Valparaiso (9-11, 1-2 MVC)
March 26 - at Missouri State (10-13, 3-2 MVC) - noon DH
March 27 - at Missouri State - noon
Next Up in Valpo Softball: After having its mid-week non-conference game postponed, the Valpo softball team returns to action this weekend with the longest road trip of the Valley schedule, heading to Springfield, Mo. for a three-game series against Missouri State.
Previously: Valpo posted a 1-2 record on the opening weekend of MVC play at Indiana State, dropping the first two games to the Sycamores before getting a gem in the circle from freshman Cheyenne Nietz to close the weekend with a 1-0 win.
Looking Ahead: The Beacons are slated to open the home schedule at the Valpo Softball Complex next weekend, April 2-3, with a three-game series against Bradley.
Following Valpo Softball: All three of this weekend’s games will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and have live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Amanda Eberhart: Amanda Eberhart was hired as head coach of the Valpo softball program in July of 2021. She brings seven years of head coaching experience at the Division I level, most recently spending the last three years as the head coach at Omaha and previously leading the IUPUI program for four seasons. Eberhart, who owns 140 career victories as a head coach, also has eight seasons of experience on staffs at Big Ten programs.
Series History: Missouri State holds a slight 6-4 advantage in the all-time series with Valpo. Eight of the 10 meetings between the two programs have come since Valpo joined the Valley. Last season saw the Bears earn a trio of victories in Valpo. In Valpo’s lone trip to Springfield since joining the conference, the 2018 squad took two of three games, winning 4-1 and 3-2 before losing the series finale, 6-2.
Scouting the Opposition: The Bears enter the weekend at 10-13 overall and own a 3-2 mark in MVC play, splitting a mid-week doubleheader last week against Southern Illinois before winning two of three against Illinois State. Daphne Plummer is hitting a team-high .342 and leads MSU with 14 runs scored, while Alex Boze boasts a team-best 15 RBIs and is slugging at a .792 clip (17 hits; 4 doubles, 7 homers). In the circle, Steffany Dickerson leads the Bears with a 7-5 record and a 2.89 ERA in 80 innings of work.
What’s Back: Valpo returns 14 of 19 letterwinners from last season’s squad for the 2022 campaign. In all, 77.6% of Valpo’s plate appearances are back for this season and 89.8% of last season’s inning pitched return as well.
Who’s New: After redshirting due to injury last season, Kylie Millhorn looks for her first collegiate action this spring. In addition, four true freshmen - Addi Weaver, Cheyenne Nietz, Kaiah Fenters and Lauren Sena - round out Valpo’s 19-player roster.
The Long and Winding Road: This weekend’s games continue a long and winding road for the Beacons before they finally get the chance to play at the Valpo Softball Complex. After playing four weekends away from home in the pre-conference, Valpo’s first two weekends of MVC play are on the road as well. All told, Valpo’s first 23 games of the year are scheduled away from home, as the home opener comes on April 2 - matching last year for the latest home opener since the 2003 season.
What a Performance: Freshman pitcher Cheyenne Nietz delivered the best performance of her young collegiate career when Valpo needed it the most. She faced an Indiana State squad in the series finale Sunday which had scored 19 runs over the series’ first two games, and threw her first collegiate shutout to earn her first victory of the year. Nietz, who scattered four hits and struck out five, had no cushion throughout the game, as it turned out to be a 1-0 Valpo victory. She didn’t allow a Sycamore runner into scoring position until the sixth inning, and then, facing adversity in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and two out, got perennial All-MVC honoree Bella Peterson to fly out to end the game.
Racking Up the Hits: Senior center fielder Peyton Moeder picked up at least one hit in all three games of Valpo’s MVC-opening series at Indiana State (4-6, .667 AVG) and reached base in five of her seven plate appearances (.714 OBP). Even one of her two outs was productive, as a groundout in the series finale moved a baserunner over to third who eventually scored for the lone run in Valpo’s 1-0 win. Moeder ranks 10th in the MVC with a .350 batting average and has tallied a hit in 14 of 20 games this season.
Reversing Course: Valpo rebounded from being run-ruled in the day’s first game Sunday at Indiana State to win the second game for the first time since February 2018, when it fell 16-3 to Eastern Kentucky before beating Charleston Southern, 5-4. It is the first time it has happened in league play since April 2015, when Valpo rebounded for a win to earn a doubleheader split at Detroit.
One is Enough: Valpo earned its second 1-0 win of the season with Cheyenne Nietz’s effort in the series finale at Indiana State, as Easton Seib tossed a shutout in a 1-0 win over Charleston earlier this year. Prior to this year, the program’s last 1-0 win had come in April 2018, and the team had last won multiple 1-0 games in the same season in 2013.
Putting the Ball in Play: Valpo has recorded easily the fewest strikeouts at the plate of any Valley team so far this season. The Beacons have struck out just 78 times through the season’s first 20 games, bettering Indiana State’s total of 100 strikeouts, the second-fewest so far this year by an MVC team. Valpo is averaging just 3.9 strikeouts/game at the plate this year after striking out 5.9 times/game last season. On the flip side, the Beacons have only 42 combined walks/hit by pitches this year, also a conference low.
Slowing Down the Opposition: While Valpo has been super-efficient when it comes to stealing bases, it has turned the tables on the opposition when they attempt to run. The Beacons’ opponents this year are just 19-for-30 attempting to steal bases, compared to last year, when opponents were 66-for-80 on the basepaths. Valpo currently ranks second in the conference in caught stealing percentage as a team, led by Addi Weaver, who has thrown out seven of 17 runners attempting to steal on her.
Reeling Off Wins: Valpo won each of its first four games at the Charleston Invitational earlier this season en route to posting the tournament’s best record. Combined with the tournament-closing win over Western Michigan on opening weekend, the Beacons won five in a row - the program’s longest winning streak since a six-game winning streak late in the 2018 season. Valpo’s first three wins at Charleston were all by a single run, the first time since late 2013 the program has won three in a row, all by one run.