The Valparaiso softball team took a lead in the bottom of the fifth inning on a 3-run homer by Joylyn Ichiyama (Torrance, Calif./Redondo Union), but UIC answered with four runs in its half of the sixth as the Crusaders fell by a final score of 7-4 at the Valparaiso University Softball Field on Saturday.
Valpo took the lead in its first time at-bat as the top of the order teamed up to produce a run. Freshman Kaitlyn Ranieri(Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) worked a leadoff walk on a full-count pitch and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt from junior Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran). Ichiyama followed by taking the first pitch she saw and driving it over the center fielder's head, bringing home Ranieri to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead.
UIC put together a two-out rally to place three runs on the board in the third. After a throwing error on a bunt with two outs extended the inning, Melissa Preish tied the game with an RBI double to the fence in center field and Coryn Schmit followed with a round-tripper to right field, giving the Flames a 3-1 lead on three unearned runs.
The Crusaders pitched around UIC putting runners into scoring position in both the fourth and fifth innings, and Valpo then re-claimed the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Sophomore Lindsey Norway (Chicago, Ill./Chicago Christian) led off the frame by tomahawking an eye-level pitch through the left side of the infield, and two batters later, Ranieri drew her second walk of the day to put two on with one out. After a pop-out, a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, but that would prove irrelevant, as Ichiyama launched a fly ball to right-center field which bounced off the top of the fence and over for a three-run homer, putting the Crusaders ahead 4-3.
But the lead proved to be short-lived, as the Flames would score the final four runs of the game in the top of the sixth. Two walks and an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt loaded the bases with one out, and a single through the right side from Natalie Hernandez plated two runs to give UIC a 5-4 lead. It looked like Valpo would escape the inning down just the one run as a line-out created a double play opportunity, but an error on the back end allowed another Flames run to score, and Schmit added another insurance run with an RBI double. The Crusaders drew a leadoff walk in the sixth, but that would be their only baserunner in the final two innings.
Freshman Taylor Weissenhofer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township) took the loss for Valpo in the start, falling to 10-9 after pitching 5.2 innings and giving up just two earned runs out of the seven surrendered. Devin Miller picked up the complete-game win for UIC (14-19, 8-2 Horizon), improving to 14-12 on the year. Ichiyama and Norway both had two-hit games for the Crusaders, while Ranieri also reached base twice out of the leadoff spot.
Valparaiso (20-18, 5-5 Horizon) closes out its three-game series against the Flames on Sunday with a doubleheader beginning at noon. Live stats for both games can be found at ValpoAthletics.com.