The Valparaiso University softball team came out victorious twice on Tuesday afternoon in Chicago, Ill. in a key MVC doubleheader at Loyola, blanking the Ramblers for 14 innings in 3-0 and 5-0 wins. Junior Kelsie Packard (Beloit, Wis./Turner [Rock Valley College]) set a new career best with 11 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout in the opener, while senior Lanie Callaghan (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) delivered the big blow with her bat for a three-run homer in the fifth. In the nightcap, the Crusaders broke a one-run game open with four runs in the sixth inning.
How It Happened – Game One
- It was Loyola – batting as the visiting team since the game was originally scheduled to be played at Valpo - with a number of early scoring opportunities in the opener, but each time, the Crusaders kept the Ramblers off the board.
- The Ramblers loaded the bases with two outs in the second, but first baseman Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) got a glove on a liner to the right side and deflected it over to Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) at second base, who returned it to Anderson for the force to end the frame.
- Loyola had a pair of runners in scoring position with one out in the third, but a charging effort from Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) on a ball to shallow center forced the Ramblers’ runner on third to hold up as it dropped in for a single to load the bases. Packard then got a big second out via the strikeout and induced a grounder back to the circle for the third out without a run scoring.
- Loyola threatened again in the fourth with a two-out rally, putting runners on the corners with two outs, but again Packard recorded a key strikeout as the game remained scoreless.
- Valpo tallied just a pair of two-out hits in the first four innings, but strung together a trio of hits in the fifth for the only runs it would need. Junior Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) started things with a one-out bunt single, and senior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) lined an 0-2 pitch the other way to put two on.
- Callaghan then stepped in and put a big swing on the first pitch she saw, launching a no-doubt homer well over the left-field fence to give the Crusaders the 3-0 advantage.
- That was more than enough for Packard in the circle, as she retired 10 of the final 11 batters she faced to close out the shutout win.
How It Happened – Game Two
- Valpo had the first scoring opportunity in the second game, as Trepanier drew a leadoff walk to open the game and advanced to third on a pair of groundouts. But the junior was unable to complete the final 60 feet.
- The Crusader defense came up with a pair of double plays in the early innings to limit the Ramblers’ offense. After a leadoff single in the second, third baseman Addi Burke (Mesquite, Texas/John Horn) snagged a liner and doubled off the runner at first. Then in the third, another leadoff single was erased as Burke grabbed a grounder and went to second with it, where Trepanier quickly turned and went to first as Valpo turned two for the second straight inning.
- Valpo took the lead in the fourth, as with runners on first and second and two out, senior Stephanie Moreno (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley) knocked the first pitch she saw back up the middle for a run-scoring single.
- The Ramblers had a pair of runners on in the fourth via a single and a walk, but with two outs, Lawton grabbed a sharp liner just to her left for the final out of the inning to keep it a 1-0 game.
- Valpo broke the game open with a four-spot in the top of the sixth. Anderson lined a first-pitch double down the left-field line, and senior Jasmine Ramirez (Litchfield Park, Ariz./Millennium) followed with an infield single. Lawton then laid down her second bunt single of the inning, and when the throw to first sailed down the line, Anderson was able to trot home to make it 2-0 Crusaders.
- After a hit batter loaded the bases, sophomore Morgan Matalin (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) drove a full-count pitch into center field for a two-run double to push the lead to 4-0. Two batter later, Trepanier turned on the first pitch she faced and sent it through the right side of the infield, bringing home Moreno to make it 5-0. The Crusaders would cruise from there, as Loyola put just one runner on in each of the final two innings.
Inside the Games
- Tuesday marked the first time Valpo has swept a league doubleheader with a pair of shutouts since the Crusaders defeated Northern Kentucky, 2-0 and 8-0, on April 3, 2016.
- Loyola became Valpo’s second-most common opponent in program history on Tuesday, as the Crusaders and Ramblers have now met 65 times. Loyola had won five straight, including the meeting in Valpo last week, in the series before Tuesday’s pair of wins.
- The pair of wins moves the Crusaders right into the middle of a logjam in the MVC standings. The bottom half of the standings (positions six through 10) is separated by just one-half game, while just two games separate third place from 10th place.
- Packard continued her strong recent run of performances with her second shutout of the season and her first in MVC play. Striking out a career-best 11 hitters, she has now struck out six or more in each of her last six starts. Packard lowered her ERA in Valley play to 2.56, while MVC opponents are hitting just .220 off of her.
- Callaghan picked up hits in both of her at-bats in the opener, including the decisive home run in the fifth inning – her fifth home run of the season.
- Matalin recorded the Crusaders’ lone two-hit game in the nightcap, going 2-for-3 with the two-run double, as seven different Valpo players combined for the team’s eight hits.
- Lawton and Trepanier each reached twice in the second victory, while Moreno and Anderson both had base hits in both of Valpo’s wins.
- Senior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) started in the circle in the second game and threw 3.2 shutout innings, scattering a trio of hits. Richardson came out of the bullpen to earn the relief win to improve to 4-1 on the season, giving up just one hit in her 3.1 innings of work and striking out three.
Valpo (20-21, 7-12 MVC) returns home for its final conference home series this weekend, as the Crusaders host Bradley for three games. The series opens Saturday afternoon at noon at the Valpo Softball Complex, with Saturday serving as the Crusaders’ Senior Day.