ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Central Michigan Softball’s season came to a close, falling to Valparaiso 7-4. The Chippewas cut into the Crusader lead late, but early errors proved to be too much for CMU to overcome.
Sophomore Trista Cox led the Chippewas at the plate, going 4-4 with three RBI, two doubles and a homerun. Junior Cory DeLamielleure went 1-4 with a homerun. Central Michigan combined for 10 total team hits. Senior Kara Dornbos pitched a complete game, giving up nine hits and four earned runs.
"I believe that you win championships with defense and you win games with offense," said Head Coach Margo Jonker. "We made miscues on defense which gave them opportunities, so not a good game for us, and you always want to end the season having a great game, and that wasn't really the case today."
Amanda Wisniewski led the Crusaders, going 3-4 with a homerun and three RBIs. Kaitlyn Ranieri went 2-5 and scored one run. Taylor Weissenhofer pitched seven innings in the circle, allowing ten hits and struck out nine batters.
Entering the fourth with a 1-0 lead, Valparaiso (35-26, 11-9 Horizon) reached first with another walk off of Dornbos. Amanda Wisniewski moved the runner over and beat the play to first to put two on base for Ranieri. Ranieri loaded the bases for the second time in the game with a single. Wallace sent a grounder to sophomore CarolAnn Sexauer, who tried to make the throw home but was just out of the reach of DeLamielleure. Two runs came into score for the Crusaders and left two runners in scoring position with one out. Another run came into to score on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Joylyn Ichiyama. Up 4-0 with one out, Sexauer made a great effort, lying out in left foul territory for the second out of the inning. Bouchard loaded the bases yet again, reaching on an error at short. Cox stranded the runners, making the putout on a liner off the bat of Tarah McShane.
DeLamielleure led off the bottom of the fourth with her seventh home run of season, moving her into a tie for sixth in program history for single-season home runs. Cox followed with a stand-up double off the wall in center field. She moved over to third on a single up the middle by Sexauer. Freshman Taylor Waters, in to pinch run for Sexauer, stole second to put two runners in scoring position with no out. Freshman Katelyn Rentschler popped up down the third baseline for the Chippewas’ (33-20, 18-7 MAC) first out. After senior Summer Knoop struck out for the second out, senior Macy Merchant ended the inning with a grounder hit to second.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Cox brought Central Michigan closer with her fifth homerun of the season, sending the solo-shot over the left field wall. Trailing 4-2, Sexauer struck out swinging for the first out, bringing Rentschler to the plate. Rentschler hit a high, fly ball to right-center that was misplayed, allowing her to reach second base safely. Knoop attempted to lay down a sac-bunt, but the ball popped off her bat back to the pitcher. Merchant came up for her fourth at-bat, flying out to left to conclude the inning.
Heading into the seventh with a 4-2 lead, Valpo led off with a base runner reaching on an error at first. The first out of the inning came on Dornbos’ second strikeout of the game. Angie Doerffler reached for the first time on the day, hitting a liner off the glove of Cox that redirected to Sexauer. With two on and one out, Wisniewski hit a three-shot homerun on the first pitch to put Valpo up 7-2.
Freshman Evelyn Lorimer led off in the bottom of the seventh pinch-hitting for junior Raechel Zahrn. After Lorimer struck out on three pitches, Horan reached on a single hit to short. Senior Brogan Darwin moved junior Brittney Horan with her second single of the day, and then both runners advanced into scoring position with DeLamielleure at the plate. With two out, Cox scored both runners with her second double of the day, before Sexauer struck out to end the game.
The Crusaders struck first in the top of the first inning. Kimberlin Wallace represented the Crusaders first base runner, looking at ball four from Dornbos. After fouling off several pitches, Ichiyama knocked a single just past Sexauer to advance the runner. With two on and no out, Jessie Marinec grounded to Horan at second, beating out the throw. Horan hesitated on the play, allowing for the lead runner to come home with all runners safe on the play. Up 1-0, Valparaiso put runners on second and third on a wild pitch from Dornbos, but was unable to add to the lead.
led off for the Central Michigan in the bottom of the first, trailing 1-0, with a walk to reach first. Zahrn followed with a bunt toward third to move Merchant to second but could not beat out the throw to first. Horan stepped to the plate with one out and Merchant on second. She grounded out to short, holding the runner at second. Darwin concluded the inning for the Chippewas with the firs strike out of the game.
With the top of the order due up for Central Michigan in the fourth, Merchant hit a high, shallow ball to center field for a leadoff double. Weissenhofer held Merchant at second though, striking out three straight Chippewa batters.
Central Michigan’s season comes to a close with its first Mid-American Conference Tournament title since 2002 and its first appearance in the NCAA Regional since 2003. 33 wins marks the highest win total since the 2002 season, when the Chippewas went 39-16.