The fourth-seeded Valparaiso University softball team advanced to the semifinals of the 2018 MVC Tournament on Friday in Des Moines, Iowa with a 3-2 victory over fifth-seeded Indiana State in the Crusaders’ tournament opener. With a berth in Saturday’s championship game on the line Friday evening in the semifinal, Valpo fell victim to a no-hitter from MVC Pitcher of the Year Nicole Newman as Drake claimed a 2-0 win over the Crusaders.
How It Happened – Indiana State
- Both squads had first-inning doubles – Valpo’s a leadoff two-bagger from junior Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) – go for naught as both runners were stranded on second.
- Indiana State struck first in the top of the third after loading the bases with nobody out. Junior Kelsie Packard (Beloit, Wis./Turner [Rock Valley College]) registered a strikeout for the first out before a sacrifice fly plated the Sycamores’ first run. A liner to left kept it a 1-0 game through three innings.
- The Sycamores looked poised to perhaps add to their lead in the top of the fifth, putting a pair of runners in scoring position with just one out. But Packard recorded a three-pitch strikeout for the second out, and freshman Addi Burke (Mesquite, Texas/John Horn) snagged a liner at third to keep ISU from scoring.
- Valpo then did its damage in the bottom of the fifth, all with two outs. Trepanier stepped up with two out and nobody on and drove a 1-0 pitch the other way over the wall in left to tie the game at 1-1.
- A pair of rookies kept the line moving, as Burke was hit by a pitch and Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) turned on a pitch and doubled down the left-field line to put two in scoring position. Following a Sycamore pitching change, senior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) watched five pitches go by as the count worked full before dropping a two-run single into left-center to give the Crusaders a 3-1 lead.
- Indiana State got a runner to third with two outs in the sixth, but Packard induced a foul-out to left to keep it a 3-1 game. The Sycamores would cut the lead in half in the seventh with two outs on a run-scoring single, but with the potential tying run on first, senior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) entered in relief and got a grounder to short to force the lead runner and close out the victory.
How It Happened – Drake
- Facing the conference’s Pitcher of the Year in Nicole Newman, the Crusaders were set down in order in each of the first two innings.
- Grossmann pitched out of jams in each of the first two innings, stranding a pair of Bulldog baserunners on base courtesy of a grounder back to the circle in the first and a grounder to first to end the second.
- Drake got on the board in the bottom of the third with a two-out RBI single from Kailee Smith.
- The Bulldogs’ first two batters reached in the fourth, prompting the call to the bullpen for Packard. Following a sacrifice bunt, Mandi Roemmich lifted a sacrifice fly into center to make it a 2-0 game, but a strikeout kept the deficit at just two runs.
- Junior Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) watched four straight balls for a walk with one out in the fifth, but could not advance past first.
- Stauffenberg helped keep it a 2-0 ballgame with her work behind the plate in the late innings, throwing out a Drake runner attempting to steal in both the fifth and sixth innings.
- With rally caps abundant in the Crusader dugout, Burke led off the top of the seventh with a tremendous battle at the plate, fouling off a trio of two-strike pitches before drawing a full-count walk. But the Crusaders were unable to get the potential tying run on base, as the next three batters were retired in order as Newman completed the no-hitter.
Inside the Games
- Packard picked up the victory in the win over Indiana State, surrendering just two runs over 6.2 innings in the start while striking out six. Grossmann recorded her first save of the season by entering for the final out.
- Trepanier went 2-for-3 against the Sycamores, both of which were extra-base hits. It was her team-best 11th multi-hit game of the year. Her leadoff double in the first was her 10th two-bagger of the season, a new single-season best for the junior.
- Five Crusaders in all combined for the six hits against ISU, as the third through sixth batters in the lineup all chipped in one hit apiece.
- Valpo limited the Sycamores to just 1-for-10 hitting with runners in scoring position in the victory.
- The win marked the 10th consecutive season that the Crusaders have won at least one game in conference postseason action.
- Grossmann started the game against the Bulldogs and tossed three-plus innings before Packard entered in relief. The junior threw three shutout innings of one-hit ball, striking out four.
Inside the Season
- Valpo closed the season with a 27-24 overall record – its second straight season finishing above .500.
- The Crusaders finished just one game off of their final record from last season, despite making the jump in conferences this year from the Horizon League to the Missouri Valley Conference.
- Valpo placed fourth in the MVC regular season and finished tied for third at the MVC Tournament after being picked ninth in the preseason.
- Five different Crusader players moved into Valpo’s single-season top-10 charts in different categories:
- Trepanier – tied for second in triples (5)
- Lawton – tied for fourth in home runs (11)
- Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) – fifth in stolen bases (24)
- Grossmann – fifth in earned run average (1.75) – the best by a Crusader pitcher since 1990
- Emily Richardson (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest) – tied for sixth in saves (4)
- In addition, Anderson posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage, but was three chances shy of the minimum to qualify for the single-season chart.
- The Crusader pitching staff combined for the fourth-most strikeouts by a Valpo team in program history (281) and tied for fifth in total saves (6).
Farewell to the Seniors
- Friday’s nightcap against Drake marked the final game in a Crusader uniform for eight Valpo seniors:
- Brenna Boyle (St. John, Ind./Andrean) – 33 career hits, 21 runs scored, 21 RBIs, .991 fielding percentage (third in program history)
- Lanie Callaghan (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) – 58 career runs scored, 57 RBIs, 16 HRs (11th in program history)
- Grossmann – 33 wins at Valpo (seventh in program history), 2.48 career ERA (sixth), .240 opponents’ batting average (fourth), 208 strikeouts (10th)
- Lawson – 221 career games played (sixth in program history), 181 hits (seventh), 683 at-bats (third), 117 runs scored (sixth), 69 stolen bases (third)
- Ashlyn Montgomery (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) – 93 career appearances in the circle (10th in program history), 16 wins
- Stephanie Moreno (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley) – 102 career hits, 71 runs scored, 45 RBIs
- Jasmine Ramirez (Litchfield Park, Ariz./Millennium) – 45 career hits, 20 runs scored, 17 RBIs, .991 fielding percentage (second in program history)
- Stauffenberg – 87 career hits, 55 RBIs, 31 runs scored, .986 fielding percentage (fifth in program history)
- The group of six four-year seniors (Boyle, Callaghan, Montgomery, Moreno, Ramirez, Stauffenberg) earned 89 wins over the last four seasons.
- Lawson was part of 113 victories over her five years as a Crusader, while Grossmann helped Valpo to 55 wins over the last two seasons.
Thoughts From Head Coach Kate Stake
“Indiana State came out full-throttle against us, took some big swings, and made some big defensive plays - but we matched their intensity and stayed poised. Our team had total belief we were going to get that early run back and take back over the game. Carly's discipline to take that first pitch a ball off the plate and make [Indiana State pitcher Kylie] Stober bring it back over was what led to that home run. Carly really poured herself out from start to finish today; I couldn't be happier with her fight and her belief.”
“It would have been easy to be satisfied with just tying the game in the fifth, especially with nobody on and two outs, but our freshmen weren’t satisfied with that. Addi and Brittany came up and made sure to keep the line moving to give us a chance to take the lead, and Jenna stepped up in a big spot and delivered a critical hit for us.”
“Pack got it done again. She fought hard on the mound and led us emotionally. And Kenzie was just nails coming in to finish out the game facing Peterson and inducing that ground ball. It was a great job by Kenzie, and it's so good that not only when a game is on the line, but also our season, our faith goes into a pitcher who's going to feed our defense to close it out.”
“Newman had our number again today, but I think our players made adjustments and battled and if the game were nine innings instead of seven and we had that extra time through the lineup, maybe it would be different. Regardless of outcome, I am proud of how hard they worked through their at-bats as the game progressed, and also by how they encouraged each other and learned from each other's at-bats. We didn't end up on the right side of the win/loss column in this one, but our team genuinely believed we could win until the final out of that game, and I think everyone there watching could sense that.”
“We were picked preseason to finish ninth, not even to make the tournament - we finished fourth in the regular season and made it to the semifinals of the conference tournament. It is not easy to learn nine new teams from an offensive or defensive standpoint. Everyone had to learn about us, but we had to learn everyone. It was a steep curve, and we took our licks, too, but I certainly think we proved we are not a team to be doubted again. I think we stood up well to the challenge of representing ourselves well in the Valley in year one.”
“This team, Team 36, has set the Valley bar. And if I have learned anything in my first year coaching in this conference, it’s that reaching and exceeding that bar is going to be a dogfight every single year. There is a razor-thin margin of error in this conference, and in order to be successful in it, you have to have both talent and heart. And we do.”
“We have eight remarkable people graduating from our program this year. As we continue our years into the Valley, I am reminded of a quote by Sir Isaac Newton: ‘If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.’ These eight are the giants of our adventure into the Valley. Our successes will be their successes, too, because of the foundation they've laid and will leave us with. I'm so proud of them, and so grateful they have left this program better than they found it.”