The Valparaiso University softball team improved to 3-0 on the season with a pair of wins at the Aggie Invitational in Greensboro, N.C. on Saturday, taking down UMBC, 5-4, and host North Carolina A&T, 7-2. The Crusaders combined for seven home runs over the two victories, including two in each game from senior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East).
How It Happened – UMBC
- Valpo took the lead in its first turn at bat, batting as the designated home team. Sophomore Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) tripled with one out. Two batters later, Stewart stepped in and delivered an 0-2 home run to give the Crusaders a 2-0 lead.
- The Retrievers evened the game in the top of the fourth courtesy of a pair of unearned runs, but Valpo responded in the bottom half of the frame. Junior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) led off the inning with a triple and eventually scored on a Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) sacrifice fly.
- The Crusaders added what would prove to be a pair of key insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. Stewart connected on a two-out solo homer – her second round-tripper of the game – and Valpo added another run as Stauffenberg’s RBI single plated Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) to push the lead to 5-2.
- UMBC answered with two runs of its own in the top of the sixth to cut the advantage to 5-4. Junior Mackenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) entered the circle with a runner on second and two outs and induced a groundout to maintain the one-run lead.
- A one-out single in the seventh put the potential tying run on base for UMBC, but Stewart caught the runner trying to steal second to help secure the win.
How It Happened – North Carolina A&T
- The Crusaders would connect for five home runs in the victory over the Aggies, starting with a leadoff home run from junior Jasmine Ramirez (Litchfield Park, Ariz./Millennium) in the top of the second.
- Valpo added another run in the third as Stewart went deep with two outs.
- Ramirez added a double to her stat line to lead off the fourth inning, and two batters later, freshman Gabby Magnifico (Elmhurst, Ill./York) delivered her first career home run to push the lead to 4-0.
- Grossmann, making her first start in the circle as a Crusader, retired the first nine batters she faced. She faced trouble in the bottom of the fourth as a leadoff single advanced to third with nobody out, but induced a groundout and recorded two strikeouts to keep the Aggies off the board.
- North Carolina A&T scored a single run apiece in the fifth and sixth innings to cut Valpo’s advantage to 4-2.
- The Crusaders put the game away with three more runs in the seventh. Trepanier led off the frame with a homer – the third of her career – and following an infield single from freshman Hannah Dybalski (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon), Stewart recorded her second home run of the game and fourth of the day to cap the scoring.
Inside the Games
- Stewart posted back-to-back multi-HR games after entering the day with no more than one round-tripper in a single game in her career.
- Stewart finished the day 4-for-6 with a walk, four runs scored and six RBIs.
- Trepanier also registered multiple hits in both victories, while Stauffenberg picked up two hits versus UMBC and Ramirez tallied a pair of hits against North Carolina A&T.
- Magnifico’s home run versus the Aggies came in her first career official at-bat, as she finished the game 1-for-1 with a walk and a hit by pitch.
- Junior Ashlyn Montgomery (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) earned the win in the circle against UMBC, pitching the first four innings and not surrendering an earned run to improve to 2-0. Grossmann picked up her second save in as many relief appearances as she registered the final four outs.
- Grossmann then received the starting assignment against the Aggies and was stellar, throwing a complete-game five-hitter while striking out 11 batters to earn her first win in a Valpo uniform.
- The pair of wins improve the Crusaders’ record to 3-0, the team’s best start to a season since the 2002 campaign.
Valpo concludes play at the Aggie Invitational with two more games on Sunday, as the Crusaders take on Howard at 8 a.m. CT and Appalachian State at 10 a.m. CT.