Senior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) enjoyed a Senior Day to remember at the Valpo Softball Complex on Saturday, breaking Valpo’s single-season home runs and walks records and ending game two of the doubleheader sweep of Wright State with a two-run homer which closed out a 9-1 victory. Freshman Morgan Matalin (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) delivered a walk-off victory in eight innings in the opener with her first career homer, giving the Crusaders a 4-3 win. Prior to the twinbill, the Crusaders honored their senior trio on Senior Day: Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East), Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) and Stewart.
How It Happened – Game One
- The Crusaders turned over the lineup in back-to-back innings to score the first two runs of the game. In the third, Matalin reached second on a dropped fly ball to lead off the frame and immediately scored on a single into left-center from sophomore Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno).
- The next inning saw sophomore Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) pick up a one-out single and move up to second on a bunt single from Matalin before Trepanier lined a single the other way to make it a 2-0 game.
- Wright State cut the deficit in half with an unearned run in the sixth, but Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) recorded a strikeout with the potential tying run on third to keep the 2-1 lead. Valpo had a chance to add to the lead in the bottom of the sixth with two in scoring position and two outs, but was robbed of insurance runs on a hard line-out to third.
- Two singles and a hit batter loaded the bases with one out for the Raiders in the seventh, and on an infield grounder, the throw home was judged to pull Stewart’s foot off of home, tying the game. WSU added the go-ahead run on a single, but a grounder and a pop-up kept the Crusader deficit at one run heading into the bottom of the seventh.
- As they’ve done all season long, the Crusaders proved resilient when trailing late. Stewart led off the bottom of the seventh by lacing a first-pitch single into left, and two batters later, junior Lanie Callaghan (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) drove a double to the right-center gap to tie the game.
- Grossmann worked around a two-out hit batter in the top of the eighth, setting the stage for Matalin’s heroics. The freshman sent a 1-0 pitch the other way over the right-field fence to set off the celebration at home plate with the walk-off win.
How It Happened – Game Two
- It took Wright State just two batters into the second game to claim the lead, as Honnah Susor led off the game with a triple and came home on a run-scoring groundout.
- But Valpo needed just three batters to tie the contest, as Stewart worked the count full and fouled off a pair of pitches before driving an offering to her liking deep to left-center for her record-tying 14th homer of the year.
- After the round-tripper, Wright State chose to walk Stewart intentionally each of her next two times at the plate, and the Crusaders made the Raiders pay both times.
- A pair of freshmen teamed up to give Valpo the lead in the third, as Matalin led off with another base hit and came around to score on a single from classmate Gabby Magnifico (Elmhurst, Ill./York).
- Wright State then intentionally walked Stewart to put two on with one out, and two batters later, Callaghan drove in both runners with a base hit to push the lead to 4-1.
- With runners on first and second with two out in the fourth, another intentional free pass to Stewart loaded the bases, and this time it was her neighbor and classmate who came through. Calombaris lined the first pitch she saw to the right-center gap, clearing the bases with a three-run double to make it a 7-1 game.
- And as if scripted beforehand, Stewart put the proverbial cherry on top of the Senior Day sweep with her record-breaking home run – a no-doubt shot to right for her 15th homer of the year to close out the run-rule victory.
Inside the Games
- The senior trio of Calombaris, Lawson and Stewart have now earned 84 victories over their four years in a Valpo uniform, including the run to the 2016 Horizon League Championship and the subsequent NCAA Tournament berth.
- Valpo is now a perfect 5-0 on Senior Day over the last three seasons.
- The pair of wins over the Raiders on Friday secured the sixth series win out of eight Horizon League series this season for Valpo, matching the most series wins in a single league campaign since joining the league prior to the 2008 season. Valpo’s 2012 team also claimed six series victories.
- Stewart enjoyed a perfect day at the plate to celebrate her Senior Day, going 3-for-3 with two home runs, five runs scored, three RBIs and five walks over the course of the doubleheader.
- Stewart’s record-setting home run which ended the nightcap victory was her 15th of the season, surpassing the previous mark of 14 – set by Jordan Rutkowski in 2012.
- Meanwhile, the intentional walk Stewart was issued in the fourth inning of game two was her 41st free pass of the season. The senior broke Kaitlyn Ranieri’s record of 40 walks, set during the 2015 season.
- In fact, Stewart’s four plate appearances in the nightcap broke down as follows: tied single-season home runs record, tied single-season walks record, broke single-season walks record, broke single-season home runs record.
- Meanwhile, Calombaris picked up a pair of Senior Day hits as well, including the three-run double in game two – her team-high 10th double of the season.
- Defensively, Calombaris recorded five assists at third base on Saturday, giving her 124 assists on the season – tied for sixth-most in a single season in program history.
- Matalin enjoyed perhaps her best day at the plate as a Crusader in her rookie campaign, combining to go 3-for-5 with four runs scored over the course of the sweep.
- Trepanier went 2-for-3 with two RBIs at the top of the order in the victory in game one, while Callaghan was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Magnifico finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored in the nightcap.
- The Crusaders received a pair of complete-game performances in the circle for the wins as well. Grossmann went the distance in the opener, giving up just one earned run and five hits in eight innings of work to improve to 18-10 on the season – the fourth-most wins in a single season in program history.
- The junior also owns a 10-4 record within Horizon League play and now shares the record for most wins by a Crusader pitcher in a single season within league play. Andrea Zappia (2008) and Alex Lagesse (2012) both finished their respective Horizon League campaigns with 10 wins as well.
- Junior Ashlyn Montgomery (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) enjoyed a sterling effort on the rubber in the nightcap. After surrendering the initial Raider run just two batters into the game, Montgomery kept WSU off the board the rest of the way, giving up just three hits total and not walking a single hitter.
Thoughts From Head Coach Kate Stake
“It was great to see the way the team rallied behind our seniors and played for them today – I think we played better because we had them in our heart.”
“It was awesome to watch both Sam and Jorgi step up their games today, particularly in that second game. Sam comes up and gets us going with a homer; later in the game, they walk Sam so they don’t have to face her and load the bases, and Jorgi comes through and knocks in the runs. Then in Sam’s last at-bat, they let her hit and she hits a walk-off and sets a record all in one. They just combined to have a huge game, and it’s so fun to see that happen as part of their Senior Day.”
“Sam’s obviously our top hitter, and everybody knows it. But Jorgi is a threat behind her, no question, and then following Jorgi is Lanie, whose power is a weapon in that spot. So putting Sam on base with intentional walks doesn't mean an easy out to follow – the batters behind her have confidence in their ability to get on base, and it puts other teams in a tough spot when Sam comes up with runners on.”
“(Graduate assistant Taylor Williams) said it best after the game – Morgan was successful in her first at-bat because she played to our standard. We run balls out, even if it looks like they’re going to be outs, Morgan did that, ran out a fly ball, ended up on second base and ended up scoring. Good things happen when you play the game the right way, and you saw that when she came up in the eighth inning and was able to capitalize with her first career homer.”
“Ashlyn threw great for us in game two. She got a lot of ground balls and fed the defense behind her – she did exactly what she's best at in the circle. We fielded well behind Ashlyn and brought great energy and presence defensively in the second game, and I think that energy carried over into our offense.”
The Crusaders (26-21, 13-10 Horizon) look to close out the regular season on a winning note on Sunday as they host Wright State for the series finale at noon at the Valpo Softball Complex. Depending on the results of Sunday’s league games, Valpo can still be seeded anywhere from third through sixth for the upcoming Horizon League Championship.