Rain overnight and throughout the morning looked to put the kibosh on playing Wednesday afternoon, but the Valparaiso softball program put in the necessary work to get the field playable, and then taking advantage of a window of opportunity, put in work on the field during the game to take down Green Bay by a 4-0 score and earn the series victory over the Phoenix.
How It Happened
- Once again batting as the visiting team due to the series site swap, the Crusaders took the lead for good right away in the top of the first. Sophomore Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) and senior Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) drew back-to-back walks to lead off the game.
- With two outs, Valpo ran a double steal with sophomore Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) showing bunt to draw in the third baseman. The Phoenix catcher threw down to third in an attempt to catch Trepanier stealing, but with nobody covering the bag, the throw sailed down the left-field line and allowed Trepanier to score easily for an early 1-0 lead.
- Green Bay looked to even the score in the bottom of the first, as after a leadoff walk to Hailee Frey, a double to the fence in left-center advanced Frey to third, and she then attempted to score as the throw home bounced to the backstop. But senior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) recovered quickly and flipped to junior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) covering the plate for the tag to keep the Phoenix off the board.
- A leadoff double down the left-field line by freshman Gabby Magnifico (Elmhurst, Ill./York) turned into an insurance run in the third, as Trepanier moved Magnifico over to third with a sacrifice bunt and Calombaris sent a fly ball to medium-deep left-center, more than deep enough to plate Magnifico as a sacrifice fly.
- With the rain starting to fall two innings later, it was like déjà vu for Calombaris, as for the second straight day, the senior sent a fly ball deep over the left-field fence for a homer – this one a two-run shot in the top of the fifth which pushed the Valpo advantage to 4-0.
- Meanwhile, Grossmann was keeping the Phoenix at bay. After a 1-2-3 inning, Green Bay wouldn’t go down in order the rest of the game, but was not able to complete a circuit around the bases either. The Phoenix left one in scoring position in the third and two on in the fourth. The fifth inning saw Green Bay with runners on second and third with one away, but a pop-up to short and a grounder kept the lead at 4-0.
- Down by four into the bottom of the seventh, Green Bay attempted to rally. A one-out hit by pitch put its first runner on, and after a groundout, another hit batter kept the inning alive. A single back through the middle loaded the bases and brought the potential tying run to the plate, but Grossmann induced a grounder to short to close out the victory and the shutout.
Inside the Game
- Following the series move, Wednesday’s game was originally slated for noon. With rain throughout the night and into the morning, however, the start time got moved back a pair of times to its eventual 2:05 p.m. first pitch.
- Dating back to the start of the Iowa tournament, 11 of Valpo’s last 15 games have been adjusted due to weather and/or field conditions. The Crusaders have yet to have a game canceled this spring, however.
- Grossmann tossed the first complete-game shutout by a Crusader pitcher this spring, as Valpo posted its first shutout since the season opener at North Carolina A&T. The junior scattered seven hits while recording 14 of her outs via groundout – including seven assists at shortstop from Lawton.
- Grossmann improved to 12-5 with Wednesday’s shutout and has now won each of her last five starts – four of which have been complete-game performances.
- Valpo left just three runners on base in Wednesday’s win, while the Phoenix stranded 10 on base. The Crusaders were 2-for-5 with runners in scoring position versus just a 1-for-8 mark for Green Bay.
- Calombaris led the way offensively, finishing the day a perfect 1-for-1 with three RBIs as she also walked and connected on the sacrifice fly in addition to her home run. For the series, Calombaris went 5-for-7 with four runs scored, four RBIs, a double and two homers – doubling her season total entering the week.
- Magnifico and Trepanier each reached base twice as well with a base hit and a walk.
- Stewart drew a walk in her second plate appearance of the game to extend her on-base streak to 29 consecutive games.
Thoughts From Head Coach Kate Stake
“I think sometimes you have to take a chance to make a chance, and that’s what we did in the first inning. We had struggled a bit hitting against Rossmann in the first game we faced her yesterday, and we just wanted to capitalize on the early opportunity we had. Carly’s a very good baserunner, and after a couple of uncharacteristic strikeouts in the middle of our lineup, we were just trying to find a way to manufacture a run to get the game going.”
“Jorgi has made some good adjustments this season with her swing, but more importantly, she's just locked in and very confident at the plate right now. She’s picking good pitches to hit and her timing is great, which is the reason she's been able to put the ball out of the park. Jorgi’s truly filling the shoes of what a senior leader should be.”
“Kenzie threw another very good game today. She’s had a really good stretch recently and been very reliable. Kenzie understands she has a good defense behind her, and she’s going to get us balls our defense can make plays on.”
“Over the last couple days, it's been a challenge for our players with multiple trips to the field for tarp dumps and field work - late at night, early in the morning, and around our warmup time as we're trying to prepare to play as well. It's physically demanding work that adds a level of adversity when we're dealing with sketchy weather when playing at home. That said, the team really bought in to doing whatever was necessary to have the opportunity to play today, and did it with a great level of positivity and ownership. No question the work required to get the field ready to play on a rough weather day took something out of them, but once that first pitch came, they were energized and focused and played hard through all seven innings - because they had put in that work, they saw the chance to play today as an opportunity, and took advantage.”
The Crusaders (19-10, 6-3 Horizon) have their bye within league play this weekend and will be away from action until a mid-week series next week against UIC at the Valpo Softball Complex. The three-game set opens on Tuesday afternoon, April 11, with a single game scheduled for 3 p.m. first pitch.