Softball sweeps Valparaiso in a doubleheader without ace pitcher


Sophomore infielder Rachel Vieira passes the ball to second base during the game against Bowling Green on March 24 at Margo Jonker Stadium.

In its first nonconference game in a few weeks, the Central Michigan softball team headed to Indiana for a doubleheader against Valparaiso on Tuesday afternoon.

Playing outside their conference didn't shake the Chippewas on any aspect of the games.

CMU swept the Crusaders, winning game one 6-0 and 8-0 in game two, hitting three total home runs on the day courtesy of sophomore second baseman Rachel Vieira and sophomore first baseman Erika Underwood.

For the first time all season, the six-time Mid-American pitcher of the week Rachael Knapp didn't pitch in a doubleheader — but the Chippewas didn't suffer.

Hanna Warren, Laura Vaccaro, and Taylor Weaver combined to throw all 14 innings, allowing just three hits and zero runs on the day.

Head coach Margo Jonker said it wasn't only the pitchers that impressed her today.

“The battery, which is our pitching, was impressive today so I want to give credit to them,” Jonker said. “In reality though, the defense played outstanding behind them today, not allowing some hard hit balls to touch the ground.”

The sweep moved CMU (29-12 overall, 13-4 MAC) a full game ahead of Ball State (27-20, 11-4), in the MAC West Division standings, who did not play on Wednesday.

The Chippewas didn't waste anytime getting the scoring started in game one, scoring two runs in the first inning.

After a pair of singles to start the inning from sophomore center fielder Allison Curtis and junior left fielder Lacy Tolfree, CMU was able to hit both of them in to score the opening runs of the game.

Vieira and designated player Sydney Heath were credited with the runs batted in.

In the bottom of the second inning, Warren walked back-to-back batters to put runners on first and second base with only one out, forming an opportunity for Valpo.

However, senior infielder Taylor Lewallen ended the threat by stepping on third base and proceeding to toss it across the diamond to complete the double-play and end the second inning.

CMU didn't waste time to get back on the scoring trail, and Vieira did it by drilling a solo home run down the left field line in the top of the third inning, extending the Chippewa lead to 3-0.

The next few innings went by with no scoring for either side, but in the top of the seventh inning CMU really got to the Crusaders freshman pitcher Lindsay Zdroik.

Heath singled again to center field and bagged two more runs batted in for herself to total three on the day, and pushed CMU to a 6-0 lead.

Warren came back out to finish the game strong, and did so by retiring Valpo in order, to finish her complete game and earn her ninth win of the season.

In what may have been her best performance of the season, Warren only allowed two hits while striking out five and walking three.

Playing shortstop for the afternoon, sophomore Kayla Noch had a solid game at the plate, going 3-for-4 that were all singles. Heath went 2-for-4 while driving in three runs, and Vieira went 1-for-3 with a walk, had one run batted in and scored two herself.

In the second game it was Vaccaro who got the call, and picked up right where her teammate Warren left off. The sophomore didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, and only gave up one hit and no runs through five innings of work to earn her second win of the season.   

The Chippewas once again started the scoring for the contest, as Heath continued to drive runs in on the day with another single that scored Curtis to give CMU an early 1-0 lead.

It was then Vieira for the second time on the afternoon crushing a home run over the left field wall giving CMU the 4-0 lead.

Underwood would double later in the third inning to bring home another run, and CMU was already starting the route early with a 5-0 advantage.

When it started to pour, it didn't stop for CMU.

Curtis hit a double off the top of the right field wall, and it scored Tolfree from second base to extend the Chippewa lead to 7-0.

Then to put the icing on the cake in the seventh inning, Underwood went yard for the fourth time this season, and gave CMU a 8-0 lead.

Curtis had a solid day at the plate, going 3-for-4, while knocking in a pair of runs and scoring three of her own.

Junior pitcher Taylor Weaver would then come in to close out the game for the final two innings, allowing no hits and retiring all six batters she faced in order.

Jonker said moving forward, wins like today show what this team is really built of.

“I had a fan come up to me today and say, ‘You guys have a great pitching staff, and we didn't even face your number one did we?’ and I told her no,” Jonker said. “It shows that we have players on this team that can step up and compete at anytime.”

CMU will head back to Mount Pleasant for a three-game weekend set against Northern Illinois. The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. from Margo Jonker Stadium.