Valpo Returns Home for Key Three-Game League Series
Monday, April 5, 2010
Valpo Returns Home for Key Three-Game League Series
The Crusaders will attempt to keep atop the Horizon League standings this week. (Ray Acevedo)

Butler at Valparaiso - Tuesday, April 6 (DH) - 3 p.m.; Wednesday, April 7 - 2 p.m.

The Matchups: Valparaiso (23-7, 5-0 Horizon) has just one three-game series this week, but it is a huge one, as the first-place Crusaders host the second-place Butler Bulldogs (26-7, 4-1 Horizon) in a doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon and a single game Wednesday afternoon at the Valparaiso University Softball Field.

Previously in Valpo Softball: The Crusaders absolutely dominated their opposition last week, winning all five of their games via run rule to extend their winning streak to eight games.  Valpo opened the week Wednesday with a home doubleheader sweep of Northern Illinois by scores of 9-0 and 14-2.  They then traveled to Detroit for a three-game Horizon League set and steamrolled the Titans by scores of 10-0, 18-2 and 16-1.   The 18 runs in the middle game of the series against the Titans matched the program record for runs in a single game, while numerous other records were also set this week (detailed later on in the notes).

Series History: Valparaiso holds a 17-12 advantage in the all-time series over Butler in a series that dates all the way back to 1982.  Last season, the two squads met up in a three-game series in Indianapolis on April 22-23, with the Bulldogs earning one-run wins by scores of 4-3 and 3-2 (10 inn.) in the first two games before the Crusaders exploded for a 12-2 win in the series finale.  Joylyn Ichiyama and Karen Korb paced Valpo with five hits apiece in the series, while Korb and Sara Strickland each scored three runs.  Ashley Wolter picked up five RBIs to lead the Crusaders as well, while in the circle, Shaleigh Jansen and Alex Lagesse combined to not give up an earned run in the series finale.

Following the Crusaders:  Valpo’s student-run radio station, WVUR, 95.1 FM, will be broadcasting the second game against Butler on Tuesday afternoon, but will not be carrying either of the other two games.  WVUR will be broadcasting selected Crusader home games throughout the season, and all their broadcasts will also be webcast online at  Live stats for all home games and most road games will also be available through the official Crusader athletics website.

Eight Straight is Great: For the second time this season, Valparaiso finds itself on an eight-game winning streak after posting five victories last week.  The Crusaders have not lost since dropping the opener at IPFW on March 24, and previously had an eight-game winning streak February 28-March 7.  Valpo will be attempting to tie the program record nine-game winning streak set by the 1987 squad when it takes the field on Tuesday.

Blanking Opponents: Valpo matched its program record of four consecutive shutouts by blanking Northern Illinois in the opener last Wednesday, 9-0.  The Crusaders had previously shut out IPFW, 1-0, and then Green Bay twice, 8-0 and 3-0.  The string of four consecutive blankings matched a streak by the 1987 team, which shut out IPFW, Loyola (2x) and Lake Forest.  With the four clean sheets, Valpo has now tallied eight shutouts this year already, matching the most in a single season under Schneider.

Offense Makes for Record-Setting Weekend: While pitching and defense accounted for one record-matching streak earlier in the week, it was Valpo’s offense which took center stage for the most part last week against NIU and Detroit and resulted in a number of new marks being set.  Among the offensive records set or matched last week were (single game records for team runs and RBIs are all-time, all other team and all individual categories are since 1999):
  -Tied program record for runs in a game (18, 4/2 G2 @ Detroit...tied 4/20/1985 18-7 win over Notre Dame)
  -New record for RBIs in a game (18, 4/2 G2 @ Detroit)
  -New record for hits in a game (18, 4/2 G2 @ Detroit)
  -New records for total runs over two games (34, 4/2 G2 & 4/3 @ Detroit), three games (44, Detroit series) and four games (58, 3/31 G2 NIU & Detroit series)
  -New record for most consecutive games scoring in double figures (4)
  -New record for most consecutive wins by run rule (5)
  -KC Boldt matches individual single-game marks for hits (4) and RBIs (6) in G2 4/2 @ Detroit

Milestone Win: Saturday’s win in the finale of the series at Detroit also marked a couple of milestones for the Crusader program.  It clinched Valpo’s best start through 30 games in program history at 23-7, while also making seniors Carrie Franson and Whitney Warner the winningest class in Valpo softball history with the 105th victory over their four years.

Offensive Firepower: While the Crusader pitchers and defense have held down opponents all season long to a 1.84 ERA and .237 batting average against, it is the Valpo offense which ranks among the nation’s best in a number of categories.  The Crusaders currently have eight regulars hitting above .300, including a pair above .400, and ten players in all above .300.  While this week’s national statistical rankings are not yet out, Valpo is expected to be at or near the top of the charts in team batting average (.346) and doubles/game (2.03), in addition to numerous other categories.

Raking in the Honors: Valparaiso has dominated the Horizon League weekly awards to this point of the season, bringing home eight honors while competing in just six weeks.  Kelsey Phalen and Shaleigh Jansen swept the Batter and Pitcher of the Week honors, respectively, following the Crusaders’ opening weekend of action February 15.  Jordan Rutkowski was named the Batter of the Week March 1, while Alex Lagesse earned Pitcher of the Week accolades March 8.  Most recently, Lisa DeBruzzi was awarded Batter of the Week honors March 15, and Lagesse earned her second Pitcher of the Week award March 22.  This week, Valpo again earned a double honor, as Sadie Conner was named Batter of the Week, while Lagesse repeated as Pitcher of the Week, her third honor of the season.

Youth Shall Be Served: The 2010 edition of the Valparaiso softball team is an extremely young edition, as this year’s Crusaders have just two seniors (catcher Whitney Warner; pitcher Carrie Franson).  Five juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen round out the 19-player squad.

Conner on Fire: Junior Sadie Conner has been nearly unstoppable at the plate over her current seven-game hitting streak, going 15-for-22 with five doubles and three homers, OPSing 2.026 over the seven-game span.  Conner has crossed the plate 12 times over the seven games and has driven in 12 runs as well.  The junior earned HL Batter of the Week honors for her performance last week in Valpo’s five wins, the first weekly accolade of her career, after posting four multi-hit games and driving in two or more runs in all five victories.  On the year, Conner is now hitting at a .398 clip, over 100 points better than she hit last season.  Her slugging percentage this year is up to .659, raising her career slugging to .496, which is fifth-best all-time at Valpo.

Boldt Enjoys Career Game:
Junior KC Boldt, who has been used primarily as a pinch-runner throughout her career and who was slowed by illness in the early portions of this season, entered Friday’s doubleheader at Detroit with just three career hits and four career RBIs.  But Boldt earned the start in left field in the second game and proceeded to play the game of her life, tallying RBI singles in each of her first three at-bats before capping the day with her first career homer, a three-run round-tripper to close a 4-for-4, 6 RBI game.  The four hits and six RBIs both tied Valpo single-game records dating back to 1999.

Phalen Returns Better than Ever: Sophomore Kelsey Phalen suffered a season-ending injury 30 games into her freshman year, but has bounced back this year and has been a force in the middle of the Crusader batting order.  Phalen earned HL Batter of the Week accolades in Valpo’s first week of competition this year and hasn’t looked back, as she currently is batting .411 on the year, second-best on the team.  Phalen, who now has enough at-bats this year to qualify for single-season charts, currently ranks second in a single season in Valpo history in batting average, third in on-base percentage (.461) and tops in slugging (.689).  She also has already tallied 26 RBIs, just one shy of the single-season top-five in that category, and hit .571 (8-for-14) with eight runs scored and nine RBIs in Valpo’s five wins last week.

Strickland Solid at the Top: Sophomore Sara Strickland, coming off a 2009 rookie season in which she was named HL Newcomer of the Year, has moved back to her natural outfield position this year and has continued to be consistent at the plate.  Strickland hit .444 last week over Valpo’s five wins with eight runs scored, helping raise her batting average this year to .385.  She is tied for the team lead with 25 runs scored and also is pacing the Crusaders with 11 doubles, just one shy of the single-season top-five in that category.

Rutkowski Leads the Way: Sophomore Jordan Rutkowski continues to pace the Crusaders in the hitting categories.  Rutkowski is hitting at a team-best .449 clip on the year and also leads the Crusaders in both on-base percentage (.532) and slugging percentage (.718).  Her 21 RBIs are second-most on the team, while she has crossed the plate 23 times this year, tied for third-best on the squad.

Lagesse Keeps Foes Scoreless: Sophomore Alex Lagesse has been honored by the Horizon League as its Pitcher of the Week three times this year already, including each of the last two weeks.  She is currently on a streak of 20 consecutive shutout innings, lowering her ERA this year to 1.39, and she earned two victories in nine innings of work last week to improve to 9-3 on the season.  On the year, she has struck out 55 batters while walking just 19 in 70.1 innings of work and is allowing opponents to hit just .205 against her.

McGee Wins as Well: Sophomore Sam McGee  has teamed up with Lagesse to form a formidable 1A and 1B punch in the circle for Valpo this year.  McGee picked up two more victories last week to better her record to 9-1 on the season and 18-6 for her career.  She has saved more than a run off her ERA from last year, carrying a 1.94 ERA this year into this week’s action, and has walked just 13 batters while striking out 54 in 68.2 innings in the circle.

J-A-N-S-E-N Spells Relief: Sophomore Shaleigh Jansen has already set Valpo’s single-season saves record while proving to be a force as the Crusaders’ closer.  In 13 relief appearances this year, Jansen is 2-1 with seven saves and a 1.11 ERA, striking out 22 batters while walking just four in 19 innings of work.  She currently ranks second nationally, just one save off the individual lead.

Quickly: The Crusaders hit .458 as a team last week and outscored their opponents 67-5 ... sophomore Joylyn Ichiyama hit .571 (8-for-14) over the five games ... freshman Jessie Marinec scored six runs and drove in six runs on the week ... senior Whitney Warner and freshman Jennifer Hermanson each hit grand slams in the fifth inning Saturday at Detroit, the first career home run for Hermanson and the first of the season for Warner ... senior Carrie Franson tossed a scoreless inning in two separate appearances last week after appearing just twice over this season and last ... freshman Amanda Bolton pitched twice last week as well after not having pitched since March 2, and also pinch-ran and scored a run for the second time this season.

Scouting the Opposition: The Bulldogs have already matched a program record for victories in a season, entering the week at 26-7.  Butler is in second place in the Horizon League standings at 4-1, having taken two games from Loyola before having the third game canceled.  Most recently, the Bulldogs swept a doubleheader at Youngstown State, 6-0 and 9-0, before falling in the series finale to the Penguins, 4-2.