The Valparaiso University softball team finished out its opening weekend of the 2016 campaign on Sunday at the Juiceblendz FIU Invitational on Sunday in Miami, Fla., falling to #10 Florida State, 16-5, and to the host Panthers, 9-1.
The Crusaders faced large early deficits in both games, falling behind 11-0 after three inning against the Seminoles – an NCAA Super Regional participant last season – and 8-0 after two frames against host FIU. But in both instances, Valpo would fight back on offense.
Against Florida State, the Crusaders struck in the fourth inning for a run, as senior Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) led off the frame with a double and eventually scored on an RBI groundout by classmate Sierra Pico (Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy). Ranieri would factor into the Valpo offense in the fifth inning as well, launching a two-run homer to extend the game after junior Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) had drawn a two-out walk and eventually scored on a wild pitch earlier in the frame.
Florida State scored five more runs in the sixth inning, but the Crusaders put together one more threat in their half of the inning. With one out, sophomore Stephanie Moreno (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley) and junior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) tallied back-to-back singles, and Moreno would then score on an FSU error. But with two in scoring position and just one away, the Crusaders were unable to extend the game for a second time.
Trailing 8-0 against FIU in the tournament finale, a Stewart walk led off the Crusader third inning, followed by a single by sophomore Brenna Boyle (St. John, Ind./Andrean). Later in the inning, Ranieri delivered yet another run-scoring hit, driving in Stewart. The host Panthers would eventually close out the game with a run in the bottom of the fifth to end it via run rule.
Ranieri went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBIs over Sunday’s two games, capping a weekend in which she hit .500, drew five walks and slugged at a 1.000 clip.
Valparaiso (0-5) will have next weekend off before returning to the diamond at the Hilltopper Spring Fling, hosted by Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Ky., on Friday, Feb. 26.