It was another day of split decisions for the Valparaiso softball team Saturday at the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla. Valpo would drop the opener to Albany in eight innings, 6-5, suffering its fifth one-run loss of the season. But the Crusaders rebounded with a 4-2 win over Niagara in the nightcap.
Facing a rematch against the Great Danes of Albany in the opener on Saturday, the Crusaders fell behind early, as Marlin Solano delivered an RBI double for UA in the first and Jess Tate connected on a two-run homer in the second. Valpo rallied for two runs in the third, however, as sophomore Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) singled with one out and eventually came around to score on an Albany error. Junior Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central), who singled earlier in the frame as well, would score on an RBI groundout by sophomore Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Albany would push the lead back to 5-2 through four innings with RBI base hits by Solano and Maggie Cocks in its next two turns at bat, but the Crusaders would again rally. Lawson walked and Ranieri singled to lead off the top of the fifth, and two batters later, both Lawson and pinch-runner Lanie Callaghan (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) came across the plate on a two-run single by senior Tarah McShane (Streamwood, Ill./St. Edward).
Trailing by one run entering the seventh, Ranieri led off the inning with a triple to give the Crusaders life, and two batters later, the Great Danes misplayed an infield grounder to allow the junior to score and tie the game at 5-5. The game would enter extra innings tied, with the international tiebreak rule (runner on second with nobody out) in effect. A wild pitch advanced the Crusaders’ runner to third with no outs, but Valpo could not push her across, and Albany plated the winning run in the bottom of the eighth on a wild pitch.
Ranieri tallied three hits and scored two runs to lead the Valpo offense in the opener. Junior Mollie Lindeman (Hebron, Ind./Hebron [PNC]) took the loss in relief despite giving up just one hit in four innings of work and striking out five. Devin Durando pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief for Albany (7-7) to earn the win and push her record to 4-1 this season.
The nightcap proved to be smoother sailing for the Crusaders, as Valpo jumped out on top early and never trailed. The Crusaders scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning. McShane delivered a two-run double, scoring both Ranieri and freshman Stephanie Moreno (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley) to quickly make it 2-0. Later in the first, junior Sierra Pico (Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy) drew a bases-loaded walk to score McShane and push the lead to 3-0.
Moreno stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth and delivered a run-scoring single, plating junior Mackenzie Buchelt (Lisle, Ill./Lisle) to make it 4-0 Valpo. The Purple Eagles got a two-run double from Taylor Moody in the top of the seventh to cut the lead in half, but with two in scoring position and two outs, freshman Ashlyn Montgomery (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) induced a groundout to preserve the Crusader victory.
Moreno delivered three hits in the nightcap to lead the Crusaders offensively. Lindeman earned the win to improve to 3-4 on the year, going four shutout innings. Montgomery entered to start the fifth frame and tossed the final three innings to pick up her first save of the season. For Niagara (0-14), Sydney Smyers took the loss, falling to 0-7 as she went the distance.
Valparaiso (5-13) closes out the Rebel Spring Games on Sunday with two more games. The Crusaders will face South Dakota at 9 a.m. CT before finishing play against Bucknell at 11:15 a.m.