It was a script seniors could hardly dream of for the final home game of their careers, as longtime neighbors and classmates Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) and Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) scored the tying and winning runs on a pinch-hit single from freshman Hannah Dybalski (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) in the sixth inning of Valpo’s 2-1 victory to close out the regular season Sunday afternoon against Wright State. With the win, the Crusaders clinched the third seed in the Horizon League Championship this week and will open tournament play against sixth-seeded Oakland Wednesday afternoon.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders looked to strike early, loading the bases on three walks in the bottom of the first, but left all three runners on base.
- Valpo starting pitcher Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) retired the first nine Wright State batters she faced in order, but the Raiders claimed the lead in the top of the fourth on a run-scoring double by Macey Gunther.
- Grossmann pitched around a one-out double in the fifth to keep the deficit at just a single run.
- The Raiders pitched around Stewart most of the weekend and intentionally walked her for the third time on Sunday to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Calombaris followed with a first-pitch single through the left side to put two on with none out.
- After a pair of outs, sophomore Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) watched four straight pitches for a walk to load the bases.
- Dybalski was tabbed to pinch-hit in the clutch situation and quickly found herself down 0-2 in the count. Undeterred, she worked the count full – fouling off a trio of two-strike pitches – before knocking a single back through the middle to plate Stewart and Calombaris and give Valpo the lead.
- Handed the lead, Grossmann set down the side on just seven pitches in the seventh to secure the win, but the final half-inning at the Valpo Softball Complex provided one final highlight, as Calombaris snared a rocket line drive for the second out of the frame.
Inside the Game
- Valpo entered the day in sixth place in the Horizon League standings, but with the win over the Raiders to finish out the series sweep and other results around the league, the Crusaders leapt up to a tie for third at the conclusion of play.
- Valpo finished Horizon League play 14-10, the program’s best record within league play since the 2012 season.
- Even with Wright State wanting nothing to do with Stewart on Sunday, the senior still continued to make history. She finished out the regular season atop the Horizon League in eight different offensive categories, including all three Triple Crown categories – batting average (.395), home runs (15) and RBIs (46).
- Stewart was intentionally walked in all three of her plate appearances in the finale, tying for 11th in NCAA history for most intentional free passes in a single game and just one shy of the record of four.
- Stewart reached base in all 11 of her plate appearances on the weekend (3-for-3, eight walks) and enters the Horizon League Championship already tied for seventh in NCAA history for most consecutive plate appearances reaching base.
- Lawton joined Stewart in reaching base multiple times on Sunday, picking up a double in addition to her key walk in the sixth inning.
- Grossmann tossed a gem in the circle to improve to 19-10 on the year, giving up just a pair of base hits and one walk in the complete-game win. The two-hitter required just 81 pitches to get through.
- The win was also Grossmann’s 11th in Horizon League play, setting a new program record for most league wins by a single pitcher.
The Crusaders (27-21, 14-10 Horizon) open up league tournament play on Wednesday at UIC against sixth-seeded Oakland at 2:30 p.m. The league tournament is slated to run through Saturday, with every game broadcast on ESPN3. Live stats for every game will be available via ValpoAthletics.com as well.