Junior pitcher Jenna Edwards (Winchester, Ky./George Rogers Clark [Chattanooga State C.C.]) threw a season-high 148 pitches to earn her first shutout win in a Valpo uniform, and the Brown and Gold - led by a four-hit effort from freshman Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) which tied an MVC Tournament record - banged out 10 hits and drew six walks in a 5-0 win in the tournament opener against Evansville Wednesday evening inside the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex Dome. With the win, Valpo advances to face Illinois State Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
How It Happened
- Knowing they hadn’t scored in the first inning against the Aces in three regular season meetings, Valpo jumped on top immediately in the top of the first, putting the pressure on from the jump. With one out, freshman Jaina Westphal (Waterford, Wis./Burlington) was hit by a pitch, and two pitches later, sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) laced a double to the fence in right-center to score Westphal and give Valpo a 1-0 lead just six pitches into the game.
- Another run crossed the plate moments later thanks to aggressive baserunning. Senior Jaymee Lawton (Goodyear, Ariz./Desert Edge [Utah Valley]) drove a ball just shy of the fence in right, deep enough to allow Anderson to tag and advance to third. The throw from the Evansville right fielder got away from the Aces’ third baseman, and Anderson sprinted home, sliding in ahead of the tag to make it 2-0 Valpo.
- The Aces got a one-out double in the first to put a runner into scoring position, but Edwards kept them off the board with a strikeout and a fly ball off the roof of the dome for the final out.
- Each of Valpo’s first three batters in the second reached base, as freshman Peyton Moeder (Shawnee, Kan./Mill Valley) and Herschbach tallied back-to-back singles followed by a walk by sophomore Addi Burke (Mesquite, Texas/John Horn) to load the bases.
- However, Valpo was unable to get any runs out of it, as its next three batters went down in order – Westphal being robbed as the Evansville pitcher snagged her line drive back up the middle to end the inning.
- A leadoff single for the Aces in the second was quickly erased, as Westphal turned a double play on a line drive to right two pitches later.
- The lead extended to 3-0 in the third inning thanks to a walk and three singles, the last of which was a base knock through the right side from Herschbach which scored Lawton to make it a three-run advantage.
- Evansville had a pair of runners in scoring position in the third with just one out, but again Edwards was up to the task, registering a huge strikeout for out number two and then getting another fly-ball out off of the roof to again keep the Aces from scoring.
- Scoreless halves of the fourth inning followed on both sides, the only baserunner for either team coming on a two-out infield single from Evansville.
- Evansville was forced to go to its bullpen in the top of the fifth, as Lawton led off with a single and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt before the call to the pen.
- Very quickly, Valpo was able to get to Aces reliever Izzy Vetter, as Herschbach drove a single back through the middle for a run-scoring base hit, scoring Lawton to make it 4-0 Crusaders.
- A potential two-out rally ensued for Evansville in the bottom of the fifth, as a ground-rule double and a walk put two runners on base. But Edwards again slammed the door, this time inducing an easy pop-up to second baseman Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) to maintain the 4-0 advantage.
- Next came yet another bases-loaded situation for Valpo, as freshman Taylor Tonoian (Saugus, Calif./Saugus) led off the sixth by being hit by a pitch. Two batters later, Westphal picked up a base hit and Anderson worked a full-count walk to pack the bags with just one out.
- Strikeouts ensued for each of the next two Valpo hitters, however, as it stayed a four-run game.
- Valpo moved into the seventh inning with the advantage still 4-0, as Edwards again stranded a pair of runners in scoring position with a big strikeout.
- It was a quick start to the top of the seventh, as Moeder walked and Herschbach dropped down a bunt single for her fourth base hit of the game.
- Like clockwork, Burke followed with a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position. Sophomore Ashley Barker (Coal Valley, Ill./Moline) pinch-hit and drew a full-count walk to load the bases with one out.
- Looking at a bases-loaded plate appearance for the second time on the evening, Westphal brought home a run this time with a well-worked at-bat. After falling behind 0-2, the rookie battled her way back and eventually drew a 10-pitch free pass to score Moeder and make it a 5-0 lead entering the final half inning.
- Evansville put its first two batters on in the bottom of the seventh, but Edwards got the final three outs in order from that point to close out the shutout win.
Inside the Game
- For the second straight year, Valpo won its first game at the MVC Tournament.
- In fact, dating back to its time in the Horizon League, Valpo has won its conference tournament opener each of the last six years. Ironically, each of the last four years, the tournament-opening win has come against a team which has swept the Crusaders in the regular season.
- Coming off her best weekend of the season last weekend, a weekend which earned her MVC Newcomer of the Week accolades, Edwards delivered her first shutout in the Brown and Gold on Wednesday. The junior posted the clean sheet with a season-high 148 pitches, 15 more than her previous high, and struck out six while scattering six hits.
- Edwards’ shutout was the first seven-inning shutout by a Valpo pitcher in a conference tournament game since Taylor Weissenhofer blanked UIC in the 2016 Horizon League Tournament.
- Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, Herschbach tallied hits in all four at-bats , tying a tournament record with her four-hit performance. It was the first 4-for-4 effort in an MVC Tournament game since Bradley’s Kelly Kapp pulled it off against Illinois State in 2015.
- Herschbach’s four-hit game was the first ever by a Valpo player in a conference tournament game. The last Crusader to tally four hits in any game came courtesy of Trepanier last season in the regular season against Evansville.
- Valpo scored its five runs on Wednesday despite stranding a season-high 13 runners on base, tying an MVC Tournament record in a seven-inning game.
- Herschbach delivered four of Valpo’s 10 hits on the evening, while fellow freshman Moeder finished with a pair of hits as well. Moeder also drew a walk to reach in three of her four plate appearances, and Anderson reached base three times as well with a hit and two free passes.
Valpo (16-30) continues on in the single-elimination bracket to face sixth-seeded Illinois State at 1:30 p.m., and with a win over the Redbirds, would go on to play UNI at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening. All tournament games are broadcast live on ESPN+, and live stats for all games are available via ValpoAthletics.com.