May 9, 2014
Valparaiso 5, UIC 4 (8)
DAYTON, Ohio – The UIC softball team’s season came to an end on Friday as it suffered a heartbreaking 5-4 (8) loss to Valparaiso in the Horizon League Championship at the WSU Softball Field. With the game tied at 3-3 through seven, the Flames went into the eighth and took the 4-3 lead off a RBI double from Courtney Heeley, but the Crusaders came away with the win in the bottom of the inning following a walk-off two-run single.
UIC went 16-28 during the season, won eight of its 18 conference games and went 2-2 in the tournament. The Flames will graduate its four seniors in Jacki Fletcher, Heeley, Natalie Hernandez and Jenna Marsalli.
“We are proud of our team for the effort they gave throughout the entire tournament,” head coach Michelle Venturella said. “We want to thank the seniors and their parents and families for all of their support over the last four years. They will be missed.”
For the second-consecutive game, Hernandez led off with a solo home run for her third of the tournament and 12th of the season, marking a career high. Paige Peterson followed Hernandez in the first inning with her first-of-three singles of the game, but was caught stealing to end the frame.
Valparaiso’s Kaitlyn Ranieri answered Hernandez’s homer with one of her own in the bottom of the first to tie the game. The Crusaders would then go ahead 2-1 in the third after Ranieri walked, advanced to second on a sac bunt and came around to score on a single by Tarah McShane.
In the fifth, UIC reclaimed its lead after Heeley reached on a Valpo error and moved to second on a single by Peterson. With two outs, Fletcher hit her second triple of the season to center to plate both runners. Valparaiso tied it again in the bottom of the inning after it put two runners on with no outs and allowed one to score on a RBI single by Janelle Bouchard.
Both teams went scoreless through the sixth and seventh to take the game to extra innings. Erica Hampton singled with one out in the eighth before Eleni Polites came in to pinch run and steal second. Heeley stepped to the plate with two outs and hit her 10th double of the season to left center, scoring Polites to go up 4-3.
With the Flames looking to hold the lead, the Crusaders went into the bottom of the frame and led off with back-to-back singles. Two-consecutive outs followed, but Amanda Wisniewski singled to load the bases before McShane singled to left to bring in two for the win.
Bridget Boyle started her second game of the tournament and went 4.0 innings with one strikeout and three earned runs before Alice Fitzpatrick came in to finish the game, with 3.2 innings pitched, and strike out three batters.