The Valpo softball team refused to go down quietly in its MVC Championship opener Wednesday afternoon in Evansville, Ind., scoring multiple runs in each of the final two innings. It wouldn’t be enough, however, as the Brown and Gold saw their season come to an end at the hands of Indiana State, 9-5.
How It Happened
- After going down in order in its half of the first, Valpo and starting pitcher Easton Seib (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs South) faced the minimum in the bottom of the first as first baseman Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) snagged a line drive for an unassisted double play to close the inning.
- A leadoff single by junior Kate Beckemeyer (Forsyth, Ill./Maroa-Forsyth [Parkland]) got the top of the second rolling for Valpo. After a fielder’s choice, junior Peyton Moeder (Shawnee, Kan./Mill Valley) advanced to second on obstruction.
- Sophomore Lauren Kehlenbrink (Ballwin, Mo./Parkway South) was hit by a pitch to put two on base, and freshman Regi Hecker (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Blue Springs South) lined a single into left to load the bases with one away. Rookie Ashlyn Betz (Alton, Ill./Alton) stepped in and grounded out to short, a ball which allowed Moeder to score to give Valpo a 1-0 lead.
- Indiana State put two on base with one out in the bottom of the second, but Seib induced a flyout to shallow right to make the runners stay put. Then, on an attempted steal of third by the Sycamores, Kehlenbrink fired to shortstop Jaina Westphal (Waterford, Wis./Burlington) covering the bag for the caught stealing to end the frame.
- Back-to-back two-out infield singles from junior Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) and Beckemeyer had Valpo threatening again in the third, but a groundout kept the lead at a single run.
- Indiana State took the lead for good with a five-run bottom of the third, four of which were unearned.
- The Sycamores added a single run in the fourth on a two-out RBI single.
- Valpo cut into the ISU lead in the top of the sixth. Kehlenbrink knocked a two-out single through the left side of the infield, bringing Hecker to the plate. After watching two pitches go by, the freshman launched a shot just right of center field, easily clearing the wall despite being hit into a stiff breeze to make it a 6-3 ballgame.
- Indiana State came back in its half of the sixth and scored two runs before making an out. Junior Taylor Knight (Omaha, Neb./Elkhorn South) entered in relief with two runners on and nobody out and got three straight ground balls as only one more Sycamore run scored, making it 9-3 at the end of six complete innings.
- Valpo had one final push remaining. Westphal singled with one out, and Burke followed with a single up the middle in her final collegiate at-bat to put a pair of runners on base.
- Freshman Alexis Johnson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) then went down and got a pitch out of the strike zone, lining it into the left-center gap for an RBI double to score Westphal. Beckemeyer notched an RBI of her own in her at-bat, as her grounder to short allowed Burke to score to bring Valpo within 9-5 before a flyout ended the game.
Inside the Game
- The loss was Valpo’s first in a tournament opener since joining the MVC, and its first in any tournament opener since the 2013 Horizon League Tournament.
- Valpo plated five runs and tallied nine hits on Wednesday, its highest offensive outputs since notching five runs on 10 hits in the series finale at UNI April 11.
- Meanwhile, no Valpo batter struck out on Wednesday against the Sycamores — the first time the program has posted a zero-strikeout game since March 26, 2016 at Youngstown State.
- Seven different Valpo players combined for the team’s nine hits, with Beckemeyer and Hecker producing two hits apiece.
- Kehlenbrink reached base twice as well with a hit and a hit batter.
- Hecker’s home run was her first collegiate round-tripper. She became the eighth different Valpo hitter to leave the yard this year.
- Seib was charged with the loss for Valpo despite giving up just one earned run in her three innings of work. Knight retired all three batters she faced in the sixth.
Inside the Career
- The seventh-inning base hit and subsequent run scored were the perfect send-off for Burke, the lone Valpo senior player who won’t be returning next season.
- Burke closed her final game 1-for-4 with a run, and defensively, she posted two putouts and two assists.
- Burke finished her final season second on the team in walks and in runs scored, as well as third in RBIs.
- In the field, she posted the team’s best fielding percentage, closing with 71 putouts and 72 assists against just one error.
- An MVC All-Defensive Team member, Burke’s .993 fielding percentage this year is tied for ninth-best in a single season in program history. She is the only middle infielder to crack that chart in program history, as of the other 11 who have posted single-season fielding percentages of .993 or better, six were catchers and five were first basemen.
- Burke finished out her career having played in 152 games in the Brown and Gold, starting 133 times. She tallied 82 hits, 34 runs scored and 26 RBIs over the course of her four years.