Trailing by four runs before ever stepping to the plate in Wednesday’s opener against Loyola at the Valpo Softball Complex, the Valpo softball team quickly turned the tables, needing just eight batters to push across six runs en route to a 9-7 win in the first game of the day. The visiting Ramblers used a big inning late to put away a 7-1 victory in the nightcap as the two squads split the twinbill.
How It Happened – Game One
- Loyola was on top 4-0 just 13 pitches into the game, as the Ramblers’ first four batters registered three singles and a homer for the early advantage.
- Valpo didn’t blink, however, and used a keen eye at the plate to position itself well in its first turn at the plate. Four of the Beacons’ first five hitters drew walks, the fourth of which was a free pass to Ryan Milkowski (Olathe, Kan./Olathe West) which forced home Peyton Moeder (Shawnee, Kan./Mill Valley) for Valpo’s first run.
- The Ramblers went to their bullpen early, and the Beacons greeted Andie Broniewicz rudely. Freshman Addi Weaver (Shelbyville, Ind./Shelbyville) lined a 2-1 offering to the fence in left, scoring two runs to make it a 4-3 game. Junior Lauren Kehlenbrink (Ballwin, Mo./Parkway South) then tied the game with a solid knock back through the middle.
- Valpo took the lead for good thanks to senior Taylor Tonoian (Saugus, Calif./Saugus), who turned on a 3-1 pitch and lined it down the left-field line to bring home Weaver and Kehlenbrink, giving the Beacons the 6-4 lead.
- Loyola got one of those runs back in the top of the second with two singles and a Valpo error, and threatened to add more later in the frame. But Cheyenne Nietz (Machesney Park, Ill./Harlem), who entered in relief after the Ramblers plated their fifth run of the game, stared down a bases loaded, one out situation and escaped with no further damage, inducing a ground ball back to the circle which she turned into a 1-2-3 double play.
- Valpo found some insurance in the bottom of the third. Weaver led off the frame with a sinking liner the other way to right, and when the Ramblers’ right fielder’s diving effort came up short, the ball rolled all the way to the wall, allowing the rookie to motor all the way to third with a leadoff triple.
- But it turned out not to matter where Weaver was on the basepaths as Kehlenbrink stepped to the plate. Taking advantage of a windy day out to left at the Valpo Softball Complex, the junior skied a 1-2 pitch up into the jet stream and over the left-field fence for a two-run homer, extending the Beacons’ lead to 8-5.
- Kehlenbrink was responsible for another RBI in the fourth inning as well. Kate Beckemeyer (Forsyth, Ill./Maroa-Forsyth [Parkland]) reached on a one-out single and moved up into scoring position two batters later on a Weaver base hit. Kehlenbrink took care of the rest, bringing Beckemeyer across the plate with an RBI single.
- Loyola cut the lead in half with a two-out, two-run homer by Abbey Jacobsen in the top of the sixth, making it a 9-7 ballgame. But Nietz picked up a strikeout to end that frame and then struck out the side in the seventh to close out the victory.
How It Happened – Game Two
- Loyola jumped on top in its first turn at the plate again in the nightcap, getting a two-out RBI single. The Ramblers added another run on a solo homer from Nova Sinskul in the top of the third.
- Limited to just one baserunner through the first three innings, Valpo turned a pair of hits into a run in the fourth. Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) turned on a pitch for a single into right to lead off the inning, and three batters later, Kehlenbrink roped a shot to the left-center gap to plate Herschbach and make it a 2-1 game.
- Loyola put the game away with five unearned runs in the sixth, all of which came with two outs.
Inside the Games
- The nine runs Valpo scored in the opener was the team’s highest output in MVC play since a 9-0 win at Illinois State on May 5, 2018.
- The six-run first inning was the program’s biggest opening frame since pushing seven across in the top of the first of an eventual 9-6 win at UIC on April 3, 2019.
- A trio of Beacons tallied three hits apiece as Valpo totaled 12 hits as a squad in the opening win. Kehlenbrink went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBIs, Weaver came up a home run shy of the cycle in a 3-for-4 effort with two runs scored and two RBIs and Beckemeyer reached base in all four of her plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored.
- It was the first time since February 8, 2014 Valpo has had three or more players each pick up three or more hits in the same game.
- It was the first three-hit game in a Valpo uniform for both Beckemeyer and Weaver, while Kehlenbrink did it for the second time. It was also the second time in Kehlenbrink’s Valpo career she has tallied four RBIs in a game.
- Kehlenbrink now has a team-best four home runs on the year, all of which have come in MVC play.
- After a pair of strong relief appearances last week, Nietz put together another standout performance out of the pen to earn the win on Wednesday. The rookie gave up just two hits and two unearned runs in 5.2 innings of work while striking out a season-high nine batters.
- Caitlin Kowalski (Temperance, Mich./Notre Dame Academy) was charged with the nightcap loss despite surrendering just two earned runs in her 5.2 innings of action.
- Herschbach recorded her seventh multi-hit game of the season in the nightcap.
Valpo (11-25, 2-15 MVC) hits the road for the first time in nearly a month this weekend, heading to Des Moines for a three-game weekend series at Drake. The series starts off with a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at noon, and all three games of the series can be seen live on ESPN3.