Valparaiso (12-10, 0-0 Horizon)
Tuesday, Mar. 22 - at IUPUI (9-12, 4-2 Summit) [DH] - 3 p.m. CDT
Friday, Mar. 25 - Michigan State (18-10) - 4 p.m.
Saturday, Mar. 26 - Detroit (4-8) [DH] - 1 p.m.
Sunday, Mar. 27 - Detroit - noon
Next Up in Crusader Softball: Six games are on the slate for Valparaiso this week, as the Crusaders open the week with a twinbill at IUPUI Tuesday before opening the home campaign against Michigan State Friday. Horizon League play then begins this weekend with Valpo hosting Detroit for a three-game series.
Previously: The Crusaders went 2-3 at Florida’s Lipton Invitational, earning victories over North Dakota State and Gardner-Webb, and then posted a 5-1 mark at the Rebel Spring Games, exiting the state of Florida on a five-game winning streak. The IUPUI doubleheader will be Valpo’s first action in 11 days.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats for all six of this week’s contests will be available through www.valpoathletics.com. In addition, a live audio broadcast of the Michigan State game can be heard online or in the Valpo area on 95.1 FM, WVUR. A live chat for the doubleheader at IUPUI can also be accessed through the official Crusader website.
Head Coach Jordan Stevens: Jordan Stevens is in his first season at the helm of the Crusader softball program. Stevens came to Valpo from Union [N.Y.] College, where he led the Dutchwomen to their most successful season in program history in 2010, winning 32 games and conference regular season and tournament crowns. Stevens also previously spent time as an assistant at Rhode Island and Niagara.
Series Notes: IUPUI - Valpo owns a slight 27-23 lead in the all-time series over the Jaguars, a former conference rival from the Mid-Con days. Most recently, the Crusaders swept a twinbill in Valparaiso on Apr. 13, 2010, winning 2-1 and 4-0.
Michigan State - The Crusaders and Spartans have met just four times in program history, with MSU winning all four previous games, and this marks the first meeting between the two schools in Valpo. Most recently, the Spartans won a doubleheader by 7-4 and 8-1 scores in East Lansing on May 3, 2007.
Detroit - Valpo owns the 20-17 advantage all-time over the Titans and is 8-1 against Detroit since joining the Horizon League. The Crusaders set or tied numerous records in last year’s three-game sweep in Detroit on Apr. 2-3, winning the three games 10-0, 18-2 and 16-1.
Looking Back at 2010: Valpo enjoyed the best season in program history in 2010, winning a school-record 35 games and advancing to the final day of play at the Horizon League Championship, placing third. The Crusaders set a total of 13 new team single-season records, while individually, four different players combined to set six new individual single-season marks.
Plenty of Experience Returns: While Stevens is in his first go-round as coach of the Crusaders, he has an experienced team at his disposal, as 15 of 18 letterwinners from last year’s squad are back in 2011. Included among the 15 returnees are eight starters and both primary starting pitchers from last year’s squad.
Crusaders Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish fifth in the Horizon League this season according to the preseason poll. Cleveland State edged out UIC for the top spot in the polling, while Butler and Wright State tied for third place, just ahead of the Crusaders.
A Rigorous Slate: The Crusaders will have a number of challenges on their hands in the pre-league portion of the 2011 season. 11 of Valpo’s first 13 games were against squads which won at least 30 games a year ago, with six of those games were against teams which advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 as well. Valpo also took on a pair of the nation’s top-10 teams for the first time ever.
Bringing Home the Hardware: For the first time in the modern era, the Crusader softball team earned a tournament championship by capturing Stetson’s Hatter Classic in late February. Valpo got back-to-back homers from KC Boldt and Tori Brown in the second to take the lead for good in a 5-2 win over Bethune-Cookman in the championship game.
Run-Ruling All Comers: Valparaiso won 12 games via run rule last season, and has already run-ruled three opponents in its 12 victories this season, including an 11-2, five-inning win over Iowa State, the Crusaders’ first run-ruling of a BCS opponent in the modern era. On the flip side, Valpo has not been run-ruled yet this year.
Doerffler On a Roll: Since moving to the second spot in Valpo’s batting order prior to the Robert Morris game, freshman infielder Angie Doerffler has been on fire at the plate. Over the five-game stretch, Doerffler is 11-of-17 (.647) at the plate with three doubles, a triple, seven runs and five RBIs, helping the Crusaders to five victories. Perhaps more impressively, Doerffler carries streaks of nine straight plate appearances reaching base and seven straight at-bats with hits into this week’s action.
Strickland Continues to Produce: Junior outfielder Sara Strickland also saw her role shift prior to the Robert Morris game, hitting in the three-hole for the first time in her career, and has hit .500 (9-of-18) with five runs scored, four RBIs, four doubles and four steals in the five games since. On the season, Strickland is hitting .406 with 14 runs scored, 13 RBIs, 10 steals and eight doubles, and enters the week just one run shy of matching Valpo’s career record in the category.
Pitching Staff Posts Performances: Valpo’s pitchers stood out over the Crusaders’ action at the Rebel Spring Games, combining to surrender just 10 runs over their six games in Kissimmee, just seven of which were earned (1.23 ERA). Junior Shaleigh Jansen posted a 0.46 ERA, surrendering just one earned run in 15.1 innings while going 2-0 with a save, while junior Sam McGee struck out 19 batters and earned two wins in her 18.1 innings of work. Redshirt sophomore Amanda Bolton contributed as well, going six shutout innings to earn a win over Wagner in her first career start.