Valparaiso's offense got rolling in the second game Saturday at Ben Garot Field in Green Bay, Wis., as the Crusaders set or matched a bevy of program records in a 12-0, five-inning victory over Green Bay in the nightcap of a doubleheader. Unfortunately for Valpo, the offense wasn't there after nine days off in the opener, as the Phoenix claimed a 2-1 victory as the two squads split the twinbill.
Two Crusader juniors continued to make program history by matching a combined three records in the second game. Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon) started things off with an infield single to the left of the Phoenix shortstop in the top of the first, her 182nd career hit, tying her with Shannon Robinson atop Valpo's all-time hits chart. Then, to lead off the top of the second, Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) drilled a 2-2 pitch deep over the tall left-field wall, her ninth home run of the season and 40th RBI of the year as well, tying Ashley Wolter's 2009 campaign in both categories, as well as Karen Constein's 2004 season, in which she hit nine homers.
Valpo entered the weekend with 40 home runs as a team this season, just two round-trippers behind the record of 42 set last year, and with four home runs in the nightcap surpassed that record as well on Saturday. Junior Kelsey Phalen (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) launched the record-tying four-bagger with one out in the second inning of the nightcap, while senior Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) broke the record with a two-run, two-out shot in the third. Conner's home run was also the 21st of her career, just one behind Valpo's career record in that category.
Not to be overlooked with all the offensive fireworks in the nightcap was the performance in the circle of junior Sam McGee (Bloomington, Minn./Jefferson). McGee surrendered just one hit in the complete-game victory, a leadoff single to shallow left field by Jessica Hrncar to start the bottom of the third. The junior also struck out six batters en route to improving to 14-5 on the season, tying her victory total from a season ago, fourth-most in a single year in Crusader history.
Rutkowski's record-tying round-tripper started the scoring for Valpo in the second game. Phalen added her homer in that frame as well, and then later in the inning, senior Jill Jacobson (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) lifted a fly ball to center field with freshman Amanda Wisniewski (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Huntley) on third and two outs. The ball was dropped by Phoenix center fielder Kendra Woepse, allowing Wisniewski to score easily. Running hard out of the box, Jacobson made it all the way to third and then continued home when the throw came in behind her to third base, increasing the Crusader lead to 4-0.
Conner's two-run homer in the third pushed the advantage to 6-0, and the Crusaders threatened again in the fourth, loading the bases with two outs before a lineout kept them off the scoreboard. But Valpo would complete the run-rule victory in the fifth by posting a six-spot on the scoreboard. The first five batters of the inning all reached for the Crusaders, who eventually led 9-0 with two outs and two on when senior KC Boldt (Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing) stepped to bat and delivered Valpo's fourth homer of the game, a three-run bomb to left field which capped the scoring.
“It was probably key for us to get [Cooney] out of the game quickly and get to their bullpen,” said Stevens. “It still just comes down to taking quality swings. That's something we did not do in gm one, but we had a much better approach in gm two.”
The Phoenix threw four pitchers in the nightcap, with starter Katie Cooney taking the loss to fall to 9-9 after surrendering four runs in her two innings of work. Phalen went a perfect 3-for-3, while Conner and Wisniewski each registered a pair of hits as well as Valpo tallied 12 total team hits in the win.
For as potent as the Crusader offense was in the nightcap, it struggled in the opener in Valpo's first game in nine days. The Crusaders got a runner into scoring position in each of the first three innings, as Strickland doubled with two outs in the first, Rutkowski singled and was sacrificed to second in the second inning, and Jacobson reached base on a passed ball and stole second in the third frame. But Valpo couldn't come up with a key hit in any of those situations as the game was scoreless through three innings.
Valpo starter Alex Lagesse (Beecher, Ill./Beecher) allowed just one hit through the first three frames to help keep the Phoenix off the scoreboard, but Green Bay finally struck in the fourth. Danielle Peerenboom reached on a Crusader error to lead off the inning, and Cooney moved her over to third with a one-out single. Shannon Butts took the first pitch she saw and drove it to the wall over Jacobson's head in left field, scoring both runners to give the Phoenix a 2-0 lead.
The Crusaders had a golden opportunity to kick off the top of the fifth, as Phalen drilled a double down the right-field line to lead off the inning and moved over to third immediately on a passed ball. But a trio of infield outs prevented the junior from advancing the final 60 feet. Valpo finally scored in the sixth, as Strickland drove a one-out pitch to the right-center gap for a double and eventually scored on a single to shallow left by Rutkowski. Rutkowski would be unable to move past first base, however, and the Crusaders went down in order in the seventh.
“There might have been things that had an effect on our offense in game one, but ultimately we have to do a better job preparing for the pitcher we're going to see and make adjustments,” said Stevens. “In the end, we just didn't do that in the first game.”
Lagesse took the tough-luck loss, falling to 12-12 despite giving up just two runs, only one of which was earned, while striking out six Phoenix hitters. Cooney tossed a complete game in the opener for Green Bay (20-20, 7-12 Horizon), giving up just five hits and striking out seven. Rutkowski and Strickland each picked up a pair of hits in the first game for Valpo.
“Both our pitchers did a good job today,” said Stevens. “Green Bay's offense has been swinging the bats well lately, but both Sam and Alex kept them off balance. They made quality pitches for 12 innings to neutralize a good offense.”
Valparaiso (29-18-1, 12-7 Horizon) closes out the three-game set at Green Bay Sunday morning at 10 a.m. Fans can follow along via a live chat at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.