Valpo softball senior pitcher Easton Seib (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs South) celebrated Valpo Day by tossing the best game of her collegiate career Tuesday at Northern Illinois, posting a one-hit shutout as the Beacons downed the Huskies in the doubleheader opener, 3-0. NIU came back to down Valpo in the nightcap, 7-1.
How It Happened – Game One
- The Beacons made sure Seib would step into the circle with the lead, opening the scoring in the top of the first. Fifth-year Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) sent the first pitch she saw to the wall in right-center for a one-out triple, and two batters later, junior Regi Hecker (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Blue Springs South) knocked her in with a base hit through the left side to give Valpo the 1-0 lead.
- Valpo used NIU’s aggressiveness on the basepaths against the Huskies in the bottom of the first. Caitlyn Shumaker was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame, but after she stole second, Lauren Kehlenbrink (Ballwin, Mo./Parkway South) cut her down trying to steal third. Courtney James then drew a one-out walk, but the Beacons retired her trying to take second on an errant pitch.
- Seib handled business well over the next few innings, retiring the Huskies in order in three of the next four frames. The only threat came in the third, as a pair of errors and a sacrifice bunt put a runner on third for NIU with one out.
- It looked like the Huskies had scored on a subsequent groundout, but the NIU batter was ruled out of the batter’s box on contact. Head coach Meaggan Pettipiece chose the strike penalty, taking the out off the board, sending the runner back to third and returning the batter to the plate with a 3-2 count. Seib got a strikeout looking on the very next pitch, and a pop-up kept the Huskies off the board.
- Offensively, Valpo posted an insurance run in the top of the third thanks to solid baserunning. Herschbach and Hecker drew walks, and the former moved up to third on a fly out to put runners on the corners with two outs. On the first pitch to the next batter, Hecker got herself in a rundown and eluded the tag long enough for Herschbach to take home before the out was recording, pushing the lead to 2-0.
- Seib entered the sixth inning with a potential no-hitter intact, but with two outs in the inning, Shumaker beat out an infield single to break it up. Seib came right back and got a fly ball to put another zero on the Huskies’ side of the scoreboard.
- Herschbach was involved in the Beacons’ final tally of the game as well, knocking in junior Autumn Acord (LaGrange, Ohio/Keystone [Kent State]) with a two-out RBI single in the top of the seventh. Fittingly for how well she pitched, Seib needed just six pitches to set down NIU in order in its last turn at the plate and close out the shutout.
How It Happened – Game Two
- For the second straight game, Valpo scored in its first turn at the plate, as Kehlenbrink came home all the way from first on a two-out RBI double by Hecker.
- NIU responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the first on a two-out RBI single. The Huskies added another in the second to take the lead for good and put three runs on the board in the third.
- NIU extended its lead with a solo homer in the fifth and closed the scoring with an RBI double in the sixth.
- The Beacons got a runner into scoring position for the first time since the first inning when Herschbach lined a one-out double down the right-field line in the top of the sixth, but was unable to advance past season.
- Valpo looked for a rally in the seventh, as freshmen Lexi Szostak (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park) and Lyna Vasquez (Moreno Valley, Calif./Valley View) opened the inning with consecutive singles, but the next three batters went down in order to close the game.
Inside the Games
- The win in the opener was Valpo’s first in DeKalb since 2011, as it had dropped the last five road matchups at NIU entering Tuesday.
- Valpo has scored in the top of the first inning in four of its last six games dating back to last Tuesday at UIC.
- Seib had her best game in a collegiate uniform to earn the shutout win in the opener, surrendering just the lone hit and one walk while striking out four NIU hitters.
- It was the fifth shutout of Seib’s career, two of which have come this season.
- The one-hitter marks the fewest number of hits she has surrendered in a complete-game effort at Valpo. Seib’s previous best was a three-hitter last season against Central Michigan.
- Offensively, Herschbach was the story of both games, but especially the opener. The veteran went 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI in the victory, as she was involved in all three runs scoring.
- After reaching base three times in the opener, Herschbach came back in game two and reached twice, going 1-for-2 with a walk.
- Sophomore Kaiah Fenters (Speedway, Ind./Speedway) had the most prolific game of her collegiate career at the plate in the opener, reaching successfully in all three of her plate appearances as she tallied a single and two walks.
- Junior Alexis Johnson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) joined Fenters in drawing a pair of walks in the opener as well.
- In all, Valpo notched six walks in the victory, matching a season best. The Beacons have coaxed four or more free passes in 15 of 33 games this year.
- Hecker reached base three times over the two games as well.
- Junior Caitlin Kowalski (Temperance, Mich./Notre Dame Academy) started the second game in the circle and took the loss. Freshman Cadence Augustine (Beaverton, Mich./Beaverton) registered all three outs in the sixth inning of the nightcap and did not give up a run.
- Defensively, Valpo had a field day cutting down NIU baserunners on the basepaths. Between the two games, the Beacons racked up five caught stealings, two double plays doubling up baserunners after fly-ball outs, an out at the plate and an out at second.
- Kehlenbrink was credited with four of the caught stealings — two in each game — while Vasquez caught a runner stealing in her first inning behind the plate.
- Three of the runners caught stealing came in game two, tying for second-most in a single game in program history.
Valpo (5-29) continues this road stretch with a three-game Valley series at Bradley this weekend, starting on Friday evening at 5 p.m. Only the Sunday game this weekend will have a live ESPN stream.