Valparaiso run-ruled a BCS opponent for the first time in the modern era, trouncing Iowa State 11-2 in five innings to close play at the Cyclone Indoor Invitational Sunday afternoon in Ames, Iowa. The Crusaders bounced back from an 11-4 defeat against the Cyclones in the opening game of Sunday’s twinbill.
The Crusaders opened the scoring against the Cyclones immediately in the nightcap. Junior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) led off the game with a single, stole second and advanced to third two batters later as junior Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) walked on a wild pitch. A fielder’s choice loaded the bases for senior Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington), who grounded into a fielder’s choice of her own with all runners advancing safely, scoring Strickland. Junior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) hit into yet another fielder’s choice, this one scoring Rutkowski to make it 2-0 Valpo.
Iowa State got its first two runners of the bottom of the first on, but junior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) induced a double-play line drive back to the circle and then registered a strikeout to keep ISU off the scoreboard. Valpo would put three more runs on the board in the top of the second, as senior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) and freshman Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) both scored on a double by Strickland. The junior then came around to score on a single off the bat of sophomore Jennifer Hermanson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) to increase the Crusader edge to 5-0.
But that would just be a precursor to the fireworks in the third inning. Phalen led off the big frame with a homer, her second round-tripper of the day. After a Cyclone pitching change, sophomore Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) walked and Boldt connected for a single, and two batters later, Strickland drew a free pass to load the bases. Hermanson then walked on four straight pitches, scoring Marinec to push the lead to 7-0, and Rutkowski followed with her first career grand slam to cap the six-run third and give Valpo an 11-0 advantage.
Iowa State scored two in the fourth inning to cut its deficit to nine runs and got a runner on base in the fifth with one away, but Lagesse forced a pop-out and then picked up a strikeout to close the abbreviated victory. The junior scattered five hits over her five innings, improving to 1-1 on the season. Tori Torrescano took the loss for the Cyclones, going just 2+ innings in the start and surrendering six runs to fall to 1-1. Strickland went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, two RBIs, and a stolen base to lead the Crusader offense, while Rutkowski tallied all four of her RBIs on the grand slam.
“Our hitters did a nice job of making some adjustments for game two,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “We took much better swings and were much more aggressive over the plate. Alex gave us a very good pitching performance, and we played defense behind her. When you take good swings, throw well and field the ball, you’ve got a good shot in any game. It was nice to bounce back quickly from game one, and I thought it was important for us to get on the board first in game two. We did that, and it just kept rolling from there.”
The opener did not get off to a good start for Valpo, as Iowa State, batting as the visiting team, put up two runs in the top of the first. The Crusaders cut the deficit in half in the bottom half of the frame, as Strickland doubled to lead off and scored on back-to-back groundouts, but the Cyclones put up five runs in their second inning, highlighted by a three-run homer from Torrescano, to go ahead 7-1.
Iowa State (5-1) added another run in the third inning, but Valpo would hold it scoreless over the next three frames and put three more runs on the board in the fifth. Doerffler led off the inning with a double and eventually scored on a Cyclone error. Phalen then connected on a two-run homer to score Rutkowski as well, cutting the ISU lead to 8-4. But that would be it for the Crusader offense, and Iowa State added three more runs in the seventh for the final margin.
Junior Shaleigh Jansen (Ottawa, Ill./Ottawa Township) took the loss in the start for Valpo, falling to 0-1 after giving up seven runs in 1.2 innings of work. Redshirt sophomore Amanda Bolton (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon [Arizona]) had her longest stint in the circle as a Crusader in relief of Jansen, throwing 3.1 innings and giving up just one run. Rachel Zabriskie improved to 2-0 with the complete-game win for Iowa State, striking out 11. Marinec was the only Crusader to pick up multiple hits in the opener.
“That first game started out rough for us,” said Stevens. “We put too many runners on base the first couple innings, and when they got on, they capitalized on it. I thought we played much better in the middle four innings; we shored up our defense and Amanda did a great job to keep them there. We were within striking distance heading into the sixth and seventh, but just couldn’t capitalize. It was just an up and down game for us.”
Valparaiso (2-2) will be off next weekend before embarking on its spring break trip the following weekend. The trip begins at Stetson’s Hatter Classic on Friday, Feb. 25.