Next Up in Crusader Softball: After a weekend away from competition, the Valparaiso University softball team opens its spring break trip at the Lopes Up Classic in Phoenix, Ariz. Valpo will take on UNLV twice and South Dakota and Princeton once apiece over the weekend, and after a day off on Monday, will play a doubleheader against host Grand Canyon on Tuesday. It marks the Crusaders’ first trip to the state of Arizona since the 2014 season.
Previously: Valpo posted a 4-1 record at the Buccaneer Invitational, hosted by Charleston Southern, from Feb. 16-18. The Crusaders beat the hosts twice and split a pair of games with Eastern Kentucky before closing the tournament on a high note, defeating North Carolina Central 3-0 behind a no-hitter in the circle from Emily Richardson.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats for all six games from Phoenix will be 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 fourth season as head coach, owning 68 victories. Stake led the Crusaders to the 2016 Horizon League Championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament - the third in program history. 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 will be facing both Princeton and Grand Canyon for the first time in Phoenix. The Crusaders have just one prior matchup with UNLV - an 8-5 victory for the Rebels in Las Vegas on March 13, 2016. Valpo and South Dakota have split six meetings all time, with the most recent matchup resulting in a 5-4 Crusader win last season on March 18 at Iowa.
Crusaders Picked Ninth in Preseason Poll: Valpo was tabbed ninth in the 2018 Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll, picked to finish ahead of Indiana State in the preseason polling of the conference’s head coaches. Four different programs received at least two first place votes in the polling, with Illinois State edging out Southern Illinois and UNI for the top spot in the poll.
Looking Back at 2017: Valpo posted a 28-23 record overall last season and finished Horizon League play at 14-10, good for a tie for third place in the nine-team league. Senior Sam Stewart was named the Horizon League Player of the Year after leading the league in eight different offensive categories, including all three Triple Crown categories, while senior Jorgi Calombaris joined Stewart as a First Team All-League honoree and sophomore Carly Trepanier was a Second Team All-League and Third Team All-Region selection.
A New Journey: The Crusader softball program embarks on a new journey in 2018 as Valpo competes in the Missouri Valley Conference for the first time. The conference move presents a challenging slate for the Crusaders, as each of the other nine MVC programs finished last season with an RPI of 181 or better, whereas Valpo’s league opposition last season featured just one program with an RPI better than 181.
Plenty of Experience Back: Valpo has welcomed back an experienced group for its first season of play in The Valley in 2018. 16 letterwinners return from last year’s squad, including seven starters on offense and a trio of pitchers who combined to throw nearly 88% of the team’s innings last season.
Happy Homecoming: Valpo’s trip to Phoenix this weekend will carry special significance for a pair of Crusaders, who will get to play near-hometown games in front of family and friends. Both senior Jasmine Ramirez (Litchfield Park) and junior Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear) hail from within 20 miles of Phoenix.
This Time’s the Charm: Just eight days after coming within two outs of a no-hitter, sophomore Emily Richardson took the circle against North Carolina Central in the finale from Charleston Southern and completed the task, tossing Valpo’s first no-hitter since 2013 in a 3-0 win. Richardson struck out a career-high 11 batters and picked up her second win in as many starts after registering just one win as a freshman. The no-hitter was the 10th known no-hit effort in program history and was the first seven-inning no-no since 2002.
Running Wild: Fifth-year senior Taylor Lawson looks as strong as ever on the basepaths to start off the 2018 campaign. Over the five games at Charleston Southern, Lawson was a perfect 7-of-7 stealing bases - highlighted by a three-steal effort against North Carolina Central to tie a program single-game record. Lawson is now 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts this year - leading the MVC and among the nation’s leaders in the category - and is 56-for-59 for her career.
Hits and Runs: It wasn’t just in the stolen base category where Lawson excelled in Valpo’s last weekend of competition. The senior went 8-for-16 at the plate, reaching base multiple times in all five games, and scored seven runs as well. Along the way, Lawson moved into Valpo’s career top-10 charts in both hits (158) and runs scored (96).
Bringing Home the Bacon: Junior Jaymee Lawton was responsible for over two-thirds of the Crusaders’ runs scored in her four starts last time out at Charleston Southern, tallying four runs scored and 10 RBIs in the four appearances. Lawton went 9-for-15 at the plate with three doubles and a homer, slugging at an even 1.000 clip for the weekend. The junior currently leads The Valley in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, posting a slash line of .520/.571/.920 through two weekends of play, and also ranks second in RBIs with 14.
Picking Up the Wins: Senior Kenzie Grossmann made a habit of winning last season in her first year as a Crusader, moving into third place on Valpo’s single-season wins chart with 20 victories. This season, through four starts, Grossmann has already picked up three wins - including victories in both of her starts last time out against Eastern Kentucky and Charleston Southern. The senior has posted a 1.50 ERA in 23.1 innings of work while striking out 18 batters and walking just four, allowing hitters to bat just .228 off of her.
Triple Threat: The triple is a rare offensive occurrence in softball, with the Crusaders combining for 13 total triples over the last two complete seasons. That’s why the start to junior Carly Trepanier’s season at the plate was so unique, as she connected on triples in each of her first two at-bats in the season opener against SIUE. Trepanier became just the fourth Valpo player since the start of the 1999 season (the earliest single-game records are available) to pick up two triples in one game, and the first since Joylyn Ichiyama did so against UTSA on March 3, 2012.