Tuesday, March 27, 2007PURDUE (17-21-1) and SOUTHERN UTAH (12-18) at VALPARAISO (13-6)
VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY SOFTBALL FIELD - VALPARAISO, IND.
MARCH 28, 2007 - PURDUE / MARCH 30-31, 2007 - SOUTHERN UTAH
This Week's Matchups:
The Crusaders will face off against Big Ten foe Purdue on Wednesday before squaring off versus Southern Utah in a three-game series this weekend. Valpo enters this week on a four game winning streak after sweeping a three-game set from UMKC. Purdue enters Wednesday's games on an 11-game unbeaten streak, while Southern Utah dropped two of three games last weekend to Oakland in Cedar City.
For the second time in three years, Valpo earned a 2-0 victory in West Lafayette over Purdue on April 13, 2006. Beth Adamski registered an RBI single in the fourth inning for the Crusaders' first run, while Alicia Ashburn stole home on the back end of a double steal in the sixth for the final margin. Chris Halstead and Andrea Zappia combined for a three-hit shutout in the win.
Southern Utah swept a four-game series from the Crusaders on March 24-25, 2006. Valpo put up 21 runs in the four-game set, but the Thunderbirds overpowered the Crusaders offensively, scoring in double figures in three of the four games.
Last Time Out:
The Crusaders completed a three-game sweep of UMKC Saturday in their Mid-Con opening series, winning the opener 4-2 before routing the Kangaroos in the finale, 14-1. The opener was tied at two entering the seventh inning, but Alicia Ashburn hit a two-run homer, the sixth long ball of her career, to break the tie. Chris Halstead threw a three-hitter for the win. In the finale, the Crusaders utilized a 10-run third inning for the mercy rule win. 14 Valpo players came to the plate in the frame, led by two hits from Taylor Callahan. Stephanie Kelly picked up the victory with three solid innings of work.
On The Air:
Nick Kovatch and John Hazlett will broadcast the first game against Purdue, while Kovatch and Becky Malewitz will call the action in the nightcap. All three games of the SUU series will also be broadcast. Valparaiso's student radio station, WVUR 95.1 FM, is scheduled to broadcast each of the Crusaders' 15 home games as well as selected road games. The broadcasts will also be available online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.
Breaking Out the Broom:
Valparaiso's sweep of UMKC was the first time since 2005 that the Crusaders have swept a Mid-Con opponent. That season saw Valpo win all four games over then-conference leader Southern Utah. Since Schneider's arrival, Valpo has swept Mid-Con opponents four times. In addition, the three-game sweep of the Kangaroos puts Valpo in place to equal or better its 7-1 start in Mid-Con play from 2004, when the Crusaders eventually advanced to the conference championship game.
Putting Runs on the Board:
Valpo exploded for a 10-run third inning in its 14-1 rout of UMKC in the series finale last Saturday. That kind of offensive explosion is something that has not been seen in Schneider's four seasons, as only one other time since 2004 has a Valpo team even scored 10 runs in a game, much less a single inning. The Crusaders scored 14 runs in a 16-14 loss to Southern Utah during the 2004 campaign. The last time Valpo scored 10 or more runs in an inning came on March 12, 2002 when the Crusaders hung an 11-spot on St. Thomas Aquinas in the fourth inning of a 15-0 mercy rule win.
Best Start Ever:
Valparaiso started its season 9-3 at the Rebel Spring Games, marking the best 12-game start for a Crusader squad in program history. The previous best 12-game start was 8-4, first accomplished in 1983 and matched by the 1985 team.
Stringing Together the Victories:
Included in that 9-3 start at the Rebel Spring Games was an eight-game winning streak to close out the competition. The eight straight victories matched the second-longest such streak in Crusader history, as the 1988 team also enjoyed eight consecutive wins. The school record winning streak was set in 1987, when
Valpo reeled off nine straight victories. The eight wins came over a five-day span against eight different opponents.
Cutting it Close:
Each of the last five victories in Valpo's eight game winning streak came by the exact same margin - one run. The five straight one-run victories set a new program record for most consecutive one-run wins.
Valpo Picked Fourth in Mid-Con:
The Valparaiso University softball team has been tabbed to finish in fourth place in the Mid-Continent Conference in preseason polling of the league's head coaches. Valpo garnered 18 points in the polling, which granted seven points for a first-place vote. Western Illinois is the preseason favorite to take top honors in the Mid-Con, registering 32 points, including three first-place votes. Centenary and Southern Utah each received two first-place votes and tallied 30 and 29 points, respectively. IUPUI checked in at 17 points, good for fifth place, while Oakland (13) and UMKC (8) rounded out the voting.
The 2007 Crusader squad boasts five seniors who are attempting to lead Valpo to a Mid-Continent Conference championship for the first time in program history. Included among the five seniors are two of the most prolific hitters in Crusader history: infielder Taylor Callahan and outfielder Megan Carroll. Also counted among the Valpo senior leaders are infielder Beth Adamski, outfielder Jessica Schultz and catcher Allison Whitesell.
Callahan Getting it Done:
Senior infielder Taylor Callahan started the 2007 season slowly, but has bounced back with hits in 11 of her last 13 games, hitting .410 over that stretch. Callahan earned Mid-Con Player of the Week honors last week after going 6-for-9 in the three-game sweep of UMKC. She kicked off the weekend by reaching base twice and scoring in Valpo's 5-0 series-opening win. In the middle game, Callahan went 2-for-3 and tied the game in the fourth inning by stealing home. But she saved her best performance for the series finale, going a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles, two runs scored, and four RBIs in the Crusaders' 14-1 victory. Callahan helped spark a 10-run third inning with two base hits, one run, and two RBIs.
Carroll Leads Off:
Senior outfielder Megan Carroll has bounced back from an injury that cost her the second half of her junior year. Through 19 contests, Carroll leads the Crusaders with a .367 batting average and has registered 22 hits, including five doubles, and 31 total bases out of the leadoff position. The senior has already recorded six multi-hit games and has had a seven-game hitting streak.
Zappia Zaps Opponents:
Junior pitcher Andrea Zappia has continued her stellar pitching from her sophomore year in the opening part of the 2007 season. Zappia currently leads the Crusaders and the Mid-Con with her 1.63 earned run average, .212 opponents batting average, and 6.29/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. She earned Mid-Con Pitcher of the Week honors March 12 for her three-win, one-save performance at the Rebel Spring Games, and threw her first career shutout March 23 against UMKC, allowing just three hits while striking out nine.
Kelly and Halstead Also Stand Out:
Zappia is just one-third of Valpo's three-pronged attack in the pitcher's circle in 2007. Junior Chris Halstead and sophomore Stephanie Kelly have combined with Zappia to make the Crusader pitching one of the team's strongest components. Halstead is currently a perfect 4-0 in nine appearances with a 2.18 ERA, while Kelly has appeared in 13 of Valpo's 19 games and owns a 5-3 record with a 2.80 ERA, as well as one save. The duo combined for Valpo's second shutout of the season against Georgetown, as Halstead earned the win in the start, going five-plus scoreless innings while scattering five hits. Kelly came in and threw a perfect final two frames against the Hoyas, striking out four batters.
The Boilermakers enter Wednesday's contests on an 11-game unbeaten streak, having won 10 of those games, with a tie against Miami (Ohio) thrown in. Senior pitcher Brooke Baker, high school teammate of Beth Adamski, set a Purdue program record with her 58th career win. Baker leads the Boilermakers with a 2.56 ERA and 13 wins in 23 starts. Offensively, Katie Mitchell is batting .352 and slugging an incredible .722, while Ashley Hall has already tied Purdue's single-season record with 28 stolen bases in just 32 attempts.
The preseason third-place choice in the Mid-Con, the Thunderbirds dropped two out of three contests last weekend to Oakland. The T'Birds have relied on a two-person pitching staff most of the season, with Marissa Gonzalez boasting a 3.60 ERA and a record of 6-6 in 12 starts. At the plate, four regulars are batting .300 or better, and SUU also has the top five players in the league in RBIs, led by 27 from Erin Neiderhauser.