The Valparaiso University softball team picked up its first shutout win in Missouri Valley Conference play, as senior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) tossed a complete-game three-hitter in a 2-0 Crusader victory in the series opener with UNI Saturday afternoon at the Valpo Softball Complex.
How It Happened
- In each of the first four innings, UNI got a two-out baserunner – twice on infield singles, and once apiece on a walk and a hit batter. Three of those times, the runner was stranded at first. The best early Panther scoring chance came in the third, as Sammey Bunch singled, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error, but Grossmann induced a grounder back to the circle to keep her from scoring.
- Meanwhile, the Crusaders had strong scoring opportunities in both the third and fourth innings. In the third, senior Jasmine Ramirez (Litchfield Park, Ariz./Millennium) knocked a one-out single into center for Valpo’s first hit and moved to third on a double from sophomore Morgan Matalin (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) which was just out of the UNI right fielder’s reach. But a strikeout and a grounder ended that threat.
- The fourth saw junior Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) reach on a two-base error to start off the inning and move up to third on a successful sacrifice by senior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara). She would remain stranded there as well though, as the game entered the fifth inning scoreless.
- After their first 1-2-3 defensive inning of the game, the Crusaders broke through in the bottom of the fifth for the game’s lone runs. The frame started with Ramirez reaching on a dropped fly ball into shallow center, and Matalin knocked a first-pitch single back up the middle to put runners on the corners with nobody out.
- Following a groundout which moved Matalin over to second, fifth-year senior Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) watched five straight pitches go by to load the bases with a walk. Lawton then got Valpo on the board the hard way, getting hit by a 1-2 pitch to force home Ramirez with the game’s first run.
- With the Panthers’ middle infielders back, Stauffenberg followed with a grounder where the only play was at first, allowing Matalin to cross the plate with a key insurance run.
- Stauffenberg then came up with a big defensive play the next half-inning, throwing out UNI pinch-runner Olivia Brooks attempting to steal following a one-out single. Given a key slate on the basepaths, Grossmann then got a grounder to end the sixth inning and retired the Panthers in order in the seventh to close out the shutout.
Inside the Game
- Valpo is now 4-2 over its last six MVC games, all of which have come against teams projected to finish in the top half of the conference.
- The shutout was Valpo’s fourth of the season, and the team’s first since blanking UC Davis on March 10. It also marked the first solo shutout in the circle from Grossmann this year.
- Meanwhile, Saturday was just the second time UNI has been held scoreless this year – nationally-ranked Florida State is the only other team to blank the Panthers.
- Grossmann tossed the fourth complete-game shutout of her career to improve to 10-6 on the season, reaching double figures in wins for the second straight year. With 30 wins in a Crusader uniform, she is now tied with Erin Reiter (1990-93) for seventh-most in program history.
- Grossmann surrendered just three hits in the victory, the fewest allowed by Valpo since giving up three base knocks March 4 in a win over UNLV.
- The Crusader infield behind Grossmann was up to the task on Saturday, as 17 of the 21 outs Valpo recorded defensively were of the ground-ball variety (two fly-outs, one strikeout, one caught stealing). Five of the grounders went to Lawton at shortstop, four to freshman Addi Burke (Mesquite, Texas/John Horn) at third base, four back to Grossmann in the circle, three to junior Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) at second base and one to Ramirez at first base.
- Ramirez registered the putout on all 17 of the ground-ball outs and also completed the play on the strikeout to end the game, as Stauffenberg threw the dropped third strike down to first for the out. With 18 putouts, Ramirez matched her own Crusader record for putouts in a single game, set against UIC on April 12 last season – however, it took Ramirez nine innings in that game to register 18 putouts.
- The Crusaders needed just three hits offensively in the winning effort, the first time they’ve won a seven-inning game with three or fewer hits since their season-opening win to kick off the 2017 season against North Carolina A&T.
- Matalin continued to swing a hot bat, recording hits in both of her plate appearances on Saturday. She is now 5-for-7 over the Crusaders’ last three games and is hitting a team-best .421 in Valley action.
Thoughts From Head Coach Kate Stake
“Today was one of Kenzie’s best performances, neutralizing a very solid offensive team. Her only strikeout ended the game, but Kenzie’s best games don’t necessarily rely on strikeouts, but on feeding our defense. The infield took care of 18 outs behind her and our outfield had two nice reads on the balls that made it out there. It was a very good day all around on that side of the ball.”
“We had some great at-bats today – some which ended with positive outcomes, and some that didn’t. But regardless of outcome, those good at-bats continued to pass confidence as our hitters passed the bat, and I think our plate appearances continued to get stronger as the game went on.”
“I thought Jasmine and Morgan did a really nice job watching the hitters in front of them the first couple innings, so they were prepared right out of the gate in their first at-bats. Credit to them and on their teammates preceding them for that. Again, they showed they can provide momentum as we roll our lineup over, and that was the difference in the game the second time through the order today.”
Valpo (16-14, 4-5) closes out the series against UNI with a twinbill on Sunday afternoon beginning at noon at the Valpo Softball Complex. Both games will have live audio broadcasts on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), as well as live stats.