 p.m., and Senior Day festivities honoring the eight Crusader seniors will take place following the second game.