Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington)
hit a three-run homer off the left field foul pole in the third inning of the
opener Tuesday afternoon at the Valparaiso University Softball Field,
accounting for all the scoring in Valparaiso’s 3-0 win over Butler to match the
longest winning streak in school history.
The Bulldogs avenged the loss with a 3-0 victory over the Crusaders in
The win in the opener was
the ninth consecutive for Valparaiso,
dating back to March 24. While the
Bulldogs snapped the Crusaders’ winning streak in the day’s second game, the
nine-game winning streak matches the school record of nine straight wins, set
by the 1987 Valpo squad.
Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) was stellar in the circle for
Valpo in the opener to improve to 10-3 on the year, giving up just three hits
while striking out six Bulldog hitters and not allowing a runner past second
base. The seven shutout innings extended
the sophomore’s shutout streak to 27 consecutive innings before she gave up an
unearned tally in relief in the nightcap.
Jenny Esparza took the loss in a complete-game effort for Butler.
While Lagesse shut down
the Bulldogs in the circle, Valpo took care of all the offense it would need in
the third frame. With two outs, Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance,
got the rally started with a two-strike single into center field. Jordan
Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) worked a full-count walk to put two runners
on for Conner.
The junior, who was just
named the Horizon League’s Batter of the Week on Monday, got down two strikes
before working back to a full count.
Conner then lofted a fly ball down the left-field line that was
originally ruled to have hit the fence just below the pole for what would have
been her first career triple. But after
the umpires conferred, they ruled the ball had hit the pole for her sixth home
run of the season, tied for fourth-most in a single season in Valpo
history. It was also Conner’s 11th
career round-tripper, also tied for fourth in Crusader history.
“I was happy we won the
first game and found a way to put up runs on Esparza, who is a very good
pitcher for Butler,”
said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “I thought Alex pitched a heck of a game as
well. I felt like it would be a game
where scoring in one at-bat would be the difference, and it turned out that
way. We did what we needed to after
scoring runs to earn the win, playing especially well defensively.”
The second game was
scoreless into the top of the fifth inning, when with two outs, Butler drew back-to-back
walks. After the Crusaders brought in Shaleigh Jansen (Ottawa, Ill./Ottawa
Township), Kayla Gray lined a double to the right-center gap to bring home both
runners with the only runs the Bulldogs would need. Butler
added an unearned tally in the sixth for the game’s final margin.
Valpo put two on in the
sixth with one out, but a ground ball double play would end its best threat of
the game. Jennifer Chasteen earned the
win in the circle for Butler (27-8, 5-2 Horizon), tossing six-plus innings of
shutout ball, while Breanna Fisher entered with one on and none out in the
seventh to register the save. Sam McGee (Bloomington,
took the loss for Valpo, falling to 9-2 despite giving up just one hit in 4.2
innings of work.
“Butler was able to flip-flop in the second
game and do to us what we did to them in the first game,” said Schneider. “We were unable to come up with key hits to
manufacture runs. I think if we had been
able to take advantage of scoring chances early, it could have taken some
pressure off of our pitchers. But all in
all, we still have a chance to win the series tomorrow, and we just have to
come out ready to play.”
Valparaiso (24-8, 6-1 Horizon) will attempt to conclude
its three-game league series with Butler
on Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. With
inclement weather in the forecast, stay logged on to www.valpoathletics.com for the latest
update on the game’s status.