UL Softball Preview: Valparaiso Crusaders
The 20th-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns softball team will take on the Valparaiso Crusaders in their second game of the 2014 Ragin' Cajuns Invitational on Friday at 7 o'clock at Lamson Park.
Valparaiso, will come into the tournament at 2-2, after defeating Seton Hall, 24-1, and UMass Lowell, 5-2, while falling to IPFW, 6-0, and Campbell, 3-0, in the Hampton Inn Invitational last weekend in Buies Creek, North Carolina.
The Crusaders return six starters from a team that went 34-25 a season ago, along with a 11-9 record in the Horizon League, which was good enough for third place.
Catcher Janelle Bouchard leads the Valparaiso offense. As a freshman in 2013, Bouchard hit a .333 with seven home runs and 53 RBI's, and she's off to a good start this season, with one homer and a team-leading 7 RBI's.
Junior first baseman Tarah McShane currently leads the Crusaders in hitting, at a .500, along with a homer and three RBI's.
Valparaiso has hit five homers in their first four games, but only hit 33 a season ago. They also haven't even attempted a stolen base this year, after swiping only 15 last year.
So, while they don't beat you down with speed, or kill you with speed, what the Crusaders do well offensively is work the count, make contact, move the runners with the short game, and come up with clutch hits.
Pitching-wise, Valparaiso returns their top two pitchers from last year, in sophomore left-hander Taylor Weissenhofer, who went 20-11 with a 2.29 ERA., and sophomore right-hander Sierra Pico, who went 11-9 with a 3.66 ERA.
The Crusaders bring an overall team ERA. of 3.08 into the weekend, but that will improve, as they have two experienced pitchers that have given them quality innings in the past.
Defensively, Valparaiso is really solid. In 2013, they committed only 40 errors the entire season, compared to 90 for the opposition. This season, they've committed only one error in five games.
They simply make you beat them, because they won't beat themselves.
The Crusaders aren't the caliber of Michigan, Texas, or Oklahoma, but they may be one of the more underrated teams that will visit Lamson Park this year.
Valparaiso will play twice on Friday, against Central Arkansas at 3 o'clock at Teurlings Catholic High School, and at 7 o'clock against Louisiana, twice more on Saturday, at 9 am against Central Arkansas and at 7 pm against Boston College, and one on Sunday, at 11:30 am against Memphis.
The Louisiana schedule for the tournament is as follows:
Friday: vs. Michigan—4:30 pm vs. Valparaiso–7 pm
Saturday: vs. Michigan–2 pm vs. Memphis–4:30 pm
Sunday: vs. Central Arkansas–2 pm
You can hear all the Louisiana games on Sports Radio ESPN 1420 & espn1420.com, beginning with the pre-game show 15 minutes prior to first-pitch.