Valparaiso's Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) and Western Illinois' Kamren Ferguson hooked up in an old-fashioned pitchers' duel Friday afternoon at the Valparaiso University Softball Field, but the Westerwinds pushed the lone run of the game across in the sixth inning to win 1-0.
Zappia took the tough-luck loss for the Crusaders, falling to 7-8 on the season. The junior scattered nine hits over her seven innings of work, striking out six batters while walking none. Ferguson improved to 13-6, throwing a one-hitter for Western Illinois. She also struck out six batters, but walked four as well.
Western Illinois (20-21, 9-2 Mid-Con) struck in the sixth inning, getting a leadoff double from Jennifer Garcia, followed by a single by Samantha Valentine to put runners on the corners. Nicole Green then drove in the sole run of the game with a single up the middle to plate Garcia. Zappia got out of the inning without any further damage thanks to a pair of strikeouts and a foulout.
The Crusaders had their chances, putting runners on base in six of the seven innings. Valpo's best threat came in the final frame, as Beth Adamski (Saint John, Ind./Lake Central) recorded a one-out double into left field. Pinch-runner Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) advanced to third on a groundout, but could not come home, as Ferguson induced another groundout to end the game.
Taylor Callahan (Pendergrass, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian) saw her team-best 16-game hitting streak come to an end. The senior reached on a walk and a hit batsman, but grounded out in her only official at-bat.
Valparaiso (25-16, 7-6 Mid-Con) returns to action at home for the final time this season Saturday, as the Crusaders and Westerwinds face off in a doubleheader. First pitch of game one is slated for noon. Valpo will honor the five members of its senior class in Senior Day ceremonies, taking place in between games.