Crusaders To Close Out Regular Season
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
VALPARAISO (25-13, 7-5) at MICHIGAN STATE (30-24) - MAY 1
WESTERN ILLINOIS (18-21, 8-2) at VALPARAISO - MAY 2-3
VALPARAISO at OAKLAND (17-28, 8-4) - MAY 4-5

The Matchups:
Valparaiso enters the week just two wins shy of the school record for wins in a single season, and have eight regular season games remaining. The Crusaders and Spartans have met up just twice in program history, with Michigan State winning both contests. Western Illinois holds a 52-5 edge in the series against Valpo, while Oakland is 12-11 against the Crusaders.

Last Meetings: Michigan State swept a doubleheader from the Crusaders on March 27, 2004 by scores of 10-2 and 4-0. Amy Mitchell and Taylor Callahan scored the Valpo runs.

Western Illinois took three out of four games in a Mid-Con series from Valpo on April 28 and 30, 2006. The two teams split the opening doubleheader, with the Westerwinds taking game one, 8-0, and the Crusaders winning game two, 8-2. WIU proceeded to sweep the last two games, 4-2 and 6-4.

The Crusaders split a four-game series with Oakland on March 31-April 1, 2006, winning the series opener, 2-1, and the finale, 3-1, while losing the middle two games 1-0 and 3-2.

Last Time Out: Taylor Callahan's 14th double of the season set a new school record and led off a four-run eighth inning in the series finale against Centenary in Shreveport, La. Saturday, as Valpo won the second game of the doubleheader, 5-1. The Ladies took Saturday's opener from Valpo by a 7-1 score. Two batters after Callahan's record-breaking double, Shannon Robinson beat out an infield single. After Whitney Warner was intentionally walked, Beth Adamski drilled a 2-RBI double into right field to plate Callahan and Robinson. Tracy Korth followed with a 2-RBI single to account for the final tallies. Andrea Zappia went all eight innings, allowing just four hits and one run while striking out six batters.

On The Air: The Western Illinois games will be broadcast by Valparaiso's student radio station, WVUR 95.1 FM, which 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.

Keep On Winning: The 2007 incarnation of the Crusaders are poised to become the winningest team in program history. With eight scheduled games remaining, Valpo already owns 25 wins on the season, the third-most in a single season in program history. The school record for wins in a season is 27, done twice, in 1986 and 1987. Valpo is also on pace to break the mark for best winning percentage, set by the 1987 squad, which went 27-15 (.643).

Win to Get In: Valparaiso's path to the Mid-Con Tournament is simple. If the Crusaders win three of their remaining six conference games, they will be in; if they only win two, they will be out.

Record-Setting Pace: This year's squad is also looking to break numerous team offensive records. The 2007 Crusaders currently hold the best team batting average (.284) and slugging percentage (.403) in program history and have already broken the single-season doubles record (57). They are among the top-three seasons all-time at Valpo in runs scored, doubles, home runs, total bases and stolen bases.

No-Hitter: Kelly and Franson's combined no-hitter against IPFW April 16 was the Crusaders' first since holding St. Thomas Aquinas hitless in the opening game of a doubleheader on March 12, 2002 in a 5-0 win. In Monday's game, Kelly got the start and tossed the first three innings, striking out five Mastodons to earn the win . Franson threw the final two innings, registering two strikeouts.

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.

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.

Senior Leadership: 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 Leading Off: Senior infielder Taylor Callahan moved into the Crusaders' leadoff position from the cleanup spot 14 games ago, and looks poised to keep leading off for the rest of the season. The senior set a new Valpo single-season record with her 14th double in the finale at Centenary. Since the lineup move, the senior is hitting .479 in 48 at-bats, has at least one hit in every game, and is slugging at an incredible .896 clip. Callahan ranks as Valpo's career doubles and assists leader, and is among Valpo's all-time top-three players in career hits, home runs, runs scored, and RBIs.

Zappia Sets Mid-Con Mark: Junior pitcher Andrea Zappia became the Mid-Continent Conference career leader in saves two weeks ago when she picked up her 14th career save at South Dakota State. The two-inning, three-strikeout performance in the nightcap against the Jackrabbits was her fifth save of the season, tying her for third nationally. Her 14 career saves are tied for 14th all-time in NCAA Division I softball. Zappia has proven her ability as both a starter and a closer this year, going 7-7 in 26 appearances, including 14 starts. Her 2.97 ERA ranks fourth in the league, while her 103 strikeouts are also good for fourth in the Mid-Con and her .237 opponents' batting average is the best in the league.

Carroll Cleans Up: Senior outfielder Megan Carroll was on the other end of the lineup switch, going from leadoff to cleanup in the batting order. Carroll has also benefited from the change, hitting .375 over the last 14 contests. Included among those games was a 2-for-4, 3-RBI performance in the victory over Purdue, where she also scored the game-winning run, and a 2-for-3 game at Notre Dame. Carroll currently sits fifth among Valpo's all-time list with a .311 career batting average, and is also among the top five in hits and doubles, despite missing the second half of her junior year.

Robinson Steps Up: Shannon Robinson got her first taste of life this season out from behind the plate the past two weekends, but found herself back behind the dish for the Centenary series finale. The Crusader backstop has performed well behind the plate this year, throwing out eight of 26 runners attempting to steal and not allowing any passed balls. At the plate, Robinson leads the league with a .390 batting average and, with at least eight games remaining, is among Valpo's single-season top-five in hits and runs scored.

Michigan State: The Spartans enter Thursday's twinbill with a 30-24 record this season, including a 6-8 mark in Big Ten play. MSU has played just eight home contests and is 6-2 in East Lansing. Four regulars are hitting .300 or better, led by Nikki Nicosia's .370 clip. Caitlin Mahoney packs the power with 22 extra-base hits, including 10 homers.

Western Illinois: The Westerwinds are 18-21 this year and are tops in the Mid-Con with an 8-2 record. Kamren Ferguson has tossed almost half of WIU's innings this year and is 12-6 with a 2.43 ERA. Lauren Furgala paces the offense with a .344 average and 16 stolen bases, while Samantha Valentine has registered 23 RBIs.

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies own a 17-28 record in 2007 and are 8-4 in Mid-Con action. They are hitting just .228 as a team, with Sarah Clark the only batter above .300 at .317. Jessica Granger has been a workhorse in the circle, tossing 193 innings and owns a 15-13 record with a 2.53 ERA and 129 strikeouts.