The Valparaiso University softball team closed out its 11-day, 10-game road trip with two wins on Sunday from the Leon Smith Classic in Oxford, Ala., avenging a loss earlier this year to Eastern Illinois with a 3-2 victory and finishing tournament play with a 5-2 win over Alabama State. Senior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) delivered her third multi-homer game of the season in the nightcap.
How It Happened – Eastern Illinois
- Valpo threatened in each of its first two turns at the plate, loading the bases with one out in the first and getting a runner to third with one out in the second. But the Crusaders were unable to find the final 60 feet in either inning.
- Valpo would eventually open the scoring in the third inning. Senior Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) started the frame with a single, and a single from Stewart and a subsequent EIU error put both runners in scoring position with nobody out.
- Both Calombaris and Stewart would go on to score, thanks to a rarity – back-to-back sacrifice flies from junior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) and sophomore Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) – to make it 2-0 Crusaders.
- EIU cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth on a one-out RBI single from Maria Devito. But Devito was struck down trying to advance to second on the throw home to clear the bases.
- The Crusaders received a key insurance run in the top of the sixth, as junior Lanie Callaghan (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) connected on a two-out solo home run – her second homer in as many days – to push the lead to 3-1.
- EIU threatened to tie or even potentially win the game in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with one out on an error and two singles. But junior Ashlyn Montgomery (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) got the most crucial groundball of all, a grounder to second where sophomore Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) started a 4-3 double play to close out the victory.
How It Happened – Alabama State
- A pair of newcomers to this year’s squad teamed up to give the Crusaders the lead in the second inning. Lawton led off with a bunt single and stole second base before coming around to score on a single from freshman Hannah Dybalski (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon).
- Valpo added to its lead in the third as Calombaris led off with a single and Stewart followed with a homer to right field.
- The same combo provided the final two Crusader runs of the game the very next inning. Calombaris singled for the second straight inning and stole second before Stewart launched her second round-tripper of the game, this time to left-center to make it 5-0 Crusaders.
- Alabama State’s Kendall Core registered a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut Valpo’s lead to 5-2.
- The Hornets looked poised to cut further into the lead in the fifth, loading the bases with one out, but a flyout to Callaghan turned into a double play, as the junior threw to second to double up an ASU runner to keep the advantage at 5-2.
- Alabama State put two on with one out in the sixth before Montgomery entered in the circle and recorded the final five outs in succession to finish the tournament on a winning note.
Inside the Games
- Montgomery earned the win in the opener with a complete-game six-hitter versus EIU to improve to 4-1 on the season. The junior then picked up her third career save in the win over Alabama State.
- Junior Mackenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) picked up the win against Alabama State as she tossed the first four innings, improving to 5-3 this year.
- Freshman Gabby Magnifico (Elmhurst, Ill./York) went 2-for-3 in the win over EIU, while Trepanier and Stewart each reached base twice as well.
- Stewart matched Valpo’s single-game record for home runs with her third multi-homer game of the season in the victory against Alabama State.
- Calombaris and Dybalski each tallied multiple hits in the win over the Hornets as well, while Lawton reached base three times with a hit and two walks.
- Valpo earned the pair of wins on Sunday despite stranding 15 runners on base over the two games and going a combined 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position. On the flip side, the Crusader pitching held their two opponents to 2-for-14 at the plate with runners in scoring position.
The Crusaders (10-4) will return home for a few days before taking on their final tournament challenge of the regular season, heading to Iowa City, Iowa for the Hawkeye Invitational. The tournament opens for Valpo on Friday, March 17 with games versus South Dakota State and Creighton.