Valparaiso extended its win streak to three games as it closed its season-opening weekend at the UNI Dome Classic with wins Sunday over Dayton (2-1) and North Dakota (9-1).
“We hit the ball really well today,” said Crusader head coach Randy Schneider. “We also played very well defensively. I’m happy with our performance at this tournament; we came out 3-1 and got a chance to see all our players play. I feel really good with where we’re at right now as a team.”
Sophomore Shaleigh Jansen (Ottawa, Ill./Ottawa Township) pitched a great game in the opener for the Crusaders for her first win of the season, tossing a complete-game four-hitter while giving up just the one run, which came in the bottom of the fifth. The Flyers were threatening to put up multiple runs in that frame, having a runner in scoring position with one out, but Jansen recorded a strikeout and then induced a ground ball to get out of further trouble.
Meanwhile, on the offensive side, the Crusaders scored both their runs in the first three innings. Freshman Hayley Bridwell (Lemont, Ill./Lemont) reached via error to lead off the first and proceeded to steal second. Two batters later, sophomore Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) came up with a bunt single to plate Bridwell and put Valpo on the board.
In the top of the third, Phalen got the offense rolling with a ground-rule double to center. The sophomore then moved up to third on a flyout before coming home on a sacrifice fly by Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) to score the eventual game-winning run.
Six different Crusaders combined for Valpo’s seven hits, while sophomore Sara Strickland (Phoenix, Ariz./Horizon) joined Phalen with an extra-base hit. Jansen improved to 1-0 on the year, while Dayton’s Amanda Daly suffered the complete-game loss to fall to 0-2.
16 different Valpo players saw action in the nightcap for the Crusaders in a game which saw them need just six innings before winning via run-rule over North Dakota. Valparaiso plated three runs in each of the first two innings and was never threatened from there. Phalen and sophomore Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) each tallied two hits and two RBIs, while freshman Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison) came off the bench in her first career appearance and also picked up two hits.
Four Crusaders took to the circle against the Fighting Sioux, with Lagesse earning the win with three innings of one-hit relief to improve to 1-1 on the year. Emma Gronseth took the loss for North Dakota, falling to 1-1.
“Kelsey had a great weekend for us, hitting .500 with seven RBIs, really coming back well off her season-ending injury last year,” said Schneider. “For her first time on the field, Hayley really played well this weekend as well. It was also nice to see Tori come in for the first time midway through the second game today and come up with a couple of nice line-drive hits.”
Valparaiso (3-1) is off next weekend, but returns to action on Saturday, February 27 with a pair of games at the Tiger Spring Classic, kicking off a stretch of 19 games in 16 days.