While it might not show in Sunday’s final score, the Valpo softball team put together a strong performance in its weekend finale at Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill. The Salukis won by a 9-1 final, but it took a number of highlight-reel plays by the SIU defense to keep the Beacons from putting up at least four more runs.
How It Happened
- The tenor for the day at the plate was set from the very first at-bat, as junior Regi Hecker (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Blue Springs South) lined a shot which was snagged by the SIU shortstop.
- It was a scoreless first inning for both teams, with senior Easton Seib (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs South) pitching around a two-out single by the Salukis with a strikeout looking.
- The Beacons got things going on the basepaths in the top of the second, as freshman Kim Rodas (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) picked up a one-out single up the middle and junior Emily Crompton (Salem, Ill./Christ Our Rock Lutheran) later walked with two outs to put two runners on.
- Junior Alexis Johnson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central), who has been hitting mostly from the left side of the plate this year, stepped in the right-hand batter’s box and drilled a 1-2 pitch to deep left field. It looked destined to become Johnson’s first collegiate home run and to give Valpo a 3-0 advantage, but SIU left fielder Elizabeth Warwick reached over the wall and robbed Johnson of the round-tripper.
- SIU took a 1-0 lead with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the second.
- The hits kept getting taken away to start off the Valpo third, as a hard grounder down the third-base line by junior Autumn Acord (LaGrange, Ohio/Keystone [Kent State]) was snared by the SIU third baseman and Hecker had another potential line-drive hit taken away by the Saluki shortstop. Junior Kayla Skapyak (Macomb, Mich./Dakota) picked up an infield single in the third, but was unable to advance past first base.
- Seib contributed her own highlight to the day’s defensive proceeding in the bottom of the third. A single into right with a runner on second turned into an overthrow home, and the lead runner tried to come in and score on the play. But Seib was there backing up the plate, played the ricochet off the backstop perfectly and laid out with a diving tag as the runner slid towards home to register the out.
- SIU scored four runs in the third to extend its lead to 5-0.
- The Beacons broke out the small ball in the top of the fourth. Fifth-year Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) set the tone with a bunt single and Rodas followed by lining a sharp grounder off the SIU third baseman to put two on with nobody out.
- Sophomore Kaiah Fenters (Speedway, Ind./Speedway) advanced both runners with a well-placed sacrifice bunt, one which she nearly beat out at first. Crompton followed with a squeeze bunt that looked like it would get the job done, but the Saluki third baseman charged and flipped home flawlessly, and the SIU catcher laid a perfect tag down on Herschbach just before she slid in for the out.
- Valpo did push a run across the plate with two outs, as an infield grounder by Johnson was misplayed by the Salukis, allowing Rodas to score.
- Seib pitched out of trouble in the fourth, inducing a grounder to first with the bases loaded and two outs to post another zero on the scoreboard.
- Five walks and a single for SIU resulted in four runs in the bottom of the fifth to cap the scoring.
Inside the Game
- Sunday’s game wrapped up a stretch of 21 consecutive games away from home to open the 2023 season.
- The first weekend of MVC play came against a Southern Illinois team which owns the Valley’s top record at 22-3 and is enjoying one of its best starts in program history.
- Rodas closed out her strong weekend at the plate by tallying singles in both of her at-bats on Sunday and scoring a run. The freshman went 3-for-4 with two walks in six plate appearances against the Salukis.
Valpo (3-18, 0-3 MVC) is slated to open its home schedule at the Valpo Softball Complex next weekend with a Valley home series against Illinois State. The three-game series is scheduled to begin Friday with a 3 p.m. first pitch against the Redbirds, but with weather concerns throughout the weekend, keep an eye on ValpoAthletics.com and Valpo Athletics social media for any schedule updates.