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Softball Championships Scoreboard:
(1) Valparaiso 10, (4) Youngstown State 0 (6 inn.)
(2) Loyola 9, (5) Butler 1 (6 inn.)
(1) Valparaiso 3, (5) Butler 2 (8 inn.)

VALPARAISO, Ind. – The two top seeds in the Horizon League Softball Championship, Valparaiso and Loyola meet for the Horizon League’s automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament after the Crusaders emerged in an extra innings elimination game after the Ramblers knocked off Butler earlier in the day.

(1) Valparaiso 10, (4) Youngstown State 0 (6 inn.)
Valparaiso’s bats came alive in support of starter Sam McGee, who tossed a two-hitter in the Crusader’s 10-0 rout of fourth-seeded Youngstown State in the first game of day three of the League Championships.

Valparaiso (38-18) got hits from eight of its nine starters, jumping on Youngstown State (29-21-1) starter Kayla Haslett (8-8) from the get-go.

After McGee (15-5) tossed a scoreless half of the first, Sara Strickland led off the Valparaiso half with a single up the middle. A throwing error put runners at first and second for Jessie Marinec, who singled to center to bring Strickland home.

Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Brittany Duncan then found room between the first base line and YSU’s first baseman for a single in the next at bat, making the score 2-0. Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry would add a sacrifice fly to close the scoring in the inning.

The second would follow a similar script, with McGee setting down the Penguins in order before an error put Lindsey Norway on first, where after a single and a sacrifice bunt put her a third, she would trot home on an Angie Doerffler fly to center to put Valpo ahead, 4-0.

After McGee tossed another 1-2-3 inning in the third, her batterymate, Jordan Rutkowski, added to the Crusaders’ lead with a two-run home run to left off of Penguins’ reliever Casey Crozier.

Leading 6-0, McGee lost both her perfect game and no-hitter bids in the top of the fifth, as Sarah Snodgrass walked before Sarah Ingalls singled to put two Penguins on base with two outs. McGee got a pop up to end the frame, and Valparaiso would end the game an inning later.

Ichiyama-Drewry led off the sixth with a line drive homer, just getting over the wall in the left field corner. Consecutive singles from Kelsey Phalen and Norway brought Amanda Wisniewski to the plate, and the left fielder ended the game with her eighth homer of the season, a drive to center field.

(2) Loyola 9, (5) Butler 1
With Brittany Gardner dominating in the circle, Loyola’s bats gave the lefty more than enough support, as the Ramblers scored eight unearned runs in a 9-1 victory over Butler.

The win propelled Loyola (26-21) to its first Horizon League Softball Championship game since 2004.

Loyola took advantage of five Butler (25-31) errors to put crooked numbers on the scoreboard in the second, fourth and sixth innings to end the game early. The nine runs were more than enough for Gardner, the Horizon League Pitcher of the Year, who struck out 14 Bulldogs over her six innings.

Gardner, one day after tossing the sixth complete game no-hitter in Horizon League Championship history on Thursday, scattered seven hits on the afternoon and was able to reach back for strikeouts at key moments throughout the afternoon. The first eight Butler outs of the game were recorded via the strikeout.

Loyola would score all the runs it would need in the second inning, with Olivia Bell singling to left and alertly taking second on a field error. A second consecutive Butler error put runners at the corners, and after a stolen base,Jessica Balzano singled to center, bringing Bell and Keali Engelkens across the plate.

Bell would factor in the Ramblers’ scoring in the fourth, leading off the inning with a single before swiping second base. Brooke Andresen brought Bell home with a single to make the score 3-0, and the senior would come around to score after a throwing error with two outs.

Trailing by four, Butler would try to rally in the fifth, as a Kayla Gray single and a walk to Megan Gray put runners on first and second with two outs. Meaghan Sullivan would drive a Gardner offering to the base of the center field fence to bring Kayla Gray in from second, but Gardner struck out Lauren McNulty to end the threat.

Again, Butler brought the tying run to the plate in the sixth as Erin Falkenberry and Alyssa Coleman reached via a walk and single, respectively. Gardner would get Kayla Gray to fly to left to end the inning, however.

Loyola put the game away in the bottom half of the inning, again capitalizing on Butler miscues. With two outs, Balzano reached on a throwing error before Brittany Korth’s grounder was mishandled by the Butler third baseman.

Lauren Moore was the first to capitalize, as her single down the left field line plated Balzano. Lauren Arceneaux then drove a liner to center, bringing Korth and Moore home. Leading 7-1, Lauren Zaworski singled to drive in Arceneaux.

After a pitching change, pinch hitter Stevie Bradich reached via a bunt single before Bell ended the game with a single to center to score Zaworski.

(1) Valparaiso 3, (5) Butler 2 (8 inn.)
In a game that went back-and-forth in the late innings, it was Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry’s grounder that wound up ending a tense 3-2 win for Valparaiso, sending the Crusaders to the 2012 Horizon League Softball Championship at No. 5 Butler’s expense.

Valparaiso (40-17) advanced to the Horizon League Softball Championship for the first time in program history. The Crusaders will need to beat Loyola twice to claim the League title.

The Crusaders capitalized on two Butler (25-32) errors to plate the game-winning run in the eighth inning. Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Brittany Duncan led off the inning by stroking an opposite-field double to the left-center gap off of Butler’s Breanna Fisher (6-10). With Hayley Bridwell pinch-running, the Bulldogs elected to intentionally walk Jordan Rutkowski to set up a force play.

Fisher got the ground ball to shortstop Kayla Gray, but Gray’s feed to third pulled Callie Dennison off the bag, and everyone was safe. With the infield pulled in, Ichiyama-Drewry’s bouncer went under Gray’s glove, allowing Bridwell to score the game-winning run.

Alex Lagesse (20-9) pitched all eight innings for Valparaiso to notch the win. The right-hander struck out eight as she took a perfect game bid into the fifth inning, only to twice lose the lead down the stretch.

Valparaiso struck quickly in the first against Fisher, who started and then re-entered for Butler. Sara Strickland walked to lead off the frame and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Rutkowski lined a single to left, bringing Strickland home.

Butler knotted the game in its half of the fifth, as Lagesse’s bid for a perfect game came to an end when Lauren McNulty reached on a fielding error. After a sacrifice bunt and a hit batter, Megan Gray ended Lagesse’s no-hit attempt with a clean single to center, scoring McNulty.

It appeared that Butler might take the lead in the inning, when, with two outs, Gray grounded to second and the ball appeared to carom off of Jessie Marinec. However, the first base umpire ruled it went off the Butler runner, ending the inning.

Valparaiso would come right back, as Amanda Wisniewski drove a 2-1 pitch from Leah Bry just underneath the scoreboard in left-center field to break the tie and temporarily put Valparaiso in position to reach the League Championship.

However, with two outs in the top of the sixth, Butler would rally with two outs. Meaghan Sullivan lined a single in front of Lindsey Norway in right before Lauren McNulty roped a double to left-center, allowing Sullivan to score from first.

Butler stranded the potential go-ahead run at second to start the eighth, setting the stage for Valpo’s dramatic finish in the bottom half of the inning.

Tags: Butler - Softball · Horizon League - Softball · Loyola - Softball · Valparaiso - Softball · Youngstown State - Softball
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