It was a special day for Valpo softball pitcher Caitlyn Kowalski (Temperance, Mich./Notre Dame Academy) Saturday afternoon in Peoria, Ill., as the junior authored the 12th known no-hitter in program history as the Beacons blanked Bradley in the opening game of a twinbill, 1-0, to clinch the series victory. The Braves edged Valpo, 3-2, in the nightcap to keep Valpo from sweeping the series.
How It Happened - Game One
- Just as in Friday’s series opener, Valpo claimed the lead before sending its pitcher to the circle. Fifth-year Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) was hit by a pitch with one out in the top of the first and moved over to third on a single the other way by senior Lauren Kehlenbrink (Ballwin, Mo./Parkway South). Kehlenbrink got herself in a rundown on a stolen base attempt, allowing Herschbach to come home with what turned out to be the game’s lone run.
- Handed a lead to work with, Kowalski and the defense took care of the rest. The Braves drew leadoff walks in each of the first two innings, but both times, Valpo prevented the runner from getting past second base.
- The Beacons had a shot to add to their lead in the second with runners on the corners and one out before back-to-back strikeouts ended the frame.
- A one-out walk for Bradley in the bottom of the third only served to set up a double play for the Valpo defense, as it caught the Braves runner having left early upon appeal on a flyout.
- The Braves drew another free pass to lead off the fourth, but Kowalski set down the next three in a row to start off a string of 12 outs in a row to close out the game.
- Valpo looked for insurance in the top of the seventh, putting a pair of runners with one out on a hit by pitch by junior Emily Crompton (Salem, Ill./Christ Our Rock Lutheran) and a walk by freshman Kim Rodas (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon). The pair moved up 60 feet apiece to give the Beacons two in scoring position with two out, but a pop-up sent the game to the bottom of the seventh.
- Kowalski took to the circle for the bottom of the seventh with no hits against her through the first six frames. She induced an easy grounder to short for the first out and followed by freezing the next hitter to move within one out of the no-no. On her 93rd pitch of the afternoon, with a 2-2 count against the Bradley hitter, Kowalski got a swing and miss to cap off the no-hitter and set off a celebration with her teammates.
How It Happened – Game Two
- For the first time in the three-game series, Valpo was held off the board in the top of the first as both teams went down in order.
- Junior Regi Hecker (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Blue Springs South) led off the second with a single to left and stole second, but was stranded there. Bradley got its first runner off Easton Seib (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs South) with a two-out walk, but a pop-up kept the game scoreless into the third.
- Bradley recorded its first hits of the day in the bottom of the third, stringing together a hit batter and two singles to plate the game’s opening run.
- Valpo responded immediately in the top of the fourth, keyed by a leadoff triple from Herschbach. On a potential squeeze, Herschbach strayed far enough off third for a rundown to ensue, but the Bradley catcher threw the ball away down the line, allowing Herschbach to score the tying run.
- Later in the inning, Crompton beat out an infield single and pinch-runner Kaiah Fenters (Speedway, Ind./Speedway) took advantage of a pair of Bradley errors on a grounder from the next batter to come all the way around to score, giving Valpo a 2-1 lead.
- The Braves answered with two more runs in the bottom of the fourth, taking the lead for good on a single, a double and a triple.
- Valpo put the potential tying tally on second with one out in the fifth, and to second with one out and third with two out in the seventh, but was not able to push it across.
- Kowalski’s no-hitter was the 12th known no-no in Valpo softball history.
- It was the first no-hitter of Kowalski’s collegiate career.
- The no-hitter was Valpo’s first since Kelsie Packard earned a five-inning no-hitter against Wagner in March 2019. That game was actually split over two separate dates, as Packard tossed the first three innings on March 1 and the final two on March 3.
- It was the first seven-inning no-hitter by a Valpo pitcher since Emily Richardson blanked North Carolina Central on Feb. 18, 2018.
- Saturday’s effort surpassed Kowalski’s previous best at Valpo, which actually came in her first collegiate appearance — a one-hitter against Western Illinois on Feb. 13, 2021. Kowalski lost the no-hitter with two outs in the sixth inning that day.
- Kowalski’s no-hitter followed Seib’s one-hit effort on Friday, marking the second known time in program history Valpo has paired a no-no and a one-hitter in consecutive games. Tana Barnes one-hit Philadelphia on March 11, 2002, and the next day, Amanda Gilbertson tossed a no-hitter against St. Thomas Aquinas.
Inside the Games
- Valpo took the 2-1 series victory from Bradley, its first MVC series win of the season.
- It is the first time Valpo has won a Valley series on the road since winning two of three at Illinois State May 5-6, 2018.
- Kehlenbrink registered her second consecutive multi-hit game in the opener, giving her a team-high seven such games this season.
- Crompton reached base in all three of her plate appearances in the day’s first game, registering a single, a walk and a hit by pitch.
- Rodas reached base twice as well, with a single and a walk.
- Kowalski struck out six batters in the no-hit effort. She came back in the nightcap to throw two innings of relief, surrendering one hit and striking out two.
- Seib took the loss in the nightcap, giving up three runs in four innings of work.
- Herschbach reached base twice in the series finale, picking up a triple and a walk.
Valpo (7-30, 3-13) continues Valley play on Wednesday as the Beacons host UIC for a single game. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m.