Valparaiso (2-1, 0-0 Horizon)
at Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classic (Bowling Green, Ky.)
Friday, Feb. 22 - vs. Western Michigan (1-5) - 1 p.m.
at Western Kentucky (2-2) - 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 23 - vs. Pitt (1-4) - 1 p.m.
vs. South Dakota State (4-6) - 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 24 - vs. Dayton (0-5) - 10:30 a.m.
Next Up in Crusader Softball: After a weekend off, Valparaiso resumes the 2013 slate this weekend at the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classic in Bowling Green, Ky., hosted by Western Kentucky. Valpo will take on Western Michigan, Pitt, South Dakota State and Dayton in addition to the host Hilltoppers over the three-day event.
Previously: Valpo kicked off the 2013 campaign two weekends ago at the Belmont Spring Kickoff, with only an extra-inning international tiebreaker loss to the host Bruins (2-1) keeping the Crusaders from a perfect opening weekend. Valpo defeated Jackson State via run rule (13-1) and also downed Central Arkansas (7-3) before its finale against Western Illinois was rained out.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats for each of this weekend’s five games will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Jordan Stevens: Jordan Stevens enters his third season at the helm of the Valparaiso University softball program in 2013 after leading the Crusaders to their most successful season in program history in 2012. Stevens guided the Crusaders to 42 victories in his second season in charge in 2012, surpassing by seven wins the program's previous single-season wins record. Along the way, Valpo claimed the Horizon League regular season and tournament championships, advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
Series Notes: Valpo has faced four of its five opponents this weekend previously in program history, only taking on Pitt for the first time. The Crusaders are 4-17 all-time against Western Michigan, 0-1 versus Western Kentucky, 2-1 against South Dakota State and 7-3 when facing Dayton.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish third in the Horizon League this season according to the preseason poll. Loyola was the preseason favorite, picking up six of the eight first-place votes and 48 points in all, while UIC and Valpo split the other two first-place votes, with the Flames edging out the Crusaders for second position, 39-37.
Experience Returns in the Lineup: While Valpo graduated a decorated class of six seniors following the 2012 season, the Crusaders welcome back 12 letterwinners in their quest to repeat as league champions in 2013, including six regular starters from last season’s batting order.
Plenty of New Faces: Head coach Jordan Stevens brought in his largest recruiting class to date for the 2013 season. Nine new faces are among the 21 players on this year’s roster - seven freshmen and a pair of junior college transfers.
Who’s in the Circle?: The Crusaders graduated three of their four pitchers from the 2012 squad, returning only fifth-year senior Amanda Bolton, who entered 2013 with just 29 career innings pitched. Four of the nine newcomers are pitchers, giving Valpo a five-player pitching staff in 2013. In the first weekend of play, Stevens went to three different hurlers, as Bolton was joined by freshmen Taylor Weissenhofer and Sierra Pico in throwing complete games.
League Honorees: For the second consecutive season, Valparaiso swept the Horizon League weekly awards after its opening weekend of play. Fifth-year senior infielder Joylyn Ichiyama earned her first career weekly award from the league office as she was named Player of the Week. Meanwhile, freshman Sierra Pico was tabbed Pitcher of the Week following her debut in the circle with the Crusaders.
Ichiyama Starts Off Strong: Fifth-year senior Joylyn Ichiyama wasn’t even sure until near the end of the summer that she would return to Valpo for her final year of eligiblity. Ichiyama did return, though, and the veteran presence at third base picked right up where she left off last season. A First Team All-League honoree last season, Ichiyama went 4-for-9 with four runs scored and a pair of RBIs in the Crusaders’ opening week. She scored three runs in the win over Jackson State and went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in the victory against Central Arkansas.
What a Debut: Freshman catcher Janelle Bouchard got the call behind home plate in her first collegiate game against Jackson State and made an immediate impact at the plate offensively. Bouchard drove in a run on a fielder’s choice in her first collegiate at-bat, and then in the fourth inning against the Tigers, stepped up with the bases loaded and launched a grand slam. It was the first grand slam by a Crusader since Lindsey Norway hit one in last season’s regular season finale at Cleveland State, and was the first 5+ RBI game since Jordan Rutkowski drove in six against Niagara last season on Feb. 25.
Walk This Way: Junior Amanda Wisniewski has made a name for herself with her eye at the plate over her first two seasons at Valpo, drawing 43 walks, including 25 last season, seventh-most in a single season in Crusader history. The first weekend of play was more of the same, as despite going just 1-of-6 at the plate (a 3-run homer against Central Arkansas), Wisniewski got on base at a .545 clip, walking five times over the three games.
Strong Starts at Pitcher: Freshmen Sierra Pico and Taylor Weissenhofer got their first tastes of collegiate softball on opening day for the Crusaders, and both put together solid games in the circle. Pico carried a shutout into the fifth inning of Valpo’s run-rule shortened win over Jackson State, scattering five hits and giving up two runs in the winning effort. Meanwhile, Weissenhofer took a tough-luck loss in the international tiebreak, surrendering just two hits in eight innings of work against host Belmont while striking out six.