Valparaiso got an RBI single from Whitney Warner (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) in the eighth inning against La Salle to earn a 4-3 victory, and closed out play at the Rebel Spring Games with a 5-1 win over Sacred Heart.
“It was great to get the monkey off our back and win an extra-inning game today,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “We were in every single game down here in Florida, and we have played some very good softball recently, leading to this five-game winning streak.”
The Crusaders struck immediately against La Salle in the day’s opener, scoring a run in the top of the first inning. Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.] led off the game with a single, and would eventually come around to score on an illegal pitch to put Valpo on the board.
Starting pitcher Carrie Franson (Arlington, Wis./Poynette) did not allow a baserunner in the first three innings, but ran into trouble in the fourth frame. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out, and after a strikeout, Michelle Sullivan lined a 2-RBI single to the outfield to put La Salle ahead, 2-1. Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) relieved Franson and closed out the inning without any further damage.
Valpo tied the game up in the fifth inning, as pinch-runner Kayla Grutz (Bellevue, Iowa/Bellevue) crossed the plate on a single by Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond). The game went into extra frames tied at two, thanks to a running catch by Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) to start a double play with one out in the seventh.
With the International Tiebreak rule in effect, pinch-runner Aubrey Sundling (Huntington, Ind./Huntington North) was placed on second base with no outs to start the eighth inning. After a strikeout, Warner tallied her RBI single to plate Sundling with the go-ahead run. In the bottom of the inning, La Salle advanced its runner to third with one out, but again Korb made a great defensive play, nailing Ali Shepherd at the plate for the final out of the game as she tried to score the tying run on a flyout.
“Karen really stepped up defensively in the outfield for us against La Salle,” said Schneider. “She started the two double plays with two superb throws.”
The Crusaders had more breathing room in the nightcap against Sacred Heart, scoring four runs in the first three innings on their way to the win. Robinson drove in the first run of the game on a first-inning RBI single on her way to a 3-for-4 game at the plate. Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver) also tallied three hits against the Pioneers.
Zappia earned the decision against La Salle, pitching 4 2/3 innings of one-hit ball to improve to 4-2 on the season. Chris Halstead (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) started against Sacred Heart and allowed just one unearned run in 3 2/3 innings of work, while Stephanie Kelly (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield) was credited with the win for her 3 1/3 innings of scoreless softball, running her record to 2-2.
“It was good to see both Carrie and Chris throw some quality innings today,” said Schneider. “I’m very happy with where our team is right now, as we’re running the bases and pitching well and playing some great defense. Our hitting is also gradually getting better.”
Valparaiso (8-4) takes its five-game winning streak into Kentucky this weekend, as the Crusaders play at the Kentucky Frostbite Classic. Valpo opens play versus Longwood on Saturday at 10 a.m. CST and faces the host Wildcats at 12:30 p.m.