Conference Championship Central

VALPARAISO, Ind. -- Valparaiso sophomore Angie Doerffler delivered walk-off hits in both games to lift the Crusaders to the program’s first Horizon League softball title on Saturday afternoon. The title is the first for Valparaiso in any sport since the university joined the Horizon League.

After delivering Valparaiso into a winner-take-all championship game, it was Doerffler who sent the Crusaders into the NCAA tournament, crushing the first pitch she saw in the seventh inning to the right field fence, driving in Amanda Wisniewski to give the Crusaders their second 2-1 walk-off win of the afternoon.

Doerffler’s drive came with two outs in the seventh off of Loyola starter Amanda Ciran (5-13). The relay from right field was late as Wisniewski easily scored, and for the second time in the day, the Crusaders rushed out of the dugout in a raucous celebration.

Just a half inning earlier, it was Loyola (26-23) who was celebrating, after a rally tied the game in the top of the seventh. With one out, Lauren Arceneaux tripled to the wall in right, sliding in just ahead of the relay to third. Lauren Zaworski then went the other way to right to drive in Arceneaux and knot the game.

Loyola’s run came just after Valparaiso initially put itself in position to win, as the Batter of the Championship Jordan Rutkowski lined an offering from Ciran past the outstretched glove of Loyola third baseman Lauren Moore and down the left field line, driving in pinch-runner Hayley Bridwell.

Runs were at a premium throughout the afternoon, as Ciran and Sam McGee nearly went pitch-for-pitch, each escaping jams in an effort to keep the game scoreless. After Zaworski’s game-tying single, Valparaiso turned to Game 1 starter Alex Lagesse (22-9), who tossed two-thirds of an inning to collect her second win of the day.

Earlier in the day, Doerffler picked the right time for a career afternoon, going 3 for 4 with the game-tying and game-winner RBI as Valparaiso rallied late to post a 2-1 victory against Loyola in Game 1.

With Valparaiso (41-17) down to its final six outs against Loyola (26-22) and League Pitcher of the Year Brittany Gardner, Doerffler delivered, driving the second pitch of the sixth inning over the fence in the left-field corner to knot the game at 1-1. The home run was the first of Doerffler’s career.

The sophomore came through in the bottom of the ninth. Following singles from Lindsey Norway and Amanda Wisniewski, Doerffler drove an offering from Gardner (18-10) to the gap in left-center, easily scoring Norway and setting off a celebration at Valparaiso Softball Park.

Alex Lagesse (21-9) matched Gardner pitch-for-pitch, with the right-hander turning in 9.0 innings and scattering seven hits while striking out five.

Loyola picked up its lone run in the second inning, as Olivia Bell singled and scored on Brooke Andresen’s double to left center. For most of the game, it appeared as if Gardner would make the slim lead hold up, but Doerffler’s drive changed the complexion of the game.

In the late innings, it was Valparaiso seemingly mounting a threat in each frame. Andresen’s throw to the plate cutting down pinch-runner Amanda Korb in the eighth inning to force the ninth where Doerffler’s drive eluded a diving Andresen to set up the winner-take-all game.

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