Valparaiso (21-32, 11-8 Horizon)
Wednesday, May 8-Saturday, May 11 - at Horizon League Championship (Dayton, Ohio)
Next Up in Crusader Softball: The Valparaiso softball team looks to make it three consecutive Horizon League titles this weekend as the Crusaders travel to Dayton, Ohio for the 2014 Horizon League Championship. Valpo will be the third seed for the tournament and opens play against sixth-seeded UIC at 10 a.m. CT on Wednesday.
Following the Crusaders: Every game of the 2014 Horizon League Championship will have free live video via the Horizon League Network, with links for the live video and live stats available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes: UIC - Flames lead 57-15; 1-1 this year
Wright State - Crusaders lead 20-12; Raiders went 2-1 this year
Green Bay - Phoenix lead 20-15, Phoenix went 2-1 this year
Cleveland State - Vikings lead 17-15; Crusaders went 2-1 this year
Youngstown State - Crusaders lead 28-8; 1-1 this year
Crusaders Picked Atop Preseason Poll: For the first time since joining the Horizon League, Valparaiso was 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.
Search for the Title: Valparaiso is in search of its third straight Horizon League title. The Crusaders claimed their first league championship in program history at home in 2012, and repeated last season as the third seed at UIC - both times losing their first game before winning five straight. If Valpo was to win this week, it would become the first team to win three straight HL championships since UIC won five consecutive years (1998-2002).
Crusaders in the HL Championship: Through their first six seasons as Horizon League members, the Crusaders own a 16-10 mark in league tournament play, including a 10-2 record over the last two years. Valpo is 3-1 against UIC, including wins each of the last two seasons. Versus this year’s other tournament teams, the Crusaders are 2-2 against Green Bay, 1-1 against Wright State, 2-1 against Cleveland State and 4-1 against Youngstown State.
Record-Setting Season: A number of the Crusader career records have fallen this season courtesy of members of the senior class. Jessie Marinec and Angie Doerffler now rank 1-2 in Valpo history in career games played, with 229 and 228 games, respectively. Doerffler enters the HL Championship tied for Valpo’s all-time lead with 691 at-bats and leading all Crusaders all-time with 437 assists, while Marinec ranks third in runs scored (130) and fourth in hits (188). Amanda Wisniewski currently sits second in both career home runs (29) and walks (95) as well.
Standout Sophomore Year: Sophomore Kaitlyn Ranieri has taken her game to another level in 2014 in her second season as a Crusader. Ranieri led all Horizon League players in league-only play in batting average (.532), slugging percentage (.887) and on-base percentage (.597), hits (33) and total bases (55). Overall, she led the league in on-base percentage (.459) and walks (24) and ranked among the league’s top-five in five other categories as well. Ranieri already ranks fifth in Crusader history in a single season in hits (62) and sixth in total bases (97).
Beating All Comers: Sophomore pitcher Taylor Weissenhofer tallied seven of Valpo’s 11 Horizon League wins, defeating each of the other seven league teams one time apiece. Within league-only play, Weissenhofer ranked second in the league in wins and opponent batting average (.233), third in strikeouts (54) and fifth in ERA (2.46). The sophomore’s 110 strikeouts this year are already eighth on the Crusader single-season chart and give her 344 career K’s, already fifth in Valpo history.
Hitting in League Play: While the Crusaders hit just .253 as a team overall in the regular season, they raised their batting average to .285 in Horizon League action, as four regulars hit above .300 in league play. Ranieri led the way with a .532 clip against league opponents, while the bottom of the lineup turned over well to Ranieri, as eight-hitter Angie Doerffler hit .340 with 15 runs scored and nine-hitter Taylor Lawson hit .364 with 16 runs scored. Behind Ranieri, Jorgi Calombaris finished HL play hitting at a .302 clip as well.