Valparaiso (3-18, 0-3 MVC)
March 24 - Illinois State (11-15, 1-1 MVC) - 3 p.m.
March 25 - Illinois State - 2 p.m.
March 26 - Illinois State - noon
Next Up in Valpo Softball: After playing the first month-plus of the season away from home, the Valpo softball team hosts games at the Valpo Softball Complex for the first time this weekend as the Beacons welcome Illinois State to town for a three-game series March 24-26.
Previously: Valpo opened the MVC slate last weekend at Southern Illinois, dropping three games to a Saluki squad which entered the week with the conference's best record. The Beacons began their road trip last week with a setback at Illinois.
Looking Ahead: Valpo is scheduled for a midweek nonconference game at Purdue Fort Wayne next Wednesday, March 29, before returning home for a three-game set against Missouri State March 31-April 2.
Following Valpo Softball: All three games this weekend are slated for broadcast on The Valley on ESPN, with Friday and Sunday's games on ESPN+ and Saturday on ESPN3. Live stats will be available for all three 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: Valpo is just 2-13 all-time against Illinois State, with 13 of those 15 matchups coming since Valpo joined the MVC prior to the 2018 season. Last season, the Redbirds earned a series sweep in Normal, winning by final scores of 6-2, 17-0 and 7-4.
Scouting the Opposition: Illinois State comes into this weekend's series with an 11-15 overall record this year. The Redbirds split two games with Belmont to open MVC play last weekend, losing 4-1 and winning 4-2, and most recently took down DePaul by a 10-3 final on Tuesday. Under first-year head coach Tina Kramos - who succeeded Melinda Fischer after Fischer's 37 years at the helm - Delainey Bryant boasts the team's top OPS (.889) and has a team-best 16 runs scored as well. In the circle, Hannah Ross tops five pitchers who have seen action with a 2.73 ERA in a team-high 64 innings of work.
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 has been sidelined due to injury, the other five all made their Valpo debuts at the DePaul Dome Tournament opening weekend.
Road Comes to an End: The Valpo Softball Complex will be a sight for sore eyes for the Beacons this weekend as they open their home schedule, bringing to an end the long and winding road to start this season. In all, Valpo played its first 21 games of the season away from home, covering six locations in three different states.
Still an Early Opener: While it was a lengthy stretch away from home to start the season, this Friday's home opener is still one of the earliest in program history. Only four times since the opening of the Valpo Softball Complex in 2003 has the program's home opener come earlier than Friday's date of March 24. The last time Valpo opened the home slate this early was back in 2015, when it hosted Green Bay on March 20.
Big Weekend for Rodas: Freshman Kim Rodas looked right at home last weekend against an SIU pitching staff which entered the weekend with the Valley's best ERA. Rodas reached base successfully in in five of her six plate appearances on the weekend, as she walked twice with a stolen base in the series opener, went 1-for-2 in the middle game and went 2-for-2 with a run scored in the finale. Rodas' weekend performance raised her season batting average 41 points and her on-base percentage 59 points.
Walk This Way: Led by Rodas' pair of walks, the Beacons drew six walks in the series opener at SIU on Friday - a season high for a single game this season and matching their highest number of walks in a game over the past three years. Valpo has now drawn five or more walks in seven games this season after recording no more than four walks in any game last season. The Beacons are averaging 2.81 walks/game this season after averaging just 1.68 walks/game last year.
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 .275 batting average, six runs scored, 10 walks and a .413 on-base percentage. That on-base percentage is over 150 points better than her career on-base percentage entering the season.