Contributions up and down the lineup and strong pitching performances were the perfect recipe for success Saturday afternoon for the Valparaiso University softball team, as the Crusaders came away with a road sweep of Missouri State in Springfield, 4-1 and 3-2.
How It Happened – Game One
- Sophomore Gabby Magnifico (Elmhurst, Ill./York) opened the scoring in the first game of the day, driving a 1-0 pitch over the left-center wall for a leadoff homer in the second – her third round-tripper of the year.
- Missouri State evened the score in its half of the second courtesy of an RBI single from Madison Jones, but that would be the Bears’ lone tally of the game.
- Junior Kelsie Packard (Beloit, Wis./Turner [Rock Valley College]) helped keep Missouri State from further damage with strong pitches when she needed them most. Packard stranded a pair of Bear baserunners in each of the first three innings, five of whom were left in scoring position.
- The game turned into a pitchers’ duel, as 12 straight Crusaders were retired in order from the second through the sixth innings – a stretch snapped by a two-out single in the sixth from junior Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno). Meanwhile, Packard faced the minimum in both the fifth and sixth innings as the game went into the seventh inning tied at 1-1.
- Valpo would take over in the seventh inning. Magnifico was walked on four straight pitches to lead off the frame and moved up to second on a passed ball before a sacrifice bunt from senior Lanie Callaghan (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) moved Magnifico within 60 feet of the go-ahead run.
- Senior Jasmine Ramirez (Litchfield Park, Ariz./Millennium) stepped in and worked the count to 3-1 before knocking a sharply-hit single through the left side of the infield for the eventual game-winning RBI.
- Sophomore Morgan Matalin (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) gave the Crusaders some insurance, following Ramirez’s RBI base knock by launching a home run down the left-field line – her first of the season and second of her career – to push the lead to 4-1.
- A two-out infield single was the only blemish against Packard in the bottom of the seventh as she closed out the complete-game win.
How It Happened – Game Two
- Valpo struck immediately in the top of the first to take the early lead. Junior Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) drew a one-out walk and moved over to second on a passed ball, giving Trepanier an RBI opportunity she took advantage of with a fly-ball double over the left fielder’s head.
- A wild pitch proved fortuitous for the Crusaders, as Trepanier was on third base following the off-target offering. Magnifico lifted a fly ball in foul territory down the right-field line, and when the right fielder grabbed it for the second out, Trepanier tagged and scored easily to make it 2-0.
- Missouri State cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the first with an unearned tally, but senior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) induced a grounder with the potential tying run on third to keep it a 2-1 ballgame.
- A key defensive play kept it a one-run lead in the bottom of the third, as with a runner on third and one out, Trepanier gobbled up an grounder and came home with the throw, where senior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) applied the tag on the runner at the plate. Later in the frame, with two in scoring position and two on, Grossmann got a grounder back to the circle to maintain the 2-1 lead.
- The Bears tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out solo homer from Darby Joerling. MSU threatened to potentially take the lead following the homer with a runner on first and two outs, but Grossmann had the wherewithal on a line shot back to the circle which nailed her to regroup and make the toss to first for the final out of the inning.
- Valpo regained the lead for good just two batters into the fifth. Fifth-year senior Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) led off the inning with a triple over the center fielder’s head, and Lawton hit a liner to medium-deep right field which was easily deep enough to bring Lawson home and make it 3-2 Crusaders.
- Sophomore Emily Richardson (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest) entered in the circle for Valpo to start the bottom of the fifth and picked up right where Grossmann left off, retiring the Bears in order in both the fifth and sixth innings.
- Valpo was unable to score despite having two on with two outs in the seventh, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Missouri State worked a one-out walk in their final at-bat, but Richardson got consecutive fly balls to center to close out the doubleheader sweep.
Inside the Games
- The softball program picked up its first conference victories as members of the Missouri Valley Conference on Saturday. The Crusaders did so against a Missouri State team which swept three games from preseason favorite Illinois State on opening weekend.
- Valpo pitching limited the Bears to three runs over Saturday’s two games after Missouri State scored 19 runs in the three wins over Illinois State last weekend, thanks in large part to holding the Bears to 2-of-15 hitting with runners in scoring position over the course of the doubleheader.
- Packard picked up her first win at the Division I level in the opener with the first complete game of her Crusader career. She scattered seven hits over the seven innings while walking just one and striking out four.
- Meanwhile, Grossmann earned her 50th collegiate win in the nightcap -29 of which have come in her two seasons at Valpo. The senior gave up just one earned run in her four innings of work, and has now surrendered two earned runs or fewer in 10 of her 11 starts this season.
- Richardson continued her strong work out of the bullpen this year with three innings of hitless softball. The sophomore earned her third save of the season, tied for seventh-most in a single season in program history.
- Matalin led the Crusader offense with three hits on the day, connecting on the homer in game one before recording a single and a double in the nightcap.
- Magnifico reached in two of her three plate appearances in the opener and scored a pair of runs. The nightcap saw Lawton reach base three times (1-1, 2 BB) and Trepanier reach twice (1-2, BB) as well.
Thoughts From Head Coach Kate Stake
“We didn’t play especially well last weekend to open conference, and that was frustrating, of course, as I think we all felt and believed we were prepared for that series. But the positive is it exposed some things that we were able to focus on specifically this week in order to sharpen back up, individually and as a team. I think we played more of our Valpo-brand of ball today...with it or on it. Everyone had fun today. Yes, winning helps that, but fun also helps winning, and I think we played looser and therefore better today.”
“Morgan had a great day in the nine spot. She knows her role in each at bat, she understands her strengths, and she’s a competitor. Jasmine is similar. So having those two at the bottom of the lineup really generates some great momentum as we roll it back over to the top. And the lineup one through nine all produced for us today — when we are producing in all spots of the lineup, we can be hard to throw against.”
“Kelsie set the tone of the first game right from the start, finding ways to step up and make pitches when the team needed her to. She did a good job keeping the Missouri State hitters off balance and feeding our defense.”
“Carly made every play we needed her to defensively today at second base, and her play coming to the plate in the third inning of game two was huge. It can be challenging as a middle infielder to handle a sharply-hit grounder when the infield is pulled in – she handled it flawlessly, and Jenna made a nice tag at the plate on the other end of the play. That was a key moment in the game, helping to stifle any possible momentum for Missouri State and prevent them from putting together a big inning.”
Valpo (14-11, 2-3 MVC) looks for a series sweep on Sunday morning in Springfield, as an 11 a.m. first pitch awaits the Crusaders for the series finale. The game can be seen live on The Valley on ESPN, while live stats are available as well.