Valparaiso kicked off the season with an 8-2 victory over Detroit, but lost 1-0 to Tennessee State in its second game at the Rebel Spring Games Sunday in Orlando, Fla.
The Crusaders threatened right from the start in their opener against the Titans, loading the bases in the first inning with just one out, but could not push a run across. Two innings later, Valpo hit the board in a big way, as Courtney LaFerle (Elgin, Ill./Larkin) hit a two-run home run to give the Crusaders a 2-0 lead.
Valpo struck again with a multiple-run effort in the fourth inning. Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) singled with one out, and Beth Adamski (Saint John, Ind./Lake Central) followed with a walk. Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) gave the Crusaders a 3-0 lead with an RBI double, and two batters later, pinch-hitter Megan Carroll (Eaton Rapids, Mich./Eaton Rapids) drove in Wolter and pinch-runner Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) with a 2-RBI single to extend the lead to five.
The Crusaders added a run in the sixth inning on a Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]) RBI double, and scored two more runs in the final inning on a LaFerle RBI single and a throwing error by Detroit. The Titans put both their runs on the board in the sixth inning, getting a two-run home run from Kaleigh Rafter.
Chris Halstead (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) earned the complete-game victory for Valpo, scattering seven hits and allowing just two runs in her seven innings of work. Adrienne Baran took the loss for Detroit, allowing five runs, three earned, on six hits in 3 1/3 innings.
LaFerle led Valpo in the opener with a 2-for-3 effort and a career-high three RBIs. Ashburn and Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada/John Redmond) had two hits apiece for Valpo as well.
In the nightcap, Stephanie Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) surrendered just an unearned run in the first inning, holding Tennessee State to four hits while striking out six batters in a complete-game effort. But she ended up on the wrong end of the old-fashioned pitchers' duel, as TSU's Amanda Vaught surrendered just two hits and struck out 10 Crusader batters for the complete-game victory.
Valpo's best chance at crossing the plate came in the fifth inning, as pinch-hitter Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) got hit by a pitch to lead off the frame. Ashburn came back in to run for Warner, and Mallory Gill (Beloit, Wis./Memorial) laid down a bunt for a single, with Ashburn advancing to third on a throwing error. But Valpo could not push a run across, as two strikeouts and a foulout ended the inning.
Valparaiso (1-1) returns to action at the Rebel Spring Games on Monday with two more games. The Crusaders will take on Saint Peter's at 2 p.m. Central time before facing Penn at 4 p.m.