“Rule 76: No excuses, play like a champion.” The mantra from Wedding Crashers could easily have applied to the Valparaiso University softball team on Friday. Despite touching down in Charleston, S.C. in the wee hours of Friday morning less than 10 hours before first pitch at the Buccaneer Invitational, Valpo put it all together when it took the field, defeating Eastern Kentucky, 7-2, and host Charleston Southern, 6-4, to open tournament play.
How It Happened – Eastern Kentucky
- Valpo struck right out of the gate, scoring in four of the first five innings against the Colonels. The damage in the first inning came immediately, as three pitches into the game, junior Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) and senior Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) were on first and second following consecutive singles. The duo pulled off a successful double steal, and junior Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) brought them both home with a two-run base knock.
- Lawson and Lawton were both involved again in the second inning as Valpo doubled its lead. A two-out infield single from Lawson plated senior Stephanie Moreno (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley), and after Lawson swiped second, Lawton drilled a full-count double into left to make it 4-0 Crusaders.
- EKU scored an unearned run in the third, but the Crusaders answered immediately with two more runs in the fourth. Senior Lanie Callaghan (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) drove home Lawton with a full-count double. Freshman Addi Burke (Mesquite, Texas/John Horn) followed with a bunt single and then got caught up in a rundown on the basepaths, allowing Callaghan to scamper home with Valpo’s sixth run.
- Senior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) kept the lead at five runs after EKU loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, registering a strikeout to strand all three runners.
- Valpo scored its final run in the top of the fifth, courtesy of a pair of EKU errors, while the Colonels added their last run of the game in the bottom of the sixth.
How It Happened – Charleston Southern
- Two-out base hits went for naught in three of the first four innings for the Crusaders in their second game of the day. Meanwhile, senior Ashlyn Montgomery (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) retired nine of the first 10 batters she faced.
- The Buccaneers cracked the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth, as a leadoff error led to an unearned run for CSU.
- Valpo did not trail for long, however, as Lawton connected on a grand slam to give Valpo a 4-1 lead in the fifth. Senior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) led off the frame with a walk, sophomore Morgan Matalin (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) delivered a one-out single and Lawson drew a two-out walk to set up Lawton’s four-run blast.
- A solo homer for the Buccaneers in the bottom of the sixth brought them within 4-2 before Valpo added what proved to be a pair of key insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Lawson, Lawton and Callaghan connected for a trio of one-out singles to load the bases. A ground ball from Burke turned into an EKU error as Lawson crossed the plate, while sophomore Gabby Magnifico (Elmhurst, Ill./York) followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2 Valpo.
- Back-to-back two-out solo homers for Charleston Southern in its final at-bat cut Valpo’s lead to 6-4. Sophomore Emily Richardson (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest) entered out of the bullpen, but the Buccaneers continued to threaten. An error and a hit batsman brought the potential winning run to the plate for CSU, but Richardson induced a grounder back to the circle to close out the victory.
Inside the Games
- Lawton enjoyed a tremendous day at the plate, going 5-for-8 with three runs scored and seven RBIs over the two games. The junior already owns 11 RBIs in the season’s first six games after finishing last season with 23 RBIs.
- Lawton’s grand slam was the first of her career and her seventh homer in her two years at Valpo. It was the first grand slam by a Crusader batter since Sam Stewart launched a bases-loaded bomb at Detroit Mercy on April 22 of last season.
- Sophomore Hannah Dybalski (Lebanon, Ind./Lebanon) was a perfect 2-for-2 at the plate against EKU for her second career multi-hit game, while Callaghan and Lawson also joined Lawton with multiple hits in the win over the Colonels.
- Lawson stole two bases against EKU as well and now has five steals in six games this year, giving her 50 career thefts.
- Grossmann surrendered just one earned run in her six innings of work against Eastern Kentucky (3-2) to improve to 2-1 on the year. Through her first 17.1 innings this season, the senior has given up just two earned tallies for an ERA of 0.81.
- Lawton went 3-for-4 in the win over host Charleston Southern, while Stauffenberg matched her catching counterpart’s first game effort at the plate with a 2-for-2 performance against the Buccaneers.
- Montgomery just missed finishing with the complete-game victory, coming up just one out shy as she earned her first win of the season and the 15th of her career. Richardson recorded her first career save as well.
- The Valpo pitching staff didn’t surrender a single walk over Friday’s 14 innings of play.
Valpo (4-2) will face rematches from both of its Friday victories as it takes the field again on Saturday. The Crusaders will take on Eastern Kentucky at 10 a.m. CT and follow up with Charleston Southern at 2 p.m. CT.