Valparaiso used a seven-run fourth inning Saturday afternoon in College Park, Md. to defeat #23 Maryland, 7-5, in action at the Maryland Spring Break Classic. The win was the first over a ranked opponent in the five-year tenure of head coach Randy Schneider. The Crusaders dropped their first game of the day to Niagara, 5-3.
“It’s always exciting to beat a top-25 team,” said Schneider. “The players really stepped up in the big inning, getting a bunch of key hits in there to keep the inning going. We needed all the runs we got in that inning because Maryland, just as you expect a top-25 team to do, kept hitting the ball all game.”
The Terrapins took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI double by Alex Schultz, but the Crusaders put a crooked number up on the scoreboard in the fourth frame. Alicia Ashburn (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) started the Valpo parade with a one-out walk and came around to score on an RBI single from Ashley Wolter (Denver, Iowa/Denver). Tracy Korth (Elgin, Ill./Larkin [Elgin C.C.]) put the Crusaders ahead for good with an RBI fielder’s choice, and Courtney LaFerle (Elgin, Ill./Larkin) made it 3-1 with an RBI single of her own.
Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) drew a walk to drive in another Crusader run, followed by an RBI single by Mallory Gill (Beloit, Wis./Memorial) to make it a 5-1 Valpo lead. After Maryland’s second pitching change of the inning, Karen Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran North) tallied an RBI walk of her own, and Conner crossed the plate during the next at-bat on a wild pitch to cap the seven-run frame. All nine Valpo batters reached base consecutively during the inning.
Maryland kept fighting, however, scoring two runs in the fifth inning to draw back within 7-3. With one out in the seventh inning, the Terps’ Kerry Hickey hit a two-run homer to cut the lead to 7-5. Maryland brought the tying run to the plate three batters later, but Andrea Zappia (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) induced a flyout to end the game.
Zappia improved her record to 6-2 on the season with the victory, her fifth complete-game effort of the year. The senior scattered 12 hits over the seven innings and struck out three Maryland (20-4) batters. Sarah Dooley took the loss for the Terrapins, facing four batters in Valpo’s seven-run inning.
The Crusaders started the scoring in the day’s opener against Niagara in the first inning. With one out, Ashburn drove a triple to center field and came around to score on an RBI single from Shannon Robinson (Toronto, Ontario/John Redmond). The Purple Eagles countered immediately in the bottom of the frame with a single tally of their own, and followed with two-run innings in both the second and the fourth to take a 5-1 advantage.
Valpo attempted to rally in the seventh inning. Korth and LaFerle started the frame with back-to-back singles, and Korth scored two batters later on an RBI groundout by Gill. Pinch-runner KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) was plated on a single from Korb, cutting the deficit to 5-3. But that was as close as Valpo would get, as a groundout ended the game.
Tiffany McCrory earned the complete-game win for Niagara (7-4), improving to 3-2 on the season. Carrie Franson (Arlington, Wis./Poynette) fell to 0-1 on the year, taking the loss for Valpo after allowing three runs in two innings of work.
“You have to give Niagara a lot of credit; they hit the ball really well,” said Schneider. “They are one of the better hitting teams that I’ve seen recently. We hit a lot of balls hard against them, but it just seemed a lot of them were line drives right at fielders.”
Valparaiso (10-6) closes out pre-conference action Sunday with one final game at the Maryland Spring Break Classic. The Crusaders will face St. Peter’s at 8 a.m. CDT.