The Youngstown State softball team fell behind by seven runs after four innings and rallied to get within one, but the Penguins’ comeback attempt fell short in an 11-9 loss to Valparaiso in the Horizon League championship game at Flames Field.
Valparaiso defeated YSU 2-1 earlier Saturday to force the winner-take-all finale.
The sixth-seeded Penguins (19-27) were playing in their first Horizon League championship game since winning the tournament in 2006. The Crusaders (34-25) won their second straight league title.
Senior Caroline Krombach, who was named the tournament’s top defensive player, threw out runners at third base and home plate from right field. Juniors Casey Crozier, Courtney Ewing, Haley Knight and Samantha Snodgrass were all named to the all-tournament team.
In the fifth, Snodgrass and Ewing led off the frame with back-to-back singles then Rumph doubled home Snodgrass to cut the deficit to 9-3. Ewing scored on Castiglione line-out double play and senior Sarah Gabel belted a solo home run to cut the lead down to 9-5.
After the Crusaders added a run in the bottom of the fifth, the Penguin plated four in the top of the sixth to get within one, 10-9. Singles by Sarah Ingalls and Krombach and a walk to Knight loaded the bases to start the frame.
Two straight singles by Ewing and Rumph scored pinch-runner Shayla DeCapita and Krombach, and Castiglione’s two-run single plated pinch-runner Samantha Troxell and Ewing.
Trailing 2-0, Ingalls hit a two-out double in the top of the second that scored Castiglione with the Penguins’ first run.
Rumph tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the third with a triple to center field.
The Crusaders went up 4-2 in the bottom half of the third on Jessica Bouchard’s two-run home run and then 9-2 by scoring five in the bottom of the fourth.
A two-run home run by Valparaiso’s Joylynn Ichiyama in the top of the first inning off Crozier was all the offense the Crusaders needed in the first game.
Crozier, who scattered seven hits, held the Crusaders scoreless the rest of the way and had five strikeouts.
Valparaiso’s Taylor Weissenhofer pitched a four-hitter with four strikeouts to pick up her 19th win of the season.
Snodgrass, who had two hits, belted a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to cut the deficit to 2-1, but the Penguins left the tying run stranded in the bottom of the seventh.