For the first time in six seasons, the Valparaiso softball team had a game end in a tie, as its nightcap with Purdue Thursday evening at the Valparaiso University Softball Field was called after five innings due to darkness with the score 4-4. The Boilermakers scored eight runs in the final two innings to hand the Crusaders an 8-2 defeat in the opener.
Coincidentally enough, it was the first tie for the Crusader softball program since a meeting with Purdue in Valparaiso on Apr. 19, 2005. On that date, the second game of a twinbill went nine innings before ending in a 4-4 tie. The only other tie in Valpo softball history came on Mar. 26, 1986 against DePaul, a scoreless draw.
Both teams were able to dent the scoreboard in their first time at the plate in the nightcap. Purdue struck in the top of the first as Molly Garst and Andie Varsho led off the game with back-to-back infield singles, with Varsho later stealing second to put two in scoring position with nobody out. Crusader starter Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson) got the first out of the frame on a strikeout, but following a walk to load the bases, Shelby Krammer lined a single into right field. Garst crossed the plate safely, but Varsho was gunned down by KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing), as Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) applied the tag to limit the Boilermakers to one run. Another strikeout by McGee escaped any further damage in the frame.
Valpo answered immediately in its half of the first, as leadoff hitter Jennifer Hermanson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) lined a first-pitch double into center field. After a sacrifice moved Hermanson over to third with one out, junior Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) drilled a full-count pitch off the wall in left-center field, easily plating the sophomore to tie the game. Two batters later, junior Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) dropped a base knock in down the line in shallow right field, scoring Strickland to give the Crusaders a 2-1 lead after one inning.
The Boilermakers got runners on base in each of the next two innings, but McGee was able to keep them off the board as Valpo maintained the one-run lead. Consecutive solo homers by Kim McMillan and Lauren Grant to lead off the fourth changed that, however, as Purdue claimed a 3-2 edge.
But a pair of seniors teamed up to re-gain the lead in the bottom half of the frame, as Conner led off the inning with a double to the right-center gap. Two batters later, Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) tapped a 1-2 pitch in between the pitcher's circle and first base and beat the throw by McMillan to the bag for an infield single, moving Conner to third. The throw wasn't able to be corralled by the Boilermakers' second baseman and got away down the right field line, allowing Jacobson to advance to second and Conner to score on the error, tying the game. Jacobson would move up to third on a wild pitch, and then scored on a deep sacrifice fly to center by freshman Amanda Wisniewski (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Huntley) to give Valpo the 4-3 lead through four innings.
With darkness quickly descending on the field, an infield single and then a one-out error put two runners on for the Boilermakers. Two batters later, McMillan lined a pitch back up the middle, scoring pinch-runner MaryBeth Pavlick with the game-tying run. When the throw home seemingly got away from Conner behind the plate, Erika Petruzzi attempted to score as well. But Conner quickly regained control and made the easy flip to McGee, who applied the tag with plenty of time to keep the game tied. The umpires ruled in the middle of the fifth that the bottom half of the frame would be the game's final half-inning, and while Valpo got back-to-back two-out singles by Boldt and Rutkowski, it wasn't able to push the winning run across the plate.
McGee went the entire way in the circle in game two for Valpo, her ninth complete game of the season. Petruzzi started the nightcap at pitcher for Purdue, but gave way after facing one batter in the second, giving up five hits and two runs in her one-plus inning of work. Katie Hackney closed the game for the Boilermakers, tossing the final four innings. Conner, Jacobson and Rutkowski each picked up two hits for the Crusaders in the nightcap.
Junior Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) was the starting pitcher in the opener for Valpo, and completely shut down Purdue through the first five innings, taking a no-hit bid into the sixth. Lagesse surrendered just two walks in the first five frames, while one other Boilermaker hitter reached via error.
Meanwhile, the Crusaders were able to get Lagesse the lead with single runs off of Purdue ace Suzie Rzegocki in the second and fifth innings. Boldt led off the second with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and later scored on an RBI single by junior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) to get Valpo on the board. Sophomore Tori Brown (Harrison, Ohio/Harrison) utilized a leadoff single to score a run as well, leading off the fifth with a base knock down the right-field line, advancing to second on a walk by Wisniewski and then scoring on a single back up the middle by freshman Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) to give the Crusaders a 2-0 edge.
But Lagesse's no-hit bid was broken up by a leadoff single by Garst in the sixth, who advanced to second on a subsequent misplay. Varsho then reached on a fielder's choice, as the Crusaders attempted to make a play on Garst unsuccessfully, and then stole second to put two in scoring position. A single down the right-field line by Lindsey Rains was enough to score both runners to tie the game, and Rains, who advanced to second on her hit thanks to an errant cutoff throw, would later score on a RBI single by Petruzzi to give Purdue a 3-2 lead. The Boilermakers added five runs in the seventh, including three before an out was recorded, to close the scoring.
“We had lapses defensively in the sixth inning which cost us,” said Crusader head coach Jordan Stevens. “We allowed Purdue, which was trailing late in the game, to get back in the game because we did things that we don't typically do. We stress small things all the time, like we have to hit our cutoffs and we have to get outs when they give us outs. Those two things came back to cost us big in the first game. We can't give a team that hits as well as Purdue extra chances because they're going to take advantage, and I felt we just served it up for them in the sixth inning.”
Lagesse took the loss for the Crusaders, falling to 7-7 on the year, while Rzegocki improved to 20-7 with the complete-game victory for Purdue (24-8-1). Boldt registered a pair of hits in the opener to lead the Valpo offense.
“I thought we had good offensive output today, even in game one we had a few balls that we hit hard right at fielders,” said Stevens. “I was really happy with our approach and swings at the plate. We stayed consistent with the way we swung the bat, and we just need to keep doing that going into the weekend. The other things that happened today, we just have to fix heading into the weekend and can't dwell on.”
Valparaiso (21-13-1) begins a stretch of nine Horizon League games over nine days on the road on Saturday afternoon, as the Crusaders make the short trip to the Second City for a doubleheader against Loyola. First pitch of game one is slated for 1 p.m., and live stats and live chat for all three of this weekend's games will be available through www.valpoathletics.com.