Valparaiso at #23/25 Notre Dame - Wednesday, April 21 - 3 p.m. CDT
*Loyola at Valparaiso - Saturday, April 24 (DH) - noon; Sunday, April 25 - noon
The Matchups: Valparaiso (27-12, 7-3 Horizon) takes on its final non-league opponent of the year Wednesday when it makes the short trip east to take on #23/25 Notre Dame (34-7). The Crusaders then return home for a three-game Horizon League set this weekend against Loyola (14-16, 6-6 Horizon)
Previously in Valpo Softball: Valparaiso went 3-4 over its seven games last week. The Crusaders swept a Tuesday twinbill from IUPUI before dropping a pair of games against Purdue on Thursday. In its return to league play at UIC on Saturday and Sunday, Valpo went 1-2, dropping the first and third games of the series while winning the middle contest.
Series Histories: Notre Dame - The Fighting Irish hold the 29-11 advantage in the all-time series over the Crusaders, and Valpo has not won a game over Notre Dame since 1989. The two teams met for a doubleheader last season on April 9 at Notre Dame, with the Irish winning both games in five innings, 11-0 and 17-9. The nine runs the Crusaders hung on the scoreboard in the second game was the most they scored on the Fighting Irish since 1985.
Loyola - Valpo trails the all-time series with Loyola, 30-17, and dropped three out of four against the Ramblers last year. Loyola earned a 10-9 victory in eight innings on May 8 to eliminate the Crusaders from the HL Championship, and also took two of three from the regular-season series. The one game the Crusaders won was a historic one, however, as on April 4, Valpo won the longest game in school history, a 4-3, 15-inning win over the Ramblers.
Following the Crusaders: Valpo’s student-run radio station, WVUR, 95.1 FM, will be broadcasting the Notre Dame game and the Saturday Loyola doubleheader. Live stats for all four games this week will be available at www.valpoathletics.com, as well as a live chat for the game at the Fighting Irish.
Closing Out With Big Games: This year’s schedule worked out in an unusual way for the Crusaders. Wednesday’s game at Notre Dame marks Valpo’s final regular season non-league contest, with four three-game Horizon League series on the docket in the final three weeks of the 2010 campaign. Last year’s Crusader squad closed the regular season with eight straight Horizon League contests thanks to a trio of rainouts in the final week of scheduled play.
Lack of Key Hits: Valparaiso’s struggles scoring runs and winning games over the last nine games, in which they have gone 4-5 and scored just 26 runs, can be traced back to the Crusaders’ downturn at the plate in scoring opportunities. Over those nine contests, Valpo is batting just 15-for-79 (.190) with runners in scoring position, and if you remove an 8-for-19 effort in the 9-1 win at UIC in Saturday’s nightcap, that average drops to .117. This is in contrast to the first 30 games of the season, in which Valpo hit 106-for-324 (.327) with RISP.
Pitching Persists: Over that nine-game stretch, the Crusader pitching staff has helped keep Valpo in the games in which its bats were quieter than normal. The Crusader pitchers have combined for a 2.12 ERA over the last nine outings, just slightly higher than the 1.91 ERA the staff has had on the whole this season. In fact, teams are actually hitting worse against Valpo over the last nine games (.226) than they are on the season as a whole (.234).
Approaching Season Marks: With 27 wins, the Crusaders enter this week tied for second in program history for wins in a single season and just three behind the record of 30, set in 2008. Wins is just one of the many categories that Valpo will threaten this year, as a look at the single-season record book shows a ton of categories it will finish at or near the top of the charts in. A full list of top-fives already reached can be found on page three of the notes.
Yet Another Record Matched: In a season that has already seen many Crusader program records surpassed or tied, another such mark was reached April 6 with Valpo’s 3-0 win in the opener over Butler. The win was the Crusaders’ ninth straight, matching the 1987 squad for the longest winning streak in Valpo softball history.
Rewriting the Record Books: Tying the program record for the longest winning streak is just the latest in the marks this year’s Valpo squad has matched or broken. In no particular order, this year’s record-setting performances include (single game records for team runs and RBIs are all-time, all other team and all individual categories are since 1999):
-Tied program record for runs in a game (18, 4/2 G2 @ Detroit...tied 4/20/1985 18-7 win over Notre Dame)
-New record for RBIs in a game (18, 4/2 G2 @ Detroit)
-New record for hits in a game (18, 4/2 G2 @ Detroit)
-New records for total runs over two games (34, 4/2 G2 & 4/3 @ Detroit), three games (44, Detroit series) and four games (58, 3/31 G2 NIU & Detroit series)
-New record for most consecutive games scoring in double figures (4, 3/31 G2-4/3)
-New record for most consecutive wins by run rule (5, 3/31-4/3)
-Tied record for most consecutive shutouts (4, 3/24 G2-3/31 G1...tied 1987 team)
-KC Boldt matches individual single-game marks for hits (4) and RBIs (6) in G2 4/2 @ Detroit
Raking in the Honors: Valparaiso has dominated the Horizon League weekly awards to this point of the season, bringing home eight honors while competing in just eight weeks. Kelsey Phalen and Shaleigh Jansen swept the Batter and Pitcher of the Week honors, respectively, following the Crusaders’ opening weekend of action February 15. Jordan Rutkowski was named the Batter of the Week March 1, while Alex Lagesse earned Pitcher of the Week accolades March 8. Most recently, Lisa DeBruzzi was awarded Batter of the Week honors March 15, and Lagesse earned her second Pitcher of the Week award March 22. On March 29, Valpo again earned a double honor, as Sadie Conner was named Batter of the Week, while Lagesse repeated as Pitcher of the Week, her third honor of the season.
Youth Shall Be Served: The 2010 edition of the Valparaiso softball team is an extremely young edition, as this year’s Crusaders have just two seniors (catcher Whitney Warner; pitcher Carrie Franson). Five juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen round out the 19-player squad.
Strickland Solid at the Top: Sophomore Sara Strickland, coming off a 2009 rookie season in which she was named HL Newcomer of the Year, has moved back to her natural outfield position this year and has continued to be consistent at the plate. Since returning from the spring break trip, Strickland is hitting at a .404 clip with nine runs scored and six doubles over 18 games. On the year, the sophomore is batting .377, is tied for the team lead with 19 walks and has also stolen a team-best 15 bases. In fact, just over last week’s seven games, Strickland went 6-for-7 in stolen base attempts, giving her 43 career steals and moving her past Laura Ebersole into second place on Valpo’s career chart in the category.
Phalen Brings Runs Home: Sophomore Kelsey Phalen has been a fixture in the middle of the order for the Crusaders this season and has taken advantage of the opportunities to drive in runs. Phalen, who currently ranks fourth on the team with a .373 batting average and third with a .593 slugging percentage, has driven in a team-best 28 runs this season in just 39 games, tied for fifth among Horizon League players. Her 28 RBIs already rank as fifth-most in a single season in school history, while she is just three ribbies shy of second place on the chart.
Conner Hits Away: Junior Sadie Conner has stood out at the plate for the Crusaders since their return from the spring break trip. In the last 18 games, Conner leads the squad with a .455 batting average, going 25-for-55 at the plate with six doubles and four home runs. She has scored 14 runs and also driven in 16 runs over that stretch as well. On the season, Conner is second on the team in both batting average (.383) and slugging percentage (.617) and third in RBIs (23). She earned her first career Batter of the Week honors from the Horizon League back on April 5 as well.
DeBruzzi Goes Yard: Entering last week, junior Lisa DeBruzzi had just one career home run, but the Crusader catcher added another couple of round-trippers to that tally. DeBruzzi hit her first four-bagger of the week in the opener against IUPUI, Valpo’s first run in a 2-1 victory, and then two days later gave the Crusaders the lead in the opener at Purdue with a three-run blast. The junior had a hit in all five games she appeared in last week, hitting .385 while slugging at a .923 clip.
J-A-N-S-E-N Spells Relief: Sophomore Shaleigh Jansen has already set Valpo’s single-season saves record while proving to be a force as the Crusaders’ closer. In 19 relief appearances this year, Jansen is 2-1 with seven saves and a 1.46 ERA, striking out 27 batters in just 24 innings of work. She has allowed just three earned runs in her last 12 outings, with batters hitting just .200 against her in that time frame since March 13.
McGee Posts Stellar Week: Sophomore Sam McGee had a stellar showing last week for the Crusaders, appearing in four games, including three starts, and posting a 2-1 record with a miniscule 0.70 ERA. In her 20 innings pitched last week, she allowed just 15 hits while striking out 16 batters. Included among her showings last week was a near no-hitter at UIC, as McGee took the no-no into the sixth inning of a 9-1, six-inning victory over the Flames. On the season now, McGee is 11-3, just one win shy of Valpo’s single-season top-five, with a 1.72 ERA, third-best in the Horizon League.
Lagesse Looks to Bounce Back: Sophomore Alex Lagesse struggled last week after opening the week with a three-hit shutout of IUPUI on Tuesday, dropping three straight decisions, one at Purdue and two at UIC. But Lagesse’s numbers still rank her among the best in the Horizon League, as the three-time HL Pitcher of the Week enters this week 11-6 on the year with a 1.67 ERA, second-best in the league and among the top-50 nationally.
Quickly: Sophomore Jordan Rutkowski continues to pace the Crusaders with a .392 batting average, good for fourth in the league ... Rutkowski drove in six runs last week, increasing her season total to 27, just one shy of Valpo’s single-season top-five ... freshman Jessie Marinec is tied for team-high honors with 28 runs scored ... junior KC Boldt is 9-for-29 this season with eight RBIs after going just 1-for-11 with three RBIs in her first two seasons combined.