The Valparaiso University softball team saw its 2016 campaign come to a close in the NCAA Tournament Saturday afternoon, as the Crusaders fell 8-0 to #23 Notre Dame in an elimination game at the Ann Arbor regional.
The Irish took advantage of the short game to take the lead in the top of the first. Back-to-back infield singles led things off for Notre Dame, and a Crusader error on the infield allowed the first run to score. Micaela Arizmendi then sent a single through the right side for another run, and Caitlyn Brooks knocked a double to left to make it 4-0 Notre Dame.
A leadoff error turned into second and third with nobody out for Notre Dame in the second inning, but the Crusaders would only give up one run – covering a bunt well and then turning a fly ball into a double play, as sophomore Jasmine Ramirez (Litchfield Park, Ariz./Millennium) cut off the throw from junior Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) and relayed it on to third to cut down the Irish trail runner.
Notre Dame scored another unearned run in the third inning, and then took advantage of back-to-back doubles to plate a run in the fourth. Senior Kaitlyn Ranieri (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) helped limit the Irish to just one run in the fourth with a couple big catches in right field, including an effort running into the side field wall, separating the field from the bullpen, to chase down a foul ball.
Lawson delivered a one-out bunt single for Valpo’s first hit in the bottom of the fourth and stole second base – her 23rd successful steal in 24 attempts in 2016 – but would be stranded there. The Irish’s Kimmy Sullivan connected on a leadoff home run in the fifth for the game’s final margin.
Making her final collegiate appearance, the program record 149th appearance in the circle of her career, senior Taylor Weissenhofer (Orland Park, Ill./Lockport Township) took the loss, as she went the distance, falling to 10-14 on the year. Allie Rhodes earned the complete-game win for Notre Dame (42-12), improving to 19-6.
With Saturday’s loss, the careers of five Crusader seniors come to an end – Ranieri, Weissenhofer, Mackenzie Buchelt (Lisle, Ill./Lisle), Mollie Lindeman (Hebron, Ind./Hebron [PNC]) and Sierra Pico (Las Vegas, Nev./Legacy).