A stormy early Saturday morning turned into a stormy first inning for SDSU pitcher Jenna Marston, when she gave up a grand slam in a five-run first. Valparaiso then fizzled, not scoring anymore runs in a 5-1 victory in the first game of a doubleheader.
Marston’s first batter of the day, Taylor Callahan, singled and the floodgates opened. After a single and a passed ball, Callahan scored the first run of the game. A single and a walk loaded the bases for Tracy Korth, who pounded a grand slam to left field, giving starting pitcher Andrea Zappia a 5-0 lead before she even took the mound.
After the rocky first inning, Marston found her control and did not allow another run the rest of the game.
“It is about getting comfortable during warm-ups and I was not comfortable. I struggled through the first inning and Dani (Broshar) pulled me aside and told me to relax and we (the team) would work together to get outs. Hit spots, and the team would play good behind me. From the rest of the game on, the team did that and played great behind me,” Marston said.
Zappia brought fireworks on the mound for the Crusaders, firing 12 strikeouts. Jackrabbit hits were as elusive as Jackrabbits are during a chase, as Zappia pitched a no-hitter through five and a third innings. She only gave up one hit and one run, an RBI double by center fielder Samantha Heinzman, in the victory.
“Their pitcher was tough and we were chasing a lot,” Heinzman said. “I wanted to take a pitch and drive it. The first pitch was down the middle and it landed between two outfielders. We hit the ball right at them throughout the game.”
Despite only collecting one hit, Head Coach Shane Bouman thought his squad played well.
“Jenna Marston pitched so well yesterday, and we expected her to pitch well today. She did not come as prepared as she needed to. We won the last six innings of the first game,” he said.
Game two looked like a replay of game one. Valpo struck early, scoring three runs in the first inning off pitcher Kim Westendorf, who has struggled with injuries all spring. She left after two and two-thirds innings, giving way to Marston. The Jacks fought back with all their might, managing to get hits and runners in scoring position, but could not bring them home, falling 5-2 in the second game.
Missed opportunities doomed the Jacks. They left eight runners in scoring position in the two games. In the second game, SDSU advanced runners into scoring position with no outs in the fourth and fifth innings, yet were unable to cut into the Crusaders’ lead. Finally in the sixth inning, the Jacks managed to bring some runners home. With the bases loaded, Kiley Schwedhelm slapped a doubled to left, scoring two. The Jacks then again faltered, failing to score anymore.
“I see these girls everyday in practice. I don’t get worried about our offensive output or what’s going on,” Bouman said. “The innings leading up to that (seventh inning), we had chances in four of those innings to score a run, which would have made a huge impact on the game. If you give up a big inning after you come back, it is tough.”
Scoring wasn’t a problem for Valpo. Shannon Robinson slammed a two-run homerun to left-center in the seventh, giving Valpo a 5-2 lead, ending the scoring for the day.
“Our team has been through a lot and we have battled all year playing some stiff competition. We are gearing up to the Independent Tournament next weekend. We are in the learning process. We feel good where we are at and we are excited for next week,” Bouman
The Jacks play a doubleheader at Minnesota on April 24, then return home to play a doubleheader versus Augustana on April 25. They then head to Atlanta to play in the Independent Tournament April 27-29. The season ends at home versus Dakota State in a doubleheader on May 1 and then St. Cloud State on May 3.