Valparaiso (2-7, 0-0 Horizon)
at Wildcat Invitational (Tucson, Ariz.)
Friday, Feb. 28 - vs. Iowa (3-9, 0-0 Big Ten) - 2 p.m. CT
at #10/9 Arizona (13-1, 0-0 Pac-12) - 7 p.m.
Saturday, Mar. 1 - vs. Indiana (1-12-1, 0-0 Big Ten) - noon
vs. Longwood (3-1, 0-0 Big South) - 2 p.m.
Sunday, Mar. 2 - vs. UT-Arlington (10-6, 0-0 Sun Belt) - noon
Next Up in Crusader Softball: After a weekend off, Valparaiso opens its 2014 spring break trip this weekend at Arizona’s Wildcat Invitational. The Crusaders will play five games in a 48-hour span, facing Iowa, Indiana, Longwood and UT-Arlington in addition to the nationally-ranked Wildcats.
Following the Crusaders: Live video and live stats will be available for all five of this weekend’s games - links will be published on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Jordan Stevens: In his fourth season at the helm of the Valparaiso softball program, Jordan Stevens has led the Crusaders to new heights through his first three years, as Valpo has captured the Horizon League Championship each of the last two seasons and earned the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win last year. Stevens enters this weekend with a 113-74-1 record at the helm of the Crusaders.
Series Notes: Four of Valpo’s five opponents this weekend are first-time matchups for the Crusader softball program, as the Crusaders have never faced Iowa, Arizona, Longwood or UT-Arlington on the diamond. Valpo has met Indiana eight times, with the Hoosiers holding a 6-2 series edge, but the two squads have not met since Mar. 23, 2002 - a 5-4 IU win in Bloomington.
Crusaders Picked Atop Preseason Poll: For the first time since joining the Horizon League, Valparaiso has been chosen atop the league’s preseason poll, conducted by the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders, defending tournament champions, narrowly edged out UIC, which won the regular season last year, for the top spot in the polling. Both teams received four first-place votes, while Valpo finished with 46 points and UIC 45 points.
A Challenging Schedule: The Crusaders’ 2014 schedule will prepare the team well for Horizon League play, featuring at least ten games against NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago. Valpo is currently slated to take on four teams ranked nationally as well. The Crusaders lost a narrow-one run game to #20/20 Louisiana in their last tournament, and will face #10/9 Arizona this weekend. Later in the spring break trip, Valpo will take on #4/6 Oregon, and a matchup against #23/23 Notre Dame awaits later this spring.
Experience Returns in the Lineup...: Valpo returns six of its nine most regular starters from last year’s Horizon League championship squad for the 2014 campaign. In fact, six of the seven players who started 50 or more of the Crusaders’ 62 games return, with the only departure among that group being Joylyn Ichiyama, who now serves as an assistant coach. The Crusaders also lost Brittany Duncan, who led the team in batting average, to transfer.
...and in the Circle: One year after returning just 1.2 innings of work at pitcher from the previous year, Valpo returns 83.4% of its innings pitched from the 2013 squad this season. The only loss in the circle was graduated senior Amanda Bolton, who saw 69.1 innings of work last season. Taylor Weissenhofer, Sierra Pico and Ashlyn Michalak combined to throw 347.1 innings last year.
Taking on Ranked Foes: Valpo’s game against Arizona on Friday will mark the tenth time under Jordan Stevens the Crusaders have taken on a team ranked in the top-25 nationally. Stevens is still looking for his first victory over a top-25 program, as the Crusaders’ last win over a nationally-ranked foe came in March of 2008, a 7-5 win at #23 Maryland.
Close But No Cigar: While the Crusaders lost all five of their games last time out at the Ragin’ Cajun Invitational, Valpo was in most of the ballgames. A walk-off two-run homer dropped the Crusaders in their first matchup against Central Arkansas by just one run, and Valpo dropped another one-run game to #20/20 Louisiana later that night. In their second loss to UCA, the Crusaders had the potential tying run on base, while in their loss to Memphis, they had the potential tying run up to bat in the seventh inning.
Wisniewski Earns Accolades: Senior Amanda Wisniewski earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team at Louisiana and was named Horizon League Player of the Week for her stellar weekend at the plate. She hit .538 (7-of-13) over the Crusaders' five games, scoring four runs, driving in four runs, hitting two homers and walking three times. Wisniewski now has 21 career home runs, one shy of third in Crusader history, and 86 career walks, one free pass shy of second position in the Valpo record book.
Ranieri Keeps it Going: Moving from the leadoff spot in the order to the three-hole hasn’t slowed down sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri so far this season. The All-League honoree last year hit .412 last tournament and is hitting .355 on the year with six runs scored and five RBIs while striking out just once in 31 at-bats. Last time out, Ranieri also picked up enough at-bats to qualify for the Crusaders’ career charts, where she now ranks fifth all-time in both batting average (.320) and on-base percentage (.416).
Record-Setting Game: Quite simply, the Crusaders shattered a number of records in their 24-1 win over Seton Hall on opening weekend. The 24 runs easily set a program record for runs scored, besting the mark of 18, done twice before - most recently against Detroit in 2010. The 24 RBIs and 23-run margin of victory were both records as well, while the 21 hits and 34 total bases are records dating back to at least 1998 (as far back as single-game records are available).
And Individually...: Tarah McShane went a perfect 5-of-5 in the win over the Pirates, becoming the first Crusader since 1998 to post a five-hit game. Janelle Bouchard drove in a career-high seven runs, matching the program’s single-game mark since 1998. In addition, Bouchard, Kaitlyn Ranieri and Sam Stewart all scored four runs to match that record as well.