Softball Heads to Drake This Weekend
Wednesday, March 20, 2024
Softball Heads to Drake This Weekend
Lexi Szostak and the Beacons play at Drake this weekend.

Valparaiso (6-18, 0-3 MVC)
March 22 - at Drake (11-13, 0-3 MVC) - 2 p.m. DH
March 23 - at Drake - 1 p.m.

Next Up in Valpo Softball: It's one final series on the road for the Valpo softball team before its home opener, as the Beacons complete their 27-game stretch away from home to open the season this weekend with a three-game MVC series at Drake. The weekend schedule has been altered due to weather, as the Beacons and Bulldogs will play a Friday afternoon twinbill at 2 p.m. before concluding the series with a single game Saturday at 1 p.m.

Previously: Valpo was swept in its conference-opening series last weekend at Evansville. The Purple Aces earned an 8-0 win Friday evening and held off the Beacons' late rally on Saturday, 9-7. In Sunday's series finale, Valpo held a 1-0 lead entering the bottom of the sixth before UE scored a run apiece in the sixth and seventh innings for the walk-off win.

Looking Ahead: Valpo finally takes to its home field next weekend, welcoming Bradley to town for a three-game Valley series to kick off an eight-game homestand.

Following Valpo Softball: All three games this weekend will be broadcast live on ESPN+. All games will also have live stats available, linked at

Head Coach Meaggan Pettipiece: Meaggan Pettipiece was hired in September 2022 as head coach of the Valpo softball program and enters her second season in 2024. Pettipiece is in her 15th season overall as a collegiate head coach, most recently spending three seasons at Akron prior to coming to Valpo. Pettipiece, who owns 264 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 1-19 all-time against Drake, with the sole victory coming in non-conference action in 2012 - the Bulldogs have won all 14 matchups since Valpo joined the MVC. Last season, Drake swept a three-game set at the Valpo Softball Complex by scores of 4-1, 8-4 and 8-0. In its seventh season as a member of the MVC, Valpo is slated for a conference series at Drake for just the second time since joining the conference. The Beacons' only prior MVC series in Des Moines came in 2022. Valpo was scheduled to take on the Bulldogs at Drake in 2018, but inclement weather forced those games to be moved to the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

Scouting the Opposition: The Bulldogs enter the weekend with an 11-13 overall record and are 0-3 in MVC play after being swept last weekend in a three-game series by Southern Illinois. Drake did snap a five-game losing streak in mid-week action, beating Western Illinois on Tuesday, 2-1. Emma Dighton is hitting a team-best .333 on the season, with Carey Koenig scoring a team-high 15 runs and Addie Lightner pacing the Bulldogs with 14 RBIs. In the circle, five different pitchers have split 146.1 innings of work, with Dighton tossing a team-high 45 innings. Emma Richards owns the team's best ERA (4.27).

Who's Back: Valpo returns 12 of 16 letterwinners from last year's squad for the 2024 season. In all, 69.2% of Valpo's plate appearances are back for this season and 49.4% of last season's innings pitched return.

Who's New: A group of nine newcomers joined the Beacons for the 2024 season. Kam Utendorf transferred in after playing her freshman season at Black Hawk College, joining eight true freshmen on this year's team.

A Large Roster: The combination of 12 returnees and nine newcomers gives Valpo a 21-player roster for the 2024 campaign. That's a five-player increase over last season's group of 16 players, and it is the largest roster the softball program has had since fielding 21 players for the 2008 season.

Hitting the Road: This weekend's games conclude a long and winding road for the Beacons before they finally get the chance to play at the Valpo Softball Complex. Valpo completed five consecutive weekends of road action prior to the start of MVC play, playing at Texas A&M, Presbyterian, Chattanooga, Indiana and Omaha. The Beacons opened MVC action last weekend at Evansville and play this weekend at Drake before finally opening the home slate March 29 against Bradley. All told, Valpo is scheduled to play its first 27 games of the season away from home.

Simply Hitting: In her first season of D-I softball, sophomore Kam Utendorf has been tremendous from the left side of the plate. Utendorf is 55 points clear atop the Valley in batting average, entering this weekend hitting at a .455 clip, while she also ranks second in the MVC with a .508 on-base percentage. She reached base in six of nine plate appearances last weekend at Evansville, going 4-for-7 with a pair of walks. She tallied at least one hit in all three games while also scoring a pair of runs and driving in one. In the second weekend of play this year, Utendorf became Valpo's first MVC Newcomer of the Week since May 2019, slashing .643/.708/.786 in action at Presbyterian.

Wily Wilming: Freshman Anna Wilming enjoyed her best start of the year in the circle in Valpo's series finale at Evansville last weekend. Wilming went the distance for the first complete game of her career and carried a shutout into the sixth inning before eventually taking the tough-luck loss. She surrendered just six hits and two runs, while striking out a season-best six batters.

Hecker Hacking: Senior outfielder Regi Hecker has opened the 2024 regular season just as she closed the 2023 regular season. Hecker, who paced Valpo last year in batting average, hits, doubles, RBIs and stolen bases, closed 2023 by hitting .412 (14-for-34) with four multi-hit games over the Beacons' final 12 games of the regular season. To date this season, Hecker ranks second on the team with a .348 batting average - good for 13th in the Valley - and has driven in a team-high 13 runs.

Using Her Speed: Defenses can't rest this year when senior Alexis Johnson gets on the basepaths. Johnson, who had swiped just six bases over her first three seasons, is already 12-for-15 in the stolen base department this year, just five thefts shy of Valpo's single-season top-10 chart. Her 12 stolen bases are tied for the most among Valley players, while she also paces the Beacons with 13 runs scored this year. Last weekend, Johnson had a pair of multi-hit games against Evansville to boost her season batting average above the .300 mark, while she scored two runs and stole two bases as well in the middle game of the series.

Runners on the Move: Led by Johnson, the Beacons have been notably more aggressive on the basepaths this year. After going just 21-for-36 in the steals department in 2023, Valpo is already 30-for-38 this season. Johnson leads the way with her 12 steals, while fellow senior Kayla Skapyak is a perfect 6-for-6 on the basepaths this year as well.

Cementing Her Spot: Through the first 14 games of the season, freshman Kayden Krug was just 1-for-7 at the plate. But Krug has started each of the last 10 games, and starting with a 2-for-3, 2-RBI performance Feb. 25 against Ohio, the rookie has stood out. In that stretch, Krug is 11-for-28 at the plate with three runs scored, six RBIs, a double, a triple and three walks.

Preconference Improvement: Entering Valley play, this year's squad had seen marked improvement over last year's squad in terms of preconference performance. In 2023, Valpo posted a 3-15 record prior to the start of conference play, while the 2024 team was 6-15 entering MVC action, a 119-point improvement in winning percentage. The Beacons' batting average was 40 points better in preconference play this year as compared to last year, while the pitching staff's ERA was 1.21 runs lower.

Offensive Bests: This year's team put together a number of strong offensive performances in preconference play:
- 13 runs Feb. 16 in win over Morehead State, the program's largest scoring output since March 2019
- 13 hits Feb. 18 in win over Youngstown State, the program's highest single-game hits total since Feb. 2022
- 6 runs March 2 at Indiana, the program's largest scoring output against a Power Five team since March 2012
- 12-4 run-rule win over Bowling Green March 3, the program's first run-rule win since closing the 2022 regular season with a 10-0 win over Evansville

McDermott Mows Them Down: Freshman Sydney McDermott came to Valpo after earning Ohio All-State honors each of her last three years of high school, and has showcased that form in a number of starts this season. McDermott became the first Valpo player to throw complete games in three straight starts and surrender three or fewer hits in all three since Andrea Zappia in 2008, throwing a three-hitter against Texas A&M-CC, a eight-inning two-hitter versus Georgetown and a three-hitter against Bowling Green - a game which featured her retiring 15 Falcons hitters in a row.

Making Debuts: All nine of Valpo's newcomers made their debuts in the Beacon uniform in the opening weekend of play, eight of those coming on opening day. Four of those debuts came in the season opener against Tulsa, as Kam Utendorf started at shortstop, Anna Wilming pitched in relief and Cici Wilson & Natalie Bush both appeared as pinch-hitters. Four more debuts came against Texas A&M, as Sydney McDermott started in the circle, Kayden Krug entered as a pinch-hitter and Carson Kuhlmann & Madison Stamper were both defensive replacements. Lana Tellez made her collegiate debut in the nightcap of the twinbill with Lehigh the next day as a defensive replacement.

International Experience: Sophomore infielder Kim Rodas continued her international career playing for Mexico over the summer, as she earned a bronze medal at the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games. Rodas previously medaled with Team Mexico at the 2021 Junior Pan American Games, where her squad claimed the silver.