The Valparaiso University softball team opened the 2019 campaign on Friday at the Bulldog Kickoff Classic in Starkville, Miss. Facing a pair of postseason teams from a year ago, Valpo fell in both games, dropping a 6-2 decision to Stephen F. Austin in the opener before taking Middle Tennessee State to extra innings in a 4-1, eight-inning loss.
How It Happened – Stephen F. Austin
- A pair of Valpo freshmen teamed up in the top of the first to manufacture Valpo’s first run of the season. Batting in the two-hole, Jaina Westphal (Waterford, Wis./Burlington) laid down a bunt single in her first collegiate at-bat. She then stole second before advancing to third on a passed ball, and fellow rookie Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) took care of the rest, knocking a fly ball into center for a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0 Valpo.
- Stephen F. Austin came back in the bottom of the frame and scored three runs on three consecutive singles, all of which came with two outs, to take a 3-1 lead.
- Valpo went down in order each of the next four innings, but kept the Lumberjacks off the board as well to keep it a two-run game.
- Valpo put together a threat in the top of the sixth as the lineup turned over, with junior Morgan Matalin (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) and senior Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) picking up back-to-back one-out infield singles.
- Following a sacrifice, a Stephen F. Austin error allowed Matalin to score to cut the deficit to 3-2. A walk then loaded the bases, but a strikeout ended the Valpo threat.
- The Lumberjacks closed out the scoring with a three-run bottom of the sixth. Valpo got two on in its half of the seventh on a double from senior Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) and a single by junior Taylor Bowman (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way North), but was unable to push any more runs across the plate.
How It Happened – Middle Tennessee State
- Both teams had early opportunities to take the lead in the first inning, as MTSU put two on with two out, while Valpo loaded the bases with one out. But neither side scored in the opening innings.
- The Blue Raiders scored on a two-out double in the top of the second, but junior Kelsie Packard (Beloit, Wis./Turner [Rock Valley College]) recorded a strikeout with two on to escape any further damage. She then worked out of a second and third, one-out jam in the third with a groundout and a strikeout.
- Valpo had runners on the corners with two outs in the third, but was held off the board.
- The Crusaders tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. Trepanier and Westphal led off the inning with consecutive singles, and the former would score the tying run on a double play.
- Both squads went down in order in the sixth, and Packard kept MTSU off the board in the top of the seventh, picking up back-to-back strikeouts with two on and one out. Valpo was retired in order in the seventh as well to send the game to extra innings.
- Valpo was one strike away from exiting the top of the eighth with the game still tied, but MTSU’s Kirstyn Cuccia connected on an 0-2, two-out RBI single to give the Blue Raiders the lead. MTSU added two more runs later in the frame for the final margin.
Inside the Games
- Friday was the first meeting all-time between Valpo and SFA, and the first matchup since 1996 against MTSU.
- Valpo went to extra innings for the first time since a 5-4 win in eight innings over Utah State last season on March 9. Valpo’s last extra-inning loss came back on Apr. 28, 2017.
- Five members of Valpo’s roster made their debut in the Brown and Gold on Friday. Westphal and Herschbach hit second and third in both games – Westphal playing left field in both, while Herschbach was at third base against SFA and at DP versus MTSU.
- Freshman Taylor Tonoian (Saugus, Calif./Saugus) came off the bench to catch in both contests.
- Junior Jenna Edwards (Winchester, Ky./George Rogers Clark ([Chattanooga State C.C.]) earned the start in the circle against Stephen F. Austin and went four innings in the losing effort, giving up three runs on five hits while striking out five.
- Freshman Taylor Knight (Omaha, Neb./Elkhorn South) relieved Edwards to start off the fifth inning against the Lumberjacks and retired four batters.
- Packard took the tough-luck loss in the second game of the day against MTSU, as she had surrendered just one run on seven hits and one walk through the seven regulation innings before giving up three runs in the eighth. The junior did strike out nine MTSU hitters, matching the third-highest total of her Valpo career.
- Lawton enjoyed the best performance at the plate by a Valpo hitter on Friday, going 3-for-6 with a double and a walk.
- Westphal reached base four times in her first collegiate action, picking up two hits, one walk and one hit by pitch. She also stole three bases on as many attempts.
Valpo (0-2) continues action from Starkville on Saturday, facing #24 Mississippi State at 12:30 p.m. Bracket play then begins at 3 p.m. with the 1-seed versus the 4-seed, and follows at 5:30 p.m. with the 2-seed versus the 3-seed. All games will have live stats, while the 12:30 p.m. game against Mississippi State and any further games against the Bulldogs will be broadcast on SEC Network+ online through the ESPN app.