Valparaiso (4-4, 0-0 Horizon)
at Rainbow Wahine Classic (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Wednesday, Mar. 12 - vs. #RV/-- James Madison (14-8, 0-0 CAA) - 10 p.m. CT
at Hawai’i (11-10, 0-0 Big West) - midnight
Thursday, Mar. 13 - vs. #2/4 Oregon (18-2, 0-0 Pac-12) - 9 p.m.
Friday, Mar. 14 - vs. BYU (9-13, 0-0 WCC) - 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Mar. 14/Saturday, Mar. 15 - Bracket play - TBD
Next Up in Crusader Softball: The Valparaiso softball team closes out spring break action with its first-ever trip to Honolulu, Hawaii for the Rainbow Wahine Classic. The Crusaders will face the nation’s second-ranked team in Oregon and another squad receiving votes in James Madison, as well as BYU and the host Rainbow Wahine. All five teams in the tournament field advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats will be available for all of this weekend’s games - links will be published on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Jordan Stevens: In his fourth season at the helm of the Valparaiso softball program, Jordan Stevens has led the Crusaders to new heights through his first three years, as Valpo has captured the Horizon League Championship each of the last two seasons and earned the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win last year. Stevens enters this weekend with a 115-81-1 record at the helm of the Crusaders.
Series Notes: All four of the Crusaders’ opponents this week are first-time matchups for the Valpo softball program. In all, Valpo faced 10 of its 11 opponents during the three-tournament spring break trip for the first time in program history.
Crusaders Picked Atop Preseason Poll: For the first time since joining the Horizon League, Valparaiso has been chosen atop the league’s preseason poll, conducted by the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders, defending tournament champions, narrowly edged out UIC, which won the regular season last year, for the top spot in the polling. Both teams received four first-place votes, while Valpo finished with 46 points and UIC 45 points.
A Challenging Schedule: The Crusaders’ 2014 schedule will prepare the team well for Horizon League play, featuring at least ten games against NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago. Valpo is currently slated to take on four teams ranked nationally as well. The Crusaders lost a narrow-one run game to #20/20 Louisiana in their last tournament, and faced #10/9 Arizona in the first weekend of their spring break trip. This week, Valpo will take on #2/4 Oregon, and a matchup against #22/22 Notre Dame awaits later this spring.
Experience Returns in the Lineup...: Valpo returns six of its nine most regular starters from last year’s Horizon League championship squad for the 2014 campaign. In fact, six of the seven players who started 50 or more of the Crusaders’ 62 games return, with the only departure among that group being Joylyn Ichiyama, who now serves as an assistant coach. The Crusaders also lost Brittany Duncan, who led the team in batting average, to transfer.
...and in the Circle: One year after returning just 1.2 innings of work at pitcher from the previous year, Valpo returns 83.4% of its innings pitched from the 2013 squad this season. The only loss in the circle was graduated senior Amanda Bolton, who saw 69.1 innings of work last season. Taylor Weissenhofer, Sierra Pico and Ashlyn Michalak combined to throw 347.1 innings last year.
Dropping the Close Games: Valpo fell in a pair of close contests among its five games last weekend, losing 6-5 in its first game against Boise State and 3-1 to Indiana. The two losses dropped the Crusaders’ record this year in games decided by one or two runs to 1-6. Each of the last two seasons, Valpo has been well above .500 in one or two run games (2012 - 15-9; 2013 - 18-11).
All or Nothing: Once per tournament so far this season, the Crusaders have had a big offensive explosion of at least seven runs, with last weekend’s coming in a 10-7 win over Weber State. But Valpo has also struggled offensively in a number of games, as 18 games into the year, the Crusaders have been shut out on seven occasions and have also scored just one run two other times.
Marinec Moves Up: After missing the first eight games of the season, fifth-year senior Jessie Marinec has been strong at the plate for the Crusaders. Marinec moved back into the leadoff spot last weekend, going 7-of-16 with three runs scored over the five games, including three straight multi-hit games. Marinec, who is now batting .423 on the season, has moved up into fifth place on Valpo’s career hits chart with 173 career base knocks, just nine shy of fourth position.
Wisniewski Earns Accolades: Senior Amanda Wisniewski earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team at Louisiana and was named Horizon League Player of the Week for her stellar weekend at the plate. She hit .538 (7-of-13) over the Crusaders' five games, scoring four runs, driving in four runs, hitting two homers and walking three times. On the year, Wisniewski is OPSing at an impressive 1.104 clip, hitting .327 (16-of-49) with five doubles and four home runs.
Record-Setting Game: Quite simply, the Crusaders shattered a number of records in their 24-1 win over Seton Hall on opening weekend. The 24 runs easily set a program record for runs scored, besting the mark of 18, done twice before - most recently against Detroit in 2010. The 24 RBIs and 23-run margin of victory were both records as well, while the 21 hits and 34 total bases are records dating back to at least 1998 (as far back as single-game records are available).
And Individually...: Tarah McShane went a perfect 5-of-5 in the win over the Pirates, becoming the first Crusader since 1998 to post a five-hit game. Janelle Bouchard drove in a career-high seven runs, matching the program’s single-game mark since 1998. In addition, Bouchard, Kaitlyn Ranieri and Sam Stewart all scored four runs to match that record as well.