A solo homer from freshman Gabby Magnifico (Elmhurst, Ill./York) proved to be the lone run the Valparaiso University softball team would need in its opener at the Horizon League Championship Wednesday afternoon, as after waiting out a lengthy pre-game rain delay, the Crusaders got a one-hit effort in the circle by junior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) to take down Oakland by a 1-0 final in a rain-shortened five-inning affair. With the win, the Crusaders advance to play Youngstown State Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m.
How It Happened
- The game was slated to begin originally at 2:30 p.m., but first pitch would not arrive until 5:34 p.m. due to consistent rain throughout the afternoon.
- Once the game got underway, Grossmann was stellar in the circle for the Crusaders. The junior surrendered just two baserunners – a leadoff error in the third, and a leadoff single in the fifth – but no Golden Grizzly runner got past second base.
- Meanwhile, Valpo got all the offense it would need off Magnifico’s bat in the second. The rookie swung at the first offering from Oakland starter Erin Kownacki and lifted it deep to left field for a solo homer to put the Crusaders ahead.
- Valpo looked to add to its lead in the third, as sophomore Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) doubled with one out and senior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) followed with a two-out walk, but both runners were left on base.
- The one run would stand up, however. As junior Jasmine Ramirez (Litchfield Park, Ariz./Millennium) began her at-bat in the bottom of the fifth, a deluge of rain hit UIC’s Flames Field and forced play to be stopped. After discussion, it was ruled an official game, giving the Crusaders the victory.
Inside the Game
- The win over the Golden Grizzlies improved Valpo’s record in the Horizon League Championship since the start of the 2008 season to 25-14, including a 19-6 record since the start of the 2012 tournament.
- Valpo has started each of the last two Horizon League Championships with a victory over a team which had swept the Crusaders during the regular season. Valpo claimed its opener against Youngstown State last year after falling victim to the Penguins three times earlier.
- Magnifico’s homer was her fifth of the season, and second of the year off of Kownacki, who was a Second Team All-Horizon League honoree.
- Stewart reached base via walk in both of her plate appearances Wednesday, extending her streak of consecutive plate appearances reaching base to 13 – tied for the fourth-best stretch in NCAA history.
- Grossmann improved to 20-10 on the year with the one-hit shutout, becoming just the third pitcher in program history to win 20 games in a single season.
Thoughts From Head Coach Kate Stake
“Overall, I was happy with the way we came out on day one, especially given the delays. It’s not easy to start and stop warming up, to be in and out of the rain, and to still maintain focus. Our team was able to both be focused and have fun, and once the game started, we were very locked in and loose at the same time.”
“I think we approached Kownacki better than we had in the regular season. She beat us all three games during the year, but we were prepared for her and I think our players were confident with their approaches against her today. I was pleased with our discipline for the most part, and Gabby came up with the big hit we needed.”
“Kenzie was about as good as she’s been all year for us. She’s at her best when she’s rolling ground balls and letting the defense work behind her, and almost every ball put into play against her today was on the ground. I felt like our defense played really well behind her today as well.”
The Crusaders (28-21) look to continue advancing within the winner’s bracket of the league tournament on Thursday afternoon, as third-seeded Valpo takes on second-seeded Youngstown State. The start time for the game has been pushed back to 5 p.m., as Wednesday’s scheduled third game of the day had to be moved to Thursday due to weather. 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.