The Valparaiso High School softball team opened up the season this weekend with two very different games. On Friday evening, the Vikings prevailed in a 12-10 nine-inning slugfest with New Prairie. On Saturday, Valpo dropped the home opener in a pitchers’ duel, 2-0 to Lowell.
“I think we’re going to be okay,” head coach Tracy Corneil said. “I like this team, I like the way they play together, it’s early in the season and there’s just a lot of kinks that you have to work out, but I think we’re going to be fine.”
Valparaiso has a road tilt with Crown Point to open up Duneland Athletic Conference play on Tuesday.
Like many spring sports teams across Northwest Indiana, the Vikings have been plagued by rain, snow and cold temperatures. When the Vikings visited New Prairie to open the season, it was just their third time playing outdoors. However, the sun beamed down on a beautiful day for softball during Saturday’s home opener against Lowell.
A Versatile Bunch
Corneil said the team’s versatility will be one of its strengths this season, with many players on the roster that can play multiple positions. She listed a solid, three-member pitching staff as another of the team’s strengths.
A Tough Road Ahead
The Vikings, who finished 9-19 last season, are presented with the challenge of playing in the ultra-competitive DAC. Lake Central, Crown Point, Chesterton and Portage are all among the top teams in the state of Indiana.
“It’s always tough in the DAC, but I’m looking forward to it,” Corneil said. “I’m looking forward to the competition. I’m looking forward to seeing those teams and those teams having to deal with our pitchers. The teams in the DAC are well coached and fundamentally sound, so I think it’s going to be an interesting conference.”
Valparaiso will rely on seniors Andi Sarkisian, Natalie Girman, Gabby Vinyard and Molly Grant to pave the way this season.
“When you talk about them, just as people, I think that’s the way I’d like to tag it,” Corneil said. “They provide good leadership, are good role models and are true to the team concept. That’s where it starts, because it catches on to your younger players.”
The roster also includes four freshmen getting their first taste of high school ball.
“We have a strong freshmen group that I look to have an immediate impact and they already have in two games, which is good," she said. "We’ll see who emerges, but to be truthful, with this group, it could be a different kid every day, because that’s just how they are.”
A Tradition of Success
Valparaiso High School has been a state power in many different sports for many years. Corneil is trying to apply some of the school’s winning history in other sports to the softball diamond.
“It’s about trying to get them to play for the name on the front, which is Valparaiso High School,” she said. “I think it’s about tradition and maintaining tradition. It’s about getting the kids to take pride in themselves and having the confidence to do that. When it’s great, everybody’s good, but it shows your inside strength and attests to what you’re all about when you can do it when times are tough too.”