Valparaiso (15-33, 9-11 Horizon)
Wednesday, May 6 - 1:30 p.m. CT - vs. Wright State
May 7-9 - at Horizon League Championship
Next Up in Crusader Softball: The Valparaiso University softball team takes aim at the 2015 Horizon League title this week, as the Crusaders head to Oakland, site of the Horizon League Championship. Valpo, which enters the tournament as the fifth seed, is looking for its third tournament title in the last four years.
Previously: Needing to win at least two of three games to earn a spot in the league tournament field, the Crusaders did one better last weekend, sweeping their three-game series against Youngstown State by scores of 9-7, 7-5 and 9-5 to send out seniors Tarah McShane and Lindsey Norway as winners at home. Taylor Nadler went 6-for-8 with six runs scored over the three games, while Kaitlyn Ranieri was 4-for-7 with seven runs scored and five walks.
Following the Crusaders: The entirety of the 2015 Horizon League Championship will feature live video broadcasts on ESPN3.com. Links for the live video, as well as live stats, will be available at ValpoAthletics.com. The @ValpoSoftball Twitter account will also feature live in-game updates.
Head Coach Kate Stake: Kate Stake was hired as head coach of the Valparaiso softball program on July 23, 2014 and owns an 15-33 record in her first season as head coach. Stake arrived at Valpo with eight seasons of assistant coaching experience at the Division I level, most recently serving as an assistant at mid-major power Hofstra.
Series Notes: WSU - 22-13 overall; 14-11 since joining HL; 1-1 this season
Oakland - 15-17 overall; 2-4 since OU joined HL; 0-3 this season
UIC - 18-59 overall; 13-12 since joining HL; 1-2 this season
Green Bay - 16-24 overall; 14-11 since joining HL; 1-2 this season
CSU - 17-18 overall; 13-11 since joining HL; 2-1 this season
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in third place in the Horizon League standings in 2015 in a very tight preseason poll, as picked by the league’s head coaches. Wright State, despite earning just one first-place vote, topped the polling with 40 points, while Green Bay picked up three first-place votes and 38 points. The Crusaders were just one point behind the Phoenix and tallied two first-place votes. Youngstown State recorded the other two first-place nods and finished fourth in the polling.
Crusaders Looking to Continue Tournament Success: Valpo carries a streak of three straight seasons reaching Championship Saturday into the 2015 Horizon League Championship, but none of them have come easy, as the Crusaders have never advanced to the title by winning the winner’s bracket. Valpo owns a 13-4 mark at the league tournament over the last three seasons and is 11-1 in potential elimination games.
All-League Honorees: Valpo had three players honored on Tuesday as the Horizon League released its postseason All-League teams. Junior Kaitlyn Ranieri was honored as a First Team All-League player for the second straight year, the 12th consecutive season that Valpo has had a First Team All-Conference honoree. Freshman Taylor Nadler was one of just three league freshmen to earn a spot on one of the All-League teams, as she was recognized as a Second Team All-League performer. Nadler was also joined on the All-Freshman Team by Stephanie Moreno, the fourth time in the last five seasons Valpo has placed multiple players on that squad.
Moving Up the Charts: Junior Kaitlyn Ranieri has continued to move up Valpo’s career charts in a number of offensive categories. The junior currently ranks second in Crusader history in batting average and on-base percentage, and fourth in slugging percentage. Ranieri ranks second in career walks with 96, just two shy of the program record, and is also fourth in total bases (285), fifth in hits (183) and runs scored (113), sixth in home runs (29) and doubles (36), and 10th in RBIs (87). First baseman/catcher Tarah McShane has moved into Valpo’s all-time charts in a number of categories late in her senior year, ranking sixth in doubles (36) and RBIs (94) and ninth in home runs (14).
In Search of .400: The .400 mark has been just as sacred in Valpo softball history as it is in the baseball world, as just two Crusaders have hit .400 for an entire season - Jordan Rutkowski, who hit .430 in a 2012 campaign which was the best by a Valpo player in program history; and Kari Wiseman, a Valpo Hall of Fame inductee who hit .423 in 1998. But Ranieri is threatening to surpass that mark as well, entering this weekend’s play hitting at a .423 clip, good for fourth in the league. She also leads the Horizon League with 38 walks, breaking Valpo’s single-season record in the category last week, and is second in the league with a .558 on-base percentage, a mark which would shatter the previous single-season record.
Nadler Enters on a Roll: If the softball season were NBA Jam, freshman Taylor Nadler would be “on fire!” right now. Nadler reached in all eight of her plate appearances in the doubleheader sweep of YSU on Saturday, going 4-for-4 in the first game and then drawing three walks and going 1-for-1 in the second game. Overall last week, Nadler went 7-for-11 with six runs scored and four walks, raising her season batting average 37 points.
McShane Goes Out on Top: Senior Tarah Mcshane made her last home series one to remember last weekend. McShane went 3-for-7 with a double and a team-high four RBIs in the sweep of the Penguins, drawing five walks as well to post an on-base percentage of .667 for the series. McShane is enjoying her finest season at the plate, and enters the HL Championship hitting .333 with 24 runs scored and 35 RBIs.
Weissenhofer Approaches Milestone: Junior Taylor Weissenhofer enjoyed a solid weekend in the pitcher’s circle, throwing five innings in Saturday’s opener against YSU and then entering in relief in game two and securing the win with 2.1 perfect innings. Over the two appearances, Weissenhofer struck out 12 batters, giving her 434 career strikeouts. The junior is now just 11 strikeouts shy of second place on Valpo’s career chart and just 13 away from matching Alex Lagesse’s record of 447 strikeouts.