It was a wild ride Sunday for the Valparaiso University softball team, as the Crusaders jumped out to a quick lead on Youngstown State before surrendering the lead in the top of the sixth, only to reclaim the advantage in the bottom half of the inning and then receive clutch relief work from freshman Lindsay Zdroik (Elgin, Ill./St. Edward) to close out a 6-5 victory which secured the series win over the Penguins.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in their first turn at-bat, scoring all three runs with two outs. A YSU error allowed sophomore Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno), who led off the inning with a base hit, to score. Junior Jasmine Ramirez (Litchfield Park, Ariz./Millennium) then drilled a double to the left-field fence to plate two more runners and make it 3-0.
- The Penguins scored an unearned tally in the top of the second, which was answered by one swing of the bat from senior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) in the bottom of the third. Stewart stepped in with one out and drilled a no-doubt homer to straightaway center – her eighth of the year – to restore the three-run edge.
- YSU chipped away at the lead with two runs in the fourth, but left the bases loaded in that frame. The Penguins then evened the score at 4-4 on a Sarah Dowd solo homer in the fifth, and a run-scoring infield single in the top of the sixth put YSU on top, 5-4.
- Trailing for the first time all day, the Crusaders rallied with the game-deciding runs in the bottom of the sixth. Freshman Addison Pixley (Osceola, Ind./Penn) re-entered the lineup and singled to lead off the frame.
- Following a sacrifice bunt, Trepanier lined a single into center field and then took an unguarded second base on the throw home, giving Valpo two in scoring position with one out. Two batters later, Stewart made contact right back through the circle for a base knock, enough to score both Pixley and Trepanier to make it 6-5 Valpo.
- The Crusaders weren’t out of the woods yet, though, as YSU put runners on the corners with one out in the seventh. The call to the bullpen came for Zdroik, and the rookie delivered, striking out each of the last two hitters of the game swinging to close out the victory.
Inside the Game
- The Crusaders have now won each of their first two Horizon League series this season, both times winning the third game after splitting the first two.
- Sunday’s win was Valpo’s third of the season coming from behind in its final at-bat for the win. Each of the last two weekends saw the Crusaders rally in the seventh inning for a victory.
- Stewart led the way for Valpo at the plate, going deep for the eighth time this year and driving in the game-winning runs in the sixth. The senior continued her program-record streak of reaching base in every game this season [now 26] and has now driven in 31 runs already this year.
- Trepanier reached base in three of her four plate appearances, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a hit by pitch. On the weekend, the sophomore reached base in nine of her 12 trips to the plate.
- Pixley, Ramirez, sophomore Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) and junior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) all reached base twice with a hit and a walk on Sunday. Stauffenberg also tallied her first career stolen base.
- Junior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) earned her third win in as many starts this week, throwing the first 6.1 innings before being relieved by Zdroik. Grossmann is now 10-5 on the year, while Zdroik earned her first career save.
Thoughts From Head Coach Kate Stake
“It was really a player-led effort in the huddle heading into the bottom of the sixth – players just reminding each other to have fun and be loose, and I think that’s what they did. You can recognize the potential pressure of that situation, but our players were able to re-frame it and view the at-bats as opportunities.”
“Tatum Christy (Youngstown State’s nine-hitter, due up with first and third and one out in the seventh) had obviously found success yesterday off of Ashlyn, and then was having a really good game today batting against Kenzie. (Pitching coach) Monica (Wright) said that if Christy came up, she wanted Lindsay out of the bullpen. Monica knows our pitching staff better than anybody else and really understands each pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses, and it was the right call in the right situation today.”
“Heads-up baserunning by Carly played a big part in the win. To be aware enough after picking up a key hit to take an open second base gave us two runners in scoring position, and then she got a great jump on Sam’s hit and did well to score on a ball that barely left the infield.”
“Kenzie did really well for us, working hard this weekend in throwing back-to-back games versus a pretty potent offense. Today was more of a battle, but I thought she did a really good job of bearing down and getting key outs in a couple tough situations to help us keep momentum.”
“I think any scouting report on us would include the fact that you can’t ever fall asleep against us – that we won’t give up until the final out. You can certainly win games with character, and I think that showed for us today.”
The Crusaders (17-9, 4-2 Horizon) remain at home after having their series against Green Bay moved from the Phoenix home field to the Valpo Softball Complex. The three-game league set will begin with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Tuesday. Live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.