Valparaiso senior third baseman Sadie Conner (Washington, Ill./Washington) was named the Defensive Player of the Championship as the 2011 Horizon League Softball Championship came to an end Sunday afternoon. Conner also earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team, joined by junior outfielder Sara Strickland (Scottsdale, Ariz./Horizon).
Conner was flawless at third base for the Crusaders over their four tournament games, posting a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage by registering three putouts and 12 assists without committing an error. But even beyond her errorless play was the number of spectacular plays Conner made look routine at the hot corner to give Valpo chances for victories, including a pair that directly prevented runs from scoring.
In the third inning of the tournament opener Thursday afternoon against Butler, Conner laid out to her left to snag a grounder from Jenny Esparza that seemed destined to score the Bulldog runner from third base, instead turning it into the second out of the inning and keeping the game scoreless. Later that same day, Conner kept Valpo in a scoreless tie with Loyola in the bottom of the second of an elimination game, as with a runner on third and one out, Conner charged to field a squeeze attempt off the bat of Jacqueline Grim and flipped it with her glove to Crusader catcher Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden), who applied the tag for the out.
Conner also excelled at the plate in Valpo's tournament wins, going 3-for-6 while driving in three of Valpo's six runs in its two victories to earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team. The senior drove in the middle two runs of the Crusaders' 4-1 victory over Loyola, while drawing a walk that led to the last insurance run as well. She then went 2-for-3 with a game-tying RBI in Friday morning's win over Cleveland State that kept the Crusaders alive.
Strickland earns her first career All-Tournament honor from the Horizon League after picking up hits in all four of Valpo's games at the 2011 HL Championship. The junior went 7-for-13 (.538) over the course of the four games at the tournament, driving in three runs while also scoring a pair. Strickland scored the second run of Valpo's 4-1 win over the host Ramblers Thursday evening, and then the next morning, came across the plate with the game-tying tally in an eventual 2-1 win over Cleveland State.