Mutka: Tourney MVP Doerffler inspires Valparaiso
By John Mutka Post-Tribune senior correspondent May 13, 2012 11:28PM
Valparaiso Crusader team captains hold the 2012 Horizon Leauge Championship trophy to show the fans after defeating the Loyola Ramblers 2-1 in Valparaiso on May 12, 2012. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Up next for vU
Live on ESPNU on Sunday night, the Valparaiso softball team got to see where they would be headed for the NCAA tournament. The Crusaders will play in the Louisville Regional to face the host Cardinals on Friday in the double-elimnation format. Louisville (53-3) beat Notre Dame to win the Big East title. Kentucky will face Michigan in the other game of the four-team regional.
Updated: June 15, 2012 10:49AM
Watching Valparaiso University earn its first NCAA softball bid over the weekend was a Rocky Mountain high.
While St. Joseph’s Pumas were advancing to the Division II World Series a few hundred miles away, the Crusaders were just beginning their postseason journey.
The Horizon League trip started Thursday with a flat 6-1 loss to Butler. It climaxed five victories later, the Crusaders bouncing from limbo to euphoria with identical 2-1 decisions over Loyola.
Just two weeks after dropping a doubleheader to these Ramblers, they turned to Angie Doerffler for inspiration. The sophomore shortstop delivered big-time, earning tournament MVP honors with walk-off hits in both games.
Leaping into the arms of coach Jordan Stevens for a hug after doubling to score Amanda Wisniewski, she touched off a joyous celebration.
If a Hollywood hack tried to script this nobody would bite. But Doerffler turned fantasy into reality with four hits, driving in three of the four runs VU needed to advance.
Shaking off an ice-water dunking while the Crusaders rejoiced, Stevens seemed overwhelmed by VU’s 42nd victory. He needed time to grasp the fairy-tale finish and wrap himself around Doerffler’s heroics, which included her first home run in 59 starts.
“Heck of a tournament for her,” he said while the softball family gathered with assistant coaches Leslie Malerich and KC Boldt in the infield for a shuffling team dance to music. “She had great swings all day long and I’m happy for her that they ended up with three big hits.”
Runs were scarce, particularly for Valparaiso’s opponents who were shut out twice in the last five games. Seniors Alex Lagesse and Sam McGee allowed just four runs in 37 innings.
Malerich, who set numerous pitching records as a Florida State All-American after leading Merrillville High School to a state title, talked about their complimentary styles.
“Alex spins the ball a lot more and Sam throws hard,” Malerich said. “Shaleigh (reliever Jansen) has an extra pitch. They did a great job of trusting their defense.”
Valparaiso’s defense is built around Joylyn Ichiyama-Drewry, who had an extra reason to enjoy the weekend, being the only mother on the team.
The senior third baseman, one of five Crusaders to receive all tournament honors, was the defensive MVP at a position she never played before in college until this season. Two years ago nearly all of Ichiyama-Drewry’s starts were at second base. Last spring she was redshirted, taking time off to give birth to a son.
While she was vacuuming grounders in the four-day meet, her energetic son, Jayden, distracted fans with tireless good humor and perpetual motion in the bleachers behind VU’s dugout.
“He just turned one a month ago,” she said. Asked about babysitters, she replied, “all 18 of them.”
Presumably Joylyn’s support system included her teammates.
Doerffler summed up the week in a few sentences, morphing teammates into family.
“We knew this was was going to be a day we would remember,” she said. “We always believed. I can’t say enough about my teammates. They’re the best group of girls I ever played with.”
Tournament footnotes: Doerffler and Ichiyama-Drewry had company on the all-tournament team with three teammates honored. They were:
Catcher Jordan Rutkowski, who was 9-for-15 with three doubles, her 14th home run and five RBI. Rutkowski was walked twice and hit by a pitch three times. The tournament batting champion had a .700 on-base percentage.
Outfielder Amanda Wisniewski, who homered in back-to-back games, including a 3-2 elimination of Butler. She was 2-for-3 with three RBI against Youngstown State.
Lagesse, who was the winning pitcher in successive extra-inning games with Butler and Loyola, giving up just three runs in 17 innings of work. In the championship game, she relieved McGee, who shut out the Ramblers until the seventh inning. Lagesse snuffed out the threat by retiring Steve Bradich on a grounder to short and striking out Olivia Bell. Valparaiso presented her with her 22nd victory on Doerffler’s game-winning double in the seventh.
Sight-seeing: Less than three hours before their semifinal game, Loyola’s entire team invaded Panera’s in Valparaiso. The pick-two lunch must have agreed with them since they routed Butler 9-1 soon afterward.
Tip of the hat: Loyola’s Brittany Gardner, who was named the Horizon League pitcher of the year, lived up to the raves. The 18-game winner no-hit Green Bay, followed up with a complete game in a 9-1 rout of Butler, then dueled Lagesse into the ninth inning before bowing 2-1.
On hosting: Lights are required when hosting a Horizon League softball tournament, which needed four sets to blanket VU’s field. Three were provided by Interstate Rentals in Valparaiso, but finding the fourth for right field required some searching.
“They had to be a minimum of 60 feet high and that was hard to find,” athletic director Mark LaBarbera said.
Adam Klos, assistant director of athletics for event management, solved the problem.
“We found a professional lighting company in Hillsdale, Michigan,” he said. “It’s the same one that was involved with Brown Field (football lighting).”
Lighting cost roughly $14,000, which turned out to be an expensive luxury. Valparaiso’s game with UIC Thursday, which was scheduled for 6:30 p.m., was the only time lights were needed.
LaBarbera praised Klos and Stephen Anthony for their behind-the-scenes efforts. Preparation for hosting began nearly a month ago.