Down three runs entering the seventh inning, and still trailing down to its final strike? No problem Friday for the Valparaiso University softball team. Senior Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) tied the nightcap with Cleveland State with a two-out, two-strike base hit in the seventh, and classmate Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) delivered the game-winning blow with a homer in the eighth to give Valpo a 4-3 win and the doubleheader sweep. The Crusaders scored the first five runs en route to a 5-3 victory over the Vikings in the day’s opener.
How It Happened – Game One
- After a trio of scoreless innings both ways to open the game, the Crusaders busted things open with a crooked number in the top of the fourth. Sophomore Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) got things going with a one-out shot to the wall in right-center for a triple, and junior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) followed with a perfectly-executed squeeze bunt for a single which scored Lawton.
- Following a walk, freshman Gabby Magnifico (Elmhurst, Ill./York) drove the first pitch she saw to the wall in center for a run-scoring double. Fellow rookie Morgan Matalin (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) then lined a shot down the third-base line to score two more runs and give Valpo a 4-0 lead.
- The Crusaders added an insurance run to their side of the ledger in the sixth inning, as Matalin singled with one out and eventually came around to score on an RBI single from freshman Hannah Dybalski (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon).
- Junior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) cruised through the first five innings, allowing just a single runner to reach second base, but ran into trouble in the sixth. Mackenzie Joecken recorded a two-run double to cut Valpo’s lead to 5-2, and later in the frame, CSU had the bases loaded with two outs. But Grossmann induced a grounder to strand all three runners and maintain the three-run lead.
- Freshman Lindsay Zdroik (Elgin, Ill./St. Edward) entered in relief in the seventh inning to lock down the win. The Vikings made it a two-run game on a two-out RBI single from Hanna Breeden, but with the potential tying run at the plate, a fly-out closed out the Crusader victory.
How It Happened – Game Two
- Cleveland State struck first in the nightcap, scoring a pair of unearned runs on one hit and two Crusader errors in the third.
- The Vikings added another run in the fourth to push their lead to 3-0, but with the bases loaded and two outs, freshman Emily Richardson (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest) came out of the bullpen and got a grounder back to the circle to limit the damage in the frame to just the one run.
- The deficit was still three runs entering the seventh inning, as Valpo was unable to advance a runner beyond second base in the first six frames. But the Crusaders broke through in the top of the seventh. Stauffenberg led off the inning with a double to the track in center, and Magnifico followed with a two-bagger of her own just inside the left-field line to make it a 3-1 game.
- Two batters later, Matalin went the other way, sending a shot through the right side of the infield to plate Magnifico and cut the deficit to one run.
- After a groundout moved Matalin into scoring position, Calombaris fell behind in the count 1-2 and fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before finding the one that was to her liking, lining it into center field to score Matalin standing up and tie the game at 3-3.
- CSU put a runner on via walk with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Grossmann came in out of the bullpen and got a ground-out to force extra innings.
- After watching her classmate provide the heroics to tie the game in the seventh, Stewart delivered to lead off the eighth, crushing a 3-1 pitch off the tennis dome beyond the fence in right-center for her 10th home run of the season to give Valpo the lead.
- Grossmann set down the Vikings in order on two grounders and a strikeout to close out the win.
Inside the Games
- The win in the nightcap was the Crusaders’ third this year when trailing after six innings, a new single-season high dating back to 1999.
- Valpo picked up its first extra-inning victory of the season Friday.
- Eight different Crusaders combined for Valpo’s nine hits in the opener, with Matalin the only player with a multi-hit game. The freshman also tallied the first two RBIs of her career in the fourth inning of the opening win.
- Magnifico reached base twice in the opener as well, recording a hit and drawing a walk.
- Grossmann earned the victory in the day’s first six game with six strong innings, scattering four hits while striking out eight. Zdroik’s work in the seventh inning earned her the second save of her freshman year.
- Stewart posted a pair of hits in the nightcap win, while Magnifico and Matalin each reached twice on a base hit and a walk.
- Stewart’s home run in the eighth inning was her 10th of the year, tied for fifth-most in a single season at Valpo. She has now tallied 24 home runs as a Crusader, one shy of third place on Valpo’s career chart, while the solo blast also marked her 100th career RBI, tied for fifth in program history.
- Junior Ashlyn Montgomery (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) started the nightcap and went 3.2 innings, surrendering just one earned run. Richardson tossed three shutout innings and gave up a single hit, while Grossmann earned her second win of the day by picking up the final four outs in relief.
- With the pair of wins on Friday, Grossmann improves to 14-7 on the year. Her 14 victories are already tied for ninth-most in a single season in program history.
Thoughts From Head Coach Kate Stake
“I don’t love that we saved our offensive production for the seventh inning in the second game, but I do love that we’ve consistently shown that we don’t give up, regardless of the uphill battle in front of us. Jenna got us rolling and we generated some difficult-to-stop momentum from there. During the pitching change, “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” played over the speakers, and our dugout essentially became a mosh pit. I watched it back on video, and in addition to our dugout jumping all over the place, our batters on deck were as well. Our ability to pull out the game is a perfect example of “culture wins.” Everyone fed each other in that seventh inning with their energy. Not everyone stood in the box that inning, but everyone on our team contributed to the runs.”
“Jorgi and Sam both stepped up in back-to-back innings offensively, and both had strong days on the other side of the ball as well. They continue to be excellent senior leaders by example and influence.”
“Morgan had a nice day for herself. She’s not consistently been in the starting lineup, and it’s challenging to bounce back and forth between starting and not – I think she’s handled it well. She found ways to get on base today and looked eager and prepared for her chances.”
“Emily had the best performance of her young career today. I thought she had good command of her zone and worked well with Sam. I was also impressed with her poise in the circle. She took her opportunity and ran with it. I’m proud of her growth over this year.”
“Our pitching staff, as a whole, did a great job today, each handling whatever role they were given during the doubleheader. Monica strategized very well with our pitching personnel and called two very good games.”
“Beating any team three times is difficult. They’ve seen all our pitchers and we’ve seen theirs. Tomorrow isn’t so much about how we beat Cleveland State, as it is how we come out playing our best brand of ball. We had moments today, but we have the opportunity tomorrow – especially with our bats – to make adjustments and really challenge their defense.”
The Crusaders (21-13, 8-6 Horizon) look to close out the sweep of the Vikings at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday from Cleveland. The game can be seen live on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app, with links for the live video and live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.