Valparaiso (0-5, 0-0 Horizon)
Friday, Feb. 26-Sunday, Feb. 28 - at Hilltopper Spring Fling (Bowling Green, Ky.)
Next Up in Crusader Softball: After a weekend away from competition, the Valparaiso University softball team gets the spring slate started in earnest this weekend, as the Crusaders travel to the Hilltopper Spring Fling, hosted by Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Ky. Valpo will face Western Carolina, Southeast Missouri and Ball State in addition to host WKU.
Previously: The Crusaders opened the 2016 campaign two weekends ago at the FIU Invitational, dropping all five tournament games.
Following the Crusaders: All four games at this weekend’s tournament are slated to have live stats, with links to all available at ValpoAthletics.com. Numerous Valpo games are slated for broadcast on ESPN3.com this spring, including all 16 scheduled home games.
Head Coach Kate Stake: Kate Stake was hired as head coach of the Valparaiso softball program on July 23, 2014 and is in her second season as head coach, owning 16 victories. Stake arrived at Valpo with eight seasons of assistant coaching experience at the Division I level, most recently serving as an assistant at mid-major power Hofstra.
Series Notes: Valpo is looking for its first win in program history against Western Carolina, which won the only previous matchup between the two teams in 2008, and versus Western Kentucky, which has won both previous meetings - most recently a 3-0 decision in 2013. The Crusaders are 4-1 all-time against Southeast Missouri, most recently splitting a pair of games at SEMO in 2004, and are 1-7 all-time versus Ball State, most recently falling to the Cardinals in 2009.
Crusaders Picked Fourth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fourth place in the Horizon League standings in 2016 in the preseason poll, as picked by the league’s head coaches. Oakland and UIC tied for first place and split the nine first-place votes, while Wright State tallied 48 points and the Crusaders 40.
A Veteran Group: Unlike last year's squad, which featured a myriad of freshmen, this year's Crusader team has just one newcomer - freshman Carly Trepanier. From last year's 17-player roster, 15 players are back in 2016.
Many Options: Stake experimented with her starting group throughout the Crusaders' first weekend of play. 14 of Valpo's 16 players started at least one game at FIU, with only four starting all five games at the same position. In addition, the batting order varied a bit as well, as only Kaitlyn Ranieri started all five games in the same position in the order.
New Record in the Circle...: Senior Taylor Weissenhofer established a new Crusader record for career strikeouts on the opening weekend of play. Weissenhofer entered the season third in program history in strikeouts, and with her sixth strikeout of the weekend - which came on Feb. 13 against St. John's - she registered her career record-breaking 448th strikeout.
...And At the Plate: Senior Kaitlyn Ranieri entered the 2016 campaign already tied for the Valpo career record for walks, and wasted little time claiming the record for herself, as she drew the 99th free pass of her career in her first plate appearance of the weekend. Ranieri would go on to work five walks for the weekend as she got on base at a .714 clip.
Moving Up the Charts: While Ranieri already tops the career walks chart, she is poised to advance on a number of other career charts in the coming weeks. The senior is currently fifth in Valpo history in hits (189 - four shy of fourth), runs scored (116) and home runs (21 - one shy of fourth). Ranieri also ranks sixth in doubles (37 - two shy of fourth) and is ninth in RBIs (91 - three shy of sixth).