Valparaiso (3-14, 0-0 MVC)
March 15 - at Illinois (16-7) - 1 p.m.
March 17 - at Southern Illinois (17-3) - 4 p.m. | March 18 - at SIU - 2 p.m. | March 19 - at SIU - noon
Next Up in Valpo Softball: The Valpo softball team opens up the Missouri Valley Conference slate this weekend with a three-game series at Southern Illinois, which enters conference play with the best preconference record of any MVC program. Prior to the series against the Salukis, Valpo will make a stop on its way down to Carbondale to take on Big Ten opponent Illinois on Wednesday.
Previously: Valpo traveled to Eastern Kentucky for a three-game series last weekend in Richmond, Ky. The Beacons dropped a one-run decision, 4-3, to EKU in the opener before the Colonels earned run-rule wins in the final two games of the weekend.
Looking Ahead: Valpo is scheduled to open up its 2023 home schedule at the Valpo Softball Complex with a three-game set March 24-26 against Illinois State.
Following Valpo Softball: Valpo's game at Illinois will be streamed live on BTN+, while all three games at Southern Illinois are slated for broadcast on The Valley on ESPN (F/Su - E+; Sa - E3). Live stats will be available for all four games as well.
Head Coach Meaggan Pettipiece: Meaggan Pettipiece was hired in September 2022 as head coach of the Valpo softball program. Pettipiece brings over a decade of experience as a collegiate head coach, most recently the last three seasons at the Division I level at Akron. Prior to her time at Akron, Pettipiece spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Kent State and was head coach at Northwood for 10 years. Pettipiece, who owns 253 career coaching victories, was an All-American on the diamond and helped California University of Pennsylvania to a D-II national title in 1998 collegiately before playing internationally for Team Canada, including at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Series Notes: Illinois - Valpo is 0-7 all-time against the Illini, with the last meeting a 6-1 defeat to open the 2016 season in Miami, Fla.
Southern Illinois - The Beacons are 1-11 in program history against the Salukis, with all but one of those matchups coming since Valpo joined the MVC for the 2018 season. Last season, SIU earned a three-game series sweep at Valpo.
Scouting the Opposition: Illinois - Illinois enters the week with a 16-7 record, coming off a 4-1 weekend at the USF Tournament. The Illini play a twinbill at Mizzou on Tuesday before Wednesday's matchup. Kelly Ryono leads the offense with a .329 average, 18 RBIs and eight extra-base hits, while in the circle, Sydney Sickels is 7-2 with a 1.82 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 61.2 innings.
Southern Illinois - The Salukis are an MVC-best 17-3 overall entering the week and will play two of their three midweek games against Missouri State this week. Aubree DePron (.473) and Emma Austin (.440) are second and third in the Valley, respectively, in batting average. In the circle, Madi Eberle is 7-1 with an MVC-best 1.29 ERA.
What’s Back: Valpo returns 10 of 18 letterwinners from last season’s squad for the 2023 campaign. In all, 40.4% of Valpo’s plate appearances are back for this season and 63.6% of last season’s inning pitched return as well.
Who’s New: This year's 16-player roster includes six newcomers donning the Brown and Gold for the first time. A quintet of freshmen - Kaia Garnica, Kimberli Rodas, Lexi Szostak, Lyna Vasquez and Cadence Augustine - are joined by Kent State transfer Autumn Acord. While Garnica was sidelined on opening weekend, the other five all made their Valpo debuts at the DePaul Dome Tournament.
Hitting the Road: This week's games continue a long and winding road for the Beacons before they finally get the chance to play at the Valpo Softball Complex. This is the final week of action away from home prior to the scheduled home opener, capping a stretch of 21 straight games away from home to open the season.
Challenging Opposition: Both of the Beacons' opponents this week reside within the top-60 of the latest NCAA RPI release, as Illinois comes in at 51 and Southern Illinois at 56. While the MVC currently has three top-100 RPI teams, Valpo is only slated to play two of them, closing the conference schedule against Indiana State (current RPI 91).
Hecker Continues to Hit: Junior outfielder Regi Hecker has settled into the leadoff spot in the Beacons' batting order this year and has acquitted herself well in the role. The March 7 MVC Player of the Week, Hecker leads the team with a .333 batting average, six runs scored and nine walks. Her .472 on-base percentage is good for eighth among all MVC players. Hecker reached base at least once in all three games last weekend at EKU, has tallied at least one hit in six of the last seven games and is on a eight-game on-base streak.
Picking Up Free Passes: The Beacons continued to showcase a good eye at the plate in their series-opening twinbill at EKU on Saturday, combining to draw nine walks over the two contests. Junior outfielder Emily Crompton drew three walks herself on Saturday after entering the day with just three free passes for her career. On the season, Valpo is averaging an even three walks per game after averaging just 1.68 walks/game a season ago.
Turning Two: Defensively, Valpo turned a 4-6-3 double play in the middle game of last weekend's series at EKU. Through their first 17 games of the season, the Beacons have posted eight twin killing, with their average of 0.47 double plays/game leading the Valley and ranking 24th nationally.