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Kyleigh Payne was an offensive juggernaut in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference this season and the Purdue Northwest senior has been recognized for those efforts twice in the last week.

Payne was named the GLIAC Softball Player of the Year on Friday after leading the conference in batting average (.440), hits (62), triples (nine), on-base percentage (.549) and slugging percentage (.851) in all regular-season games. The first baseman also ranked second in the league in home runs (10) and was third overall in RBIs (39).

Payne, a native of Bourbonnais, Illinois, also was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division II All-Midwest Region First Team on Wednesday.

“This is another deserving recognition for Kyleigh, who had such an amazing senior season,” Purdue Northwest softball coach Niki Stansell said in a release. “She is the type of player who works so hard and puts in so much blood, sweat and tears into bettering herself. I’m so happy for her and glad to see that all of her efforts are paying off.”

Payne led the Pride (26-26) to a fourth-place finish in the GLIAC this season, the school’s first year in the conference. Purdue Northwest split a pair of games on the opening day of the conference tournament Friday and then fell victim to a late rally from Saginaw Valley to lose 2-1 in the double-elimination tournament Saturday.

Payne is now eligible for the NFCA Division II All-American team. All-American honors will be announced later this month at the NCAA Division II National Championship Banquet in Salem, Virginia.

Crusaders ready for Valley tourney: The Valparaiso softball team closed out the regular season with a surge last week and heads into this weekend’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament with a ton of momentum.

Picked to finish ninth in their first year in the Valley, the Crusaders won seven of their last eight conference games to finish in fourth place and earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa. The Crusaders (26-23, 12-13) will await the winner of fifth-seeded Indiana State and eighth-seeded Bradley in the single-elimination tournament. Should Valparaiso advance Friday morning, it will take on top-seeded Drake on Friday afternoon.

The Crusaders swept a three-game series against Bradley late last month with those victories coming on the heels of two straight wins over Loyola. Valparaiso took two out of three at Illinois State over the weekend. The recent strong play helped the Crusaders climb out of last place, a spot they held just two weekends ago.

Valparaiso’s resurgence is largely attributed to the stellar pitching of junior Kelsie Packard, who transferred from Rock Valley junior college (Illinois). Packard is 6-3 in conference games this season with a 1.78 ERA and 78 strikeouts compared to just 22 walks in 67 innings of work. Jaymee Lawton, a junior, leads the Crusaders with 11 home runs in all games while junior Carly Trepanier paces Valparaiso with a .289 batting average and a team-high 46 hits in all games.

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