The second day of action at the Hatter Classic was not as kind to the Valparaiso softball team as was the first day, as the Crusaders dropped a pair of close decisions, falling 1-0 in eight innings to Bethune-Cookman and 5-3 to host Stetson on Saturday.
A two-out RBI single in the top of the first gave the host Hatters a quick 1-0 lead in the nightcap, but the Crusaders answered back with three runs in their half of the second. A one-out double by senior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) was followed by a two-run homer to center field from sophomore Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison), who fought off three two-strike pitches before going yard. Sophomore Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist) kept the train rolling by getting hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a single from freshman Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) to give Valpo a 3-1 lead.
But that would be all the runs the Crusaders would put on the board, and a pair of fielding miscues would haunt Valpo in the final three frames. Crusader starter Shaleigh Jansen (Ottawa, Ill./Ottawa Township) got the first two outs in the fifth before a dropped fly ball extended the Stetson inning. Chelsey Morello took advantage with an RBI single, and Chelsey Trotto delivered a two-run homer to give the Hatters a 4-3 lead. Then in the seventh, Stetson got a key insurance run as Camille Czarnecki led off with a double and eventually scored on a sacrifice bunt attempt thanks to a wild throw.
“I thought we swung the bats better in game two, but we only had the one inning where we scored,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “We just sat on three runs, kind of coasting through the game, and breakdowns defensively came back and cost us. It doesn’t take much to change the complexity of the game. That’s something that we have to learn, that if we don’t play 21 outs, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, they can come back and beat you.”
Jansen gave up four runs in her 4.2 innings of work, taking the loss to fall to 0-2 despite surrendering just one earned tally. The junior did strike out six Hatters in her time in the circle. Czarnecki went the distance for Stetson (6-7), scattering seven hits to improve to 2-2. No Crusader was able to pick up multiple hits, while Doerffler and Marinec both reached base twice.
The day’s opener against Bethune-Cookman was a pitcher’s duel that went into extra innings scoreless. Junior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) dueled against the BCU combo of Chastity Sanders and Allison Garcia, with neither side even allowing an opposition runner to third base in regulation. Valpo got runners into scoring position in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but never could push a tally across.
With the game scoreless through seven, the game went into the International Tiebreak rule for extra innings, with a runner placed on second base with nobody out. In Valpo’s half of the eighth, Doerffler sacrificed pinch-runner Hayley Bridwell (Lemont, Ill./Lemont) over to third with one away, but the Crusaders could not get her home. Bethune-Cookman (5-9) got the game’s only run across on a single with the bases loaded and one out by Cesley Tafoya.
Lagesse gave up just four hits and the unearned run in her 7.1 innings of work, but drops to 2-2 on the season. Garcia earned the victory for Bethune-Cookman with three shutout innings of relief, improving to 4-3. Marinec tallied a pair of hits in the opener for the Crusaders.
“We just did not play well enough to win either one of the two games today. even though the games were close,” said Stevens. “Against Bethune-Cookman, we failed to make any kind of adjustment at the plate. Alex had a nice outing, but we are going to have to swing better than we did today to beat them tomorrow.”
All four participating teams finished their four games so far at the Hatter Classic 2-2, meaning the tiebreaker of runs allowed was used to determine consolation and championship game matchups. Valparaiso (4-4) gave up a tournament-low nine runs through its first four games to earn a berth in the championship game versus Bethune-Cookman Sunday morning at 9 a.m. CST. Live stats for the game will be available through www.valpoathletics.com.
“After a rough day, it still gives us something to look forward to tomorrow,” said Stevens on playing for the championship. “But more importantly, it gives us an opportunity to come back and compete against a team that handed it to us and had our number today. To get another chance against Bethune-Cookman will show us as a staff a lot how we can rebound against a team that outplayed us today.”