Valparaiso (13-30, 7-12 Horizon)
Friday, May 6/Saturday, May 7 (DH) - at Wright State (33-20, 16-5 Horizon) - 4 p.m. CT/1 p.m. CT - Dayton, Ohio
Next Up in Crusader Softball: The Valparaiso University softball team closes out the regular season this weekend with a three-game series at Wright State. The Crusaders enter the final weekend of play one game back of Oakland for a berth in the Horizon League Championship.
Previously: Valpo took two of three games from Oakland last weekend, all of which were one-run decisions. The Crusaders claimed the series opener 3-2 in 11 innings, and won the finale by an identical score. The Golden Grizzlies won the middle game of the series, 7-6. Both of Valpo's wins were punctuated by walk-off base hits from senior Kaitlyn Ranieri. Valpo's scheduled Wednesday non-league doubleheader versus Northern Illinois was canceled.
Following the Crusaders: All three games of this weekend's series will have live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.
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 29 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 leads the all-time series with Wright State, 23-14, and is 15-12 against the Raiders since joining the Horizon League prior to the 2008 season. The Crusaders were just 1-8 against WSU in their first three years in the league, but since the start of the 2011 season, own a 14-4 advantage in the series. Last season, the two squads split a doubleheader during the regular season in Valpo before each winning one game at the Horizon League Championship.
Looking Ahead: If the Crusaders qualify for the Horizon League Championship, tournament play would begin next Wednesday, May 11 at the top overall seed.
Scouting the Opposition: Wright State enters this weekend at 33-20 overall and with a 16-5 mark in Horizon League play, one-half game up on UIC for the top spot in the league standings. The Raiders most recently dropped two of three games to UIC last weekend. Three regulars are hitting above .300 for WSU, led by Honnah Susor's .370 clip (eight triples, 11 stolen bases), while Becka Peterson hits .308 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs. Ashley Sharp leads the pitching staff with an 18-6 record and a 1.63 ERA.
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.
Winning the Marathon: The Crusaders claimed a big win in the series opener against Oakland last Friday, as after the scoreboard had been wiped clear of the first 10 innings of play, Kaitlyn Ranieri delivered the walk-off winner in the bottom of the 11th. The 11-inning affair matched the second-longest game to date at the Valparaiso University Softball Field, topped only by a 14-inning Valpo win over Youngstown State on May 4, 2013.
Freshman Standout: Freshman infielder Carly Trepanier has stood out through the season and has been even stronger within Horizon League play. Last weekend, Trepanier went 6-for-13 with three runs scored in the three-game series against Oakland, pushing her batting average in league-only play this year to .377 - good for eighth among Horizon League regulars. Overall, Trepanier is hitting at a .321 clip with 14 runs scored on the season.
Montgomery Shuts Down the Grizzlies: Sophomore Ashlyn Montgomery had made just one start in the circle this season and had tossed just 15.2 innings in Horizon League play before getting the ball in the series finale against Oakland. But she was up to the task, limiting Oakland to just two runs on four hits - all four of which came consecutively in the third inning, as she retired 21 of the other 22 batters she faced. Montgomery now owns a 1.54 ERA in seven appearances in league play, allowing opponents to hit just .202 off of her.
Stewart Comes Through: Junior catcher Sam Stewart delivered for the Crusaders in the series against Oakland, connecting on a pair of doubles and a home run among her four hits as she drove in four runs on the weekend. Stewart's home run was her team-best sixth round-tripper of the year, while she also enters the final weekend of the regular season tied for team-high honors with 25 RBIs.
New Records This Year: A pair of Crusader seniors have set new Valpo career records already this year. In the circle, Taylor Weissenhofer broke Valpo's career strikeouts record in the Crusaders' third game of the year - Feb. 13 versus St. John's - and now owns 565 career K's, while her start last Friday versus Oakland marked her 140th career appearance in the circle, setting another new mark. At the plate, Kaitlyn Ranieri drew a walk in her first plate appearance of the year to set a new Valpo career record in that category and currently has 122 career walks.
Moving Up the Charts: While Ranieri already tops the career walks chart, she is continuing to advance on a number of other career charts as she nears the close of her career. The senior is currently third in Crusader history in doubles (44, one shy of second), third in hits (221, four shy of second), third in total bases (346), tied for third in home runs (25), third in RBIs (112) and fourth in runs scored (129, three shy of third). She also ranks fourth in batting average (.351), second in on-base percentage (.464) and fourth in slugging percentage (.550).
Single-Season Marks: As the season nears its end, a number of Crusaders find themselves inside or within striking distance of Valpo's single-season top-10 charts. Taylor Lawson has stolen 21 bases on the season, tied for fifth-most in a single year in program history (and moving her into a tie for third in program history with 39 career steals). Weissenhofer has tallied 123 strikeouts in the circle, surpassing her sophomore-year total for eighth-most in a season in program history - just 10 shy of fifth. Jasmine Ramirez is currently tied for ninth on Valpo's single-season chart in fielding percentage (.992), while both Ranieri (24 walks) and Lawson (23 walks) are closing in on the top-10 for walks, needing just two and three more free passes, respectively.