The Valparaiso University softball team started out the Aggie Invitational in Davis, Calif. on a strong note on Friday, taking down a pair of Mountain West Conference opponents as the Crusaders defeated Nevada, 3-1, and Utah State, 5-4 in eight innings.
How It Happened – Nevada
- The Wolfpack took the lead just three batters into the top of the first on a pair of singles, with a wild pitch in between.
- Valpo threatened in its half of the first, as junior Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) led off with a line-drive single and fifth-year senior Taylor Lawson (Tucson, Ariz./Sahuaro) was hit by a pitch. The duo successfully orchestrated a one-out double steal to put two runners in scoring position, but the Crusaders were unable to plate either.
- The game’s turning point came in the fourth inning for both squads. With nobody on and two outs for Nevada, three straight groundballs turned into an error and two infield hits to load the bases. But senior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) induced a grounder to second to strand all three Nevada runners and keep it a 1-0 game.
- Then, the Crusaders’ offense came to life in the bottom of the inning. Senior Jenna Stauffenberg (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) watched four pitches go by for a leadoff walk, followed by freshman Addi Burke (Mesquite, Texas/John Horn) dropping down a perfect bunt in front of home plate which turned into a bunt single.
- After a successful sacrifice moved both runners into scoring position with one out, the Crusaders tied the game as senior Brenna Boyle (St. John, Ind./Andrean) knocked a pitch through the left side of the infield to score pinch-runner Stephanie Moreno (Murrieta, Calif./Murrieta Valley).
- In the ensuing at-bat, Burke got caught in a rundown off of third base, but took advantage of slow defensive coverage by the Wolfpack to take home and give the Crusaders the lead. Boyle, who had moved all the way up to third on the play, proceeded to score on a sharply-hit single into center from senior Lanie Callaghan (Elburn, Ill./Kaneland) to make it 3-1 Valpo.
- The Crusaders’ final eight batters of the game would be retired in order, but the two-run cushion was more than enough for Grossmann in the circle. The senior recorded all nine outs over the final three frames via groundout, allowing just a two-out bloop single in the sixth to Nevada over that stretch as she closed out the complete-game win.
How It Happened – Utah State
- Valpo used its speed and savvy on the basepaths to jump out to a 2-0 lead against the Aggies in the top of the first. Trepanier led off the game with a base hit for the second straight contest, knocking an 0-2 pitch through the right side, and Lawson watched six pitches go by for a full-count walk.
- The duo then pulled off a double steal with the USU third baseman drawn in, and when the Aggies’ shortstop was late covering, their catcher’s throw went down the left-field line to allow Trepanier to score easily with the game’s first run.
- With two outs, Lawson was given the green light to go for third, and it was like déjà vu, as without anybody covering, the catcher’s throw sailed past the third-base bag and Lawson trotted home to make it 2-0.
- Valpo doubled its lead in the top of the fourth with what proved to be a pair of key runs. With one out, Boyle blooped a ball just over the pitcher’s head which landed on the back edge of the circle for an infield single. Callaghan stepped in and, facing an 0-2 pitch, turned on the offering and drove it over the left-field wall for her third home run of the season to make it 4-0.
- A pair of unearned runs came across as part of a three-run inning for Utah State in the bottom of the fourth as the Crusaders saw their lead cut to 4-3.
- Grossmann entered in the circle with runners on first and second and nobody out for the Aggies in the fifth. A groundout advanced both runners 60 feet, but it looked like damage was averted on another grounder back to the circle. Grossmann tossed home for the tag of the lead runner for out number two, but when the batter continued on towards second and the Crusaders threw down in search of the third out, trail runner Emery Marshall took off for home and slid in ahead of the return throw to tie the game at 4-4.
- Grossmann pitched around runners on the corners and two outs in the sixth, registering a strikeout, and then with runners on second and third and one out in the seventh, the senior recorded another huge strikeout and followed by getting a grounder to first to keep the Aggies off the board and send the game into extra innings.
- With the international tiebreak in play, Lawson started the top of the eighth on second base for the Crusaders. The senior moved up to third on a one-out groundout, and then the rookie came up big, as Burke lined the first offering she saw back through the middle for a run-scoring single.
- Utah State opted to sacrifice their tiebreak runner to third to open the bottom of the eighth. Burke then came up big again, this time on defense, as she ranged to her left to snag a grounder on one hop, held the runner at third and fired to first for the second out. A soft looping liner in foul territory to the right side was snagged by Boyle for the game’s final out as the Crusaders finished up the sweep.
Inside the Games
- Valpo’s wins on Friday came over a pair of top-half MWC teams, as Utah State was picked fourth in the conference preseason poll and Nevada fifth.
- Both of Friday’s opponents also finished last season among the top-100 in the nation in RPI (Nevada – 95; Utah State – 67).
- Grossmann earned the win in the circle in both of Friday’s victories, tossing a complete-game six-hitter in the opener against Nevada and then entering in relief with four innings of scoreless relief work against Utah State to improve to 7-2 on the year. It is the second time in a Crusader uniform Grossmann has picked up two wins in one day (at Cleveland State; April 14, 2017).
- Grossmann was her normal effective self in inducing ground balls throughout the day as well. Against Nevada, 16 of 21 outs came on the ground, and first baseman Boyle set a new career high with 16 putouts. Then, in the second game, seven of the senior’s 12 outs came via the groundball to go with four strikeouts and just one flyout.
- Sophomore Emily Richardson (Oak Park, Ill./River Forest) started in the circle against Utah State and threw 3.1 innings, surrendering just one earned run.
- Valpo battled its way out of a number of jams against the Aggies, as they limited Utah State to just 2-of-19 hitting with runners in scoring position and stranded 14 USU runners on base.
- Lawson led the way for the Crusaders on the basepaths, swiping three bases over the two games to push her season total to 17. In all, Valpo totaled seven steals on Friday and was not caught stealing once.
- No Crusader had a multi-hit game at the plate in either victory Friday. Callaghan led the offense as she reached base twice in each game, while Boyle reached base in three of her plate appearances as well.
- Valpo is now 7-2 on the season in games decided by two or fewer runs. The Crusaders are also now 2-0 in extra-inning affairs this year.
Thoughts From Head Coach Kate Stake
“It was good to see our team find a way to win back-to-back games today. We’ve shown we’ll get on the gas from the first pitch and fight to maintain that momentum throughout the game. Our players have shown maturity in tight situations, resilience when we get put back on our heels, and all-out competitiveness through the final pitch. The toughest teams’ scouting reports always say that they won’t go away easily, and I’m certain we’ve earned that comment ourselves so far this year.”
“Kenzie competes every game and every batter, and she keeps us in games by feeding our defense. Today, our defense stepped up behind her to not only make the routine plays, but also make a few very good plays as well. I was happy with the way Kenzie closed out the first game strong once we got the lead, and then with how she was ready to go when she was called upon against Utah State.”
“Addi Burke has been a gamer from day one for us. When she finds herself in a situation offensively or defensively to affect the outcome of the game, she raises her level of play, and we saw that in both the top and bottom of the eighth inning in the Utah State game. That’s an exciting thing to see out of a freshman.”
Valpo (11-6) will face just one game tomorrow on the second day of its tournament play, as the Crusaders are slated to face host UC Davis at 5:15 p.m. CT. Live stats and live video will be available for the contest against the Aggies.