Valparaiso jumped out to a 9-1 lead after three innings and held on for a 12-11 victory Wednesday afternoon over Big Ten foe Purdue at the Valparaiso University Softball Field. With the win, the Crusaders extend their winning streak to five games.
Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) started the scoring in the second frame with a two-run home run to straightaway center field, plating Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]). The homer was Ashburn's eighth of her career, fifth-best all-time at Valpo. The Boilermakers answered with a run in the top of the third, but the Crusaders lit up the scoreboard in the bottom half of the frame.
Valpo loaded the bases with none out courtesy of two Purdue errors and a bunt single by Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North). After a fielder's choice forced the lead runner at the plate, Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) stroked a single that plated Korb, while Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond) followed on a fielding miscue. Megan Carroll (Eaton Rapids, Mich./Eaton Rapids) proceeded to strike a single of her own, scoring Beth Adamski (Saint John, Ind./Lake Central).
After a Korth single loaded the bases again, Purdue brought in Brooke Baker in the circle, but Ashburn worked her for a walk, driving in Warner with the fourth run of the inning. Two batters later, Taylor Callahan (Pendergrass, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian) recorded an RBI single, plating Carroll. Korb then reached on the Boilermakers' fourth error of the inning, scoring two more runs and giving Valpo a 9-1 advantage.
Purdue scored two runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings to crawl back to within 9-5, but the Crusaders put another three-spot on the board in the sixth. Carroll registered a two-RBI double, the 31st double of her career, second-best in school history. Korth added an RBI single to give Valpo a seemingly safe 12-5 edge.
But the Boilermakers had one last rally in them. Ashley Barr knocked home a run with a single with one out in the seventh to cut the lead to 12-6. After another single loaded the bases, freshman Kaity Stratten made her first career hit a big one, knocking a grand slam over the scoreboard to make Valpo's lead 12-10. Chris Halstead (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral), who had pitched the first 3 1/3 innings as the starter, re-entered the game, but was greeted rudely by a home run from Katie Mitchell to cut the margin to one. Halstead got the final two batters in order, however, to close out the ballgame.
Halstead earned the win with her four total innings of work, moving to 8-1 on the season. The junior allowed six hits and four runs, two earned. Ashley DiDomenico took the loss for the Boilermakers (26-27-1), falling to 6-13 after giving up six hits and eight runs, two earned, in 2 1/3 innings.
The bottom of the order shone for the Crusaders on Wednesday, as Carroll, Korth and Ashburn, the 6-7-8 hitters, went a combined 7-for-10 with six runs scored and seven RBIs. Ashburn went a perfect 3-for-3, while Carroll went 2-for-4, both driving in three runs. Korth went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, extending her hitting streak to eight games, as did Callahan and Korb.
Valparaiso (22-10) will look to extend its winning streak to six games on Thursday, as the Crusaders travel to Ivy Field on the campus of Notre Dame to take on the Fighting Irish. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m. CDT.