The Valparaiso softball team extended its winning streak to seven consecutive games on Wednesday, stepping out of league play to take down Eastern Michigan by final scores of 5-4 and 3-2 (8 innings) in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Valpo got all the offense it would need in the opener in the top of the first inning before two were out. A walk, a bunt single and another base knock loaded the bases with nobody out for sophomore Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn), who drilled a single back through the middle to score freshman Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) with the game’s first run.
Two batters later, sophomore Tarah McShane (Streamwood, Ill./St. Edward Central Catholic) knocked a double over the center fielder’s head, plating junior Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) and fifth-year senior Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union). Freshman Janelle Bouchard (Kennebunk, Maine/Kennebunk) followed with a double of her own, sending a shot to the fence in right field which brought home Duncan and McShane to make it 5-0 Crusaders. Valpo would load the bases with two outs later in the frame, but a line-out ended any further threat.
Eastern Michigan scored two on a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch in the bottom of the first, and then moved within 5-4 on a two-run homer by Courtney Loe in the third. The Eagles followed the round-tripper with a single, but reliever Amanda Bolton (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) entered and induced a groundout to keep the Crusaders in the lead.
Valpo was unable to push any runners into scoring position after its offensive explosion in the first inning, but Bolton allowed just two baserunners in her three innings of work to help maintain the one-run advantage. A two-out single in the sixth prompted a move to Taylor Weissenhofer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township), who got the EMU batter swinging on strikes. Weissenhofer then pitched a perfect seventh inning to lock up the win.
Bolton earned the win with her three shutout innings, improving to 3-1 on the year, while Weissenhofer registered her fifth save of the season. Jenna Ignowski fell to 6-4 with the complete-game loss for Eastern Michigan. Bouchard was the only Crusader with a multi-hit game, while Ranieri walked twice in addition to a base hit.
Valpo’s first threat of the nightcap came in the top of the third, as the Crusaders loaded the bases on three walks with two out, but a pop-up came the game scoreless. Eastern Michigan would strike first, scoring in the bottom of the third. The Eagles had runners on first and second with one out, with a single up the middle scoring the lead runner. Valpo was able to get both subsequent runners in rundowns, however, eventually completing the unconventional double play to keep the deficit at just one run.
Ichiyama tied the game in the top of the fifth with her fourth home run of the season, but the Eagles answered with a solo round-tripper from Amanda Herron to go back ahead 2-1. The Crusaders entered the top of the seventh still trailing by one run, but manufactured the tying tally. Ranieri led off with her fourth walk of the twinbill and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt. After Ichiyama was intentionally walked to set up a force at any base, Duncan lined a single through the left side, scoring Ranieri and tying the game at 2-2. Valpo loaded the bases with one out, but a fielder’s choice force at the plate and a fly-out kept the game all tied up.
Weissenhofer entered in relief for the second time on the day in the bottom of the seventh, striking out the side around a two-out single and setting the stage for Crusader heroics in the eighth. Junior Kimberlin Wallace (Newton, Ill./Community [Lake Land C.C.]) led off the inning by working a leadoff walk, moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt and came home with the winning run when Ranieri connected on a single back up the middle. Weissenhofer closed the game by again striking out the side.
Weissenhofer earned the win in relief, improving to 10-6 on the year by registering all six of her outs via strikeout. Lindsay Rich took the loss in relief to fall to 4-4 for Eastern Michigan (10-15-1), giving up the game-winning run in 1.2 innings of work. Ichiyama picked up a pair of extra-base hits and also drew two walks in the nightcap, while Ranieri recorded her second straight game with two walks and a base hit.
“I like how we came out attacking in game one,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “We were able to hang on to that one, got good pitching from Amanda and Taylor to close down their scoring. I was pleased with our fight in game two – our pitchers battled through some tough situations and gave us a chance to stay close and come back. We had some nice clutch hits in the seventh and eighth innings. I thought we executed well all day long.”
Valparaiso (20-12) gets a couple days away from action before returning to Horizon League play at Loyola on Saturday with a doubleheader which begins at noon.