The Valparaiso softball team stepped out of league play on Tuesday afternoon and swept a doubleheader at Western Michigan, earning a pair of one-run wins by scores of 4-3 and 1-0. Freshman Taylor Weissenhofer (Homer Glen, Ill./Lockport Township) broke the Crusaders’ single-season strikeouts record in the nightcap.
Weissenhofer struck out three batters in earning the save in the opener, leaving her five K’s shy of Andrea Zappia’s single-season mark of 176, set in 2008. The freshman struck out two batters apiece in each of the first two innings of the nightcap and quickly surpassed the record in her return to the circle in the third, striking out Christina Pigozzi swinging to tie the mark and then catching Melissa Palmer looking to break the record. Weissenhofer ended the nightcap with 10 strikeouts, her third double-figure effort in the category this season.
Valpo threatened a number of times in the opening innings of the nightcap, but couldn’t push a run across in the first four innings. Freshman Janelle Bouchard (Kennebunk, Maine/Kennebunk) earned a one-out walk in the second and moved over to third on a single by junior Amanda Korb (Indianapolis, Ind./Lutheran), but the Crusaders would not capitalize. A walk and stolen base by freshman Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) in the third and a double by Bouchard in the fourth put a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in each inning for Valpo, but neither runner would advance past second.
Meanwhile, Western Michigan’s biggest threat in the first part of the game came following Weissenhofer’s record-breaking strikeout in the third. Diana Patterson singled with two outs and moved over to third on a double by Jenny Rohn, but Weissenhofer induced a deep flyout to left to end the threat.
Valpo scored the game’s only run in the top of the fifth. Junior Amanda Wisniewski (Skokie, Ill./Huntley) worked a one-out walk, moving over to second on a groundout. Junior Kimberlin Wallace (Newton, Ill./Community [Lake Land C.C.]) followed by turning on a pitch and singling into shallow left-center, easily enough for Wisniewski to cross the plate with the eventual game-winning run. The Broncos would pick up a base hit in each of the final three innings, sacrificing a leadoff single in the seventh over to second with one out, but a pair of strikeouts by Weissenhofer ended the shutout.
Weissenhofer improved to 14-10 with the win, scattering seven hits in her fourth shutout of the season. Mackenzie Shepeck took the complete-game loss for the Broncos to fall to 4-7. Korb picked up two of Valpo’s four hits in the finale, while Bouchard also reached base twice.
Western Michigan claimed the lead in the opener in the bottom of the first on a pair of RBI singles from Rohn and Caity Pixley, but Valpo answered immediately in its next turn at bat. Bouchard led off the second with a double to the gap, and Korb followed with an infield single. Junior Angie Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) took the first pitch she saw through the right side of the infield, driving in Bouchard. Following a sacrifice, Wisniewski dropped a base hit down the right-field line, plating Korb to tie the game at two apiece.
The Crusaders would score a pair of runs in the third as well. After the first two batters were set down in order, Bouchard sent a single back through the middle. Korb followed with a single into left field which the Bronco left fielder misplayed, allowing both runners to move into scoring position. Doerffler made WMU pay immediately with a single down the right-field line, scoring both runners to make it 4-2 Valpo. The Broncos scored a run in their half of the third on an RBI grounder from Loren Nagy, but could not push across a tying run, as Valpo pitched around a two-out triple in the fourth and a bases-loaded, two-out situation in the fifth.
Freshman Sierra Pico (North Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy) earned the win for Valpo, entering in relief in the bottom of the third and tossing 3.1 innings of shutout softball to improve to 9-8. Weissenhofer moved into a tie for fourth in the nation with her sixth save of the season, retiring the final four batters in order. Allyson Kus took the loss for Western Michigan (14-30), falling to 3-8. Bouchard went 3-for-3 in the opener, while Korb and Doerffler each had a pair of hits as well.
Valparaiso (26-22) turns right around and plays Wednesday afternoon in a doubleheader at IUPUI, with first pitch of game one set for 3 p.m. CT. Live stats for both games will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.