The Valparaiso softball team split its final two games at the Samford Invitational in Birmingham, Ala. on Saturday, scoring eight unanswered runs to take down Alabama State, 8-2, before falling 12-1 to Samford in the tournament finale.
Valpo found itself trailing early against the Hornets of Alabama State, as a pair of two-out errors in the top of the second contributed to ASU plating two runs. But the Crusaders responded immediately, doubling the Hornets’ output in the bottom of the frame. Junior Mollie Lindeman (Hebron, Ind./Hebron [PNC]) led off the frame with a base hit, and two batters later, freshman Lanie Callaghan (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) – making her first career start – drove a double to the right-center gap to put two runners in scoring position.
Freshman Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) and sophomore Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) delivered back-to-back run-scoring infield hits to tie the game at 2-2. Two batters later, a grounder from senior Tarah McShane (Streamwood, Ill./St. Edward) scored Stauffenberg, and Calombaris would later scamper home on a wild pitch to put the Crusaders ahead 4-2 through two innings.
“I certainly don't question our team's resilience - we've shown time and again that if we're down, we're not out,” said Crusader head coach Kate Stake. “Our offense is very confident, so when our pitching and our defense can get us back in the dugout and let us hit, we try to take advantage. Everybody who steps to the plate steps into the batter’s box thinking they can get us going.”
Valpo would not relinquish the lead from there, as Lindeman scattered three hits from the circle over the next three innings, and junior Taylor Weissenhofer (Orland Park, Ill./Lockport Township) closed out the win with a pair of hitless frames. An RBI double from junior Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) and a sacrifice fly by junior Sierra Pico (Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy) added two runs to the Crusader lead in the fifth, and Valpo capped the scoring in the sixth on an RBI single from McShane and a Ranieri sacrifice fly.
Stauffenberg went 3-for-3 at the plate to lead Valpo’s 13-hit attack and scored a pair of runs, while Calombaris and McShane tallied two hits each as well. Lindeman earned the win in the circle for the Crusaders, starting and throwing five innings without surrendering an earned run to improve to 2-2 on the year. Alabama State (3-9) starter Maddie Phelps took the loss to fall to 2-4, as she gave up four runs on seven hits in her four innings of work.
“I was happy with Mollie and Taylor’s performances in game one,” said Stake. “Mollie did exactly what her job was, giving up no earned runs, and then I was really pleased with Taylor coming in and shutting down Alabama State the last two innings. That’s not a role we’ve asked her to play yet this year, and she did it very well.”
The nightcap would not be nearly as kind to the Crusaders, as Samford jumped out on top with a seven-run first inning. The Bulldogs added three runs in the second inning and two in the third for their final total. Valpo put together some offense in the fifth inning, as Lindeman walked and eventually came home on an RBI base knock by Stauffenberg, but the Crusaders were unable to stave off the run-rule decision.
Freshman Ashlyn Montgomery (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) took the loss for Valpo, falling to 1-1 on the year as she registered just two outs in the first inning. Pico, the fourth Crusader pitcher of the game, tossed a scoreless inning in her first appearance in the circle this season. Mollie Hanson improved to 5-1 for Samford (11-2), throwing four innings of one-hit ball.
“Samford hit everything we threw at them,” said Stake. “We put four different pitchers in the game, and they were free swinging - hitting every strike we threw and pretty much every ball. Then, when we did have chances to get outs, our defense let us down. We haven't yet put together a complete game with our offense, pitching and defense all clicking – we’ve had two of the three some games, but never all three yet. We’ll continue to work hard to get all three firing at the same time as we approach league play.”
Valparaiso (3-6) returns to action next weekend in Fayetteville, Ark. at Arkansas’ Wooo Pig Classic. The five-game, three-day tournament opens for the Crusaders on Friday with games against UAB and Western Illinois.