Valparaiso's bats came alive Tuesday at the Rebel Spring Games, exploding for 22 hits and 21 runs over the two contests as the Crusaders defeated Sacred Heart, 13-6, and Georgetown, 8-0. Megan Carroll (Eaton Rapids, Mich./Eaton Rapids) led the Crusader attack with six hits, including four extra-base knocks, in eight at-bats.
Sacred Heart struck first in the opener, pushing three runs across in both the first and second frames. Valpo answered each time, scoring twice in the first inning, including a steal of home by Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) on a double steal, and once in the second frame. The Crusaders put two more runs on the board in the third on a 2-RBI single by Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) to pull within one, and then Valpo definitively put away the game in the fourth inning.
The frame started innocuously enough with a strikeout, but Carroll jump-started the Crusader offense with her second triple of the game. Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) followed with a bunt single and stole second base. After a Sacred Heart pitching change, Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario, Canada/John Redmond) pushed across both runners with a 2-RBI single, and Courtney LaFerle (Elgin, Ill./Larkin) followed with a single of her own. Back-to-back errors by the Pioneers scored Robinson and loaded the bases for Ashburn, who plated another run with a single, making it a 9-6 game.
Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) took advantage of her opportunity to pinch-hit with the bases loaded, pushing the two lead runners across with a single to increase the Crusader edge to 11-6. After a groundout moved the runners up to second and third, Carroll registered her second extra-base hit of the inning, lacing a double into the gap to score both runners, and Valpo cruised to the victory after the eight-run frame.
Overshadowed a bit by Valpo's offense in the opener was the stellar effort in relief by Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central), who allowed just three hits over the final 5 2/3 innings while striking out six batters. Zappia earned the win, her first decision of the year.
The Crusaders jumped all over Georgetown in the second game of the day, scoring four runs in the opening inning. Carroll, Korb, and Robinson put together three straight singles to lead off the game, with Carroll scoring on Robinson's base knock. Robinson later scored on a Hoya error, while LaFerle reached on a single and scored on a fielder's choice. Warner added Valpo's final run of the inning on a passed ball. Valpo added two runs in the fifth and single tallies in the sixth and seventh for the final score.
Chris Halstead (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) earned her second victory of the season in as many starts with five-plus scoreless innings, striking out four batters and allowing just five hits. Stephanie Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) pitched a perfect sixth and seventh, striking out four.
Carroll led the Crusaders with her six hits, picking up two triples, two doubles and two singles. The senior outfielder had a streak of nine straight at-bats with hits broken when she lined out in the fifth inning against the Hoyas. Korb went 4-for-8 with three runs scored and three stolen bases on the day, while Robinson went 4-for-7 with three runs and three RBIs, as the top three in the Crusader order combined to go 14-for-23 over the two games.
Valparaiso (3-3) has Wednesday off, but returns to action at the Rebel Spring Games on Thursday with matchups against Penn at 8 a.m. Central time and Lehigh at noon.