April 14, 20241234567RHE
Illinois State05000128131
Win: McLeod (9-8) 3.252213
Loss: McDermott (4-14) 1.232200
Hecker (VALPO) 412100
Szostak (VALPO) 402200
Bryant (ILS) 412201
Hopkins (ILS) 412000
Wilkerson (ILS) 412000
Masching (ILS) 412200
Beacons Suffer Walk-Off Defeat in Illinois State Series Finale
Sunday, April 14, 2024
Beacons Suffer Walk-Off Defeat in Illinois State Series Finale
Alexis Johnson's teammates greet her after her fourth-inning homer. (Dayton Hammes)

The bats were alive for the Valpo softball team for a second straight day and the Beacons led Illinois State Sunday afternoon by a pair of runs with two innings to play, but the host Redbirds scored three runs over the final two frames to walk off 8-7 victors.

How It Happened

  • After both teams threatened but didn’t score in the first, Valpo opened the scoring in the top of the second. Sophomore Kim Rodas (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) led off the inning with a single and came around to score on a slap the other way from senior Kayla Skapyak (Macomb, Mich./Dakota) which sprayed chalk when it hit the left-field line and spun further into foul territory for an RBI double.
  • Senior Alexis Johnson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) followed by drilling a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left-center for a two-run homer, giving Valpo a 3-0 lead after an inning and a half.
  • The lead flipped to the Redbirds in the bottom of the second, as they put five runs on the board.
  • Valpo regained the advantage in the top of the fourth. Johnson drove in the first run of the inning with an RBI groundout, scoring freshman Kayden Krug (Milford, Ohio/Mount Notre Dame), who had singled to open the frame.
  • Two batters later, senior Regi Hecker (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Blue Springs South) lined a single to left-center, scoring Skapyak to tie the game at 5-5.
  • The inning’s big blow came from sophomore Lexi Szostak (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park) with the bases loaded and two outs. Szostak laced a 2-1 pitch off the wall in left-center, scoring two more runs to give Valpo a 7-5 edge.
  • Valpo held the Redbirds off the board the next two innings to maintain the two-run lead. Madi Bylak led off the bottom of the sixth with a pinch-hit homer to make it a 7-6 game, but freshman Sydney McDermott (Stout, Ohio/Portsmouth West) came out of the bullpen and got three straight fly outs to keep the Beacons in the lead heading to the seventh.
  • Heartbreak awaited Valpo in the bottom of the seventh, as three hits and a sacrifice fly resulted in a pair of ISU runs scoring, giving the hosts the walk-off win.

Inside the Game

  • The walk-off loss was the second defeat in such fashion for Valpo in MVC play this year, as the Beacons also fell in the bottom of the seventh in the series finale at Evansville.
  • Valpo reached double figures in the hits department for the second straight day, finishing Sunday’s game with 10 hits after racking up 11 base knocks on Saturday. It is the first time the Beacons have posted at least 10 hits in consecutive games since doing so in the 2022 regular season finale versus Evansville and the subsequent MVC Tournament game against Indiana State.
  • Unlike Saturday’s game, which saw only five Beacons register base hits, Sunday’s hits were spread throughout the lineup, as eight of nine starts tallied at least one hit.
  • Hecker and Szostak each finished the afternoon 2-for-4, with the former scoring a run and driving one in, while the latter picked up a pair of RBIs. For Hecker, it was her second straight multi-hit game and her team-best 10th of the season.
  • Meanwhile, Szostak — who entered this week with two career multi-hit games — doubled that total this week, as Sunday’s effort joined a 2-for-3 performance in the Wednesday game versus UIC.
  • Szostak also drove in multiple runs in a game for the first time in her career.
  • Johnson’s fourth inning homer was her second of the season. The senior finished the game with three RBIs, matching a career high — notably, originally set against Illinois State last season.
  • Krug, Rodas, Skapyak and sophomore Kam Utendorf (Columbus Grove, Ohio/Columbus Grove [Black Hawk College]) all reached base twice apiece as well with a hit and a walk.
  • Skapyak’s RBI double came in the 150th game of her Valpo career and was the first career extra-base hit for the slapper. It also marked just the fifth RBI of her career as well.
  • Skapyak scored a pair of runs as well, her seventh career multi-run game.
  • Valpo finished the afternoon 6-for-10 at the plate with runners in scoring position, the best batting average in such situations (minimum 10 at-bats) since going 7-for-11 against Western Illinois March 5, 2022. The six hits with runners in scoring position also tied for the team’s second-highest total in a single game this season.
  • Freshman Anna Wilming (Columbus, Ohio/Olentangy Orange) started in the circle and threw the first 1.2 innings. Senior Caitlyn Kowalski (Temperance, Mich./Notre Dame Academy) had a strong relief performance, giving up just one run in 3.1 innings of work, while McDermott was tagged with the relief loss.

Next Up

Valpo (8-27, 2-12 MVC) is slated to step away from Valley play on Wednesday afternoon with a home doubleheader against Eastern Illinois, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.