Leading by just one run heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Valparaiso softball team batted around the order, sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs to finish off a 11-3, six-inning victory in Horizon League play over Oakland Friday afternoon at the Valparaiso University Softball Field.
"I think our offense is just doing a good job of sticking with it and making adjustments as the game goes on," said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. "It's a good thing to see from them, that we stay true to what we need to do even when we fall behind."
Sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) continued her torrid stretch at the plate in her first at-bat, putting the Crusaders on top just three pitches into the bottom of the first as she launched a home run off the scoreboard beyond the left-center field fence. But after freshman Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) followed with a double, Valpo would go hitless through the end of the third inning.
Oakland claimed the lead in the top of the third inning, pushing three runs across the plate. A bases-loaded wind-blown single by Morgan Muron was compounded by a throwing error to put Oakland on top, 2-1, and Courtnee Johnson followed by lining an RBI single into left field. But Valpo would come back to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth. Fifth-year senior Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) reached on a one-out infield single and freshman Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) took the first pitch she saw, drilling a no-doubt home run to left field to tie the game at 3-3.
Valpo re-claimed the lead in the fifth, as a two-out double to the gap from sophomore Janelle Bouchard (Kennebunk, Maine/Kennebunk) plated Calombaris to give the Crusaders a 4-3 lead. Then, with Oakland threatening to tie things up in the sixth, sophomore Taylor Weissenhofer (Orland Park, Ill./Lockport Township) bore down with a runner on third and one out, registering a big strikeout and then inducing a pop-out to keep Valpo in front.
"It was a good job from Taylor in the circle today," said Stevens. "I thought the biggest situation came in the top of the sixth, after we had just taken the lead - it was key to get out of that one without giving up a run."
The Crusaders then exploded with seven runs in the bottom of the sixth to close out their fifth run-rule win of the year. Valpo’s first eight batters of the inning all reached base, with seven different players crossing the plate with runs. A bases-loaded walk to Ranieri forced home the first run of the frame, while Calombaris and senior Amanda Wisniewski (Skokie, Ill./Huntley) followed with consecutive run-scoring hits. Junior Tarah McShane (Streamwood, Ill./St. Edward Central Catholic) knocked a two-run single back through the middle, and in her second at-bat of the inning, Stewart drove home pinch-runner Amanda Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran) with the game’s final run on an infield grounder.
Weissenhofer went the distance in the circle for Valpo, improving to 11-6 as she scattered six hits in her six innings of work and struck out six batters. Kaley Waalkes took the loss for Oakland (11-16, 0-3 Horizon), falling to 7-5 as she allowed eight runs in five-plus innings. Bouchard, Calombaris, Lawson and Stewart all recorded multi-hit games, while Calombaris and Ranieri scored two runs each and Stewart drove in a team-best three runs.
Valparaiso (16-24, 8-3 Horizon) closes out the three-game series against Oakland with a home doubleheader Saturday beginning at noon. It will be Senior Day at the Valparaiso University Softball Field, with the Crusaders honoring their six seniors in between games. All the action will be carried live on the Horizon League Network and WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), with links for the live video and audio, as well as live stats, available at ValpoAthletics.com.