It was a multitudinous line of Valpo runners crossing the plate in its second game of a doubleheader Saturday at Belmont, as the softball team closed out the twinbill with a 9-1 run-rule win over the host Bruins. The day finished with a split, as the opener went the way of Belmont on a walk-off triple in the bottom of the seventh for a 2-1 final.
How It Happened – Game One
- The opener on Saturday played out as a pitcher’s duel from the beginning between sophomore Easton Seib (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs South) and Belmont’s Alicia Veltri, as only one runner reached scoring position in the first four innings between the two teams.
- A leadoff single for Belmont turned into a runner on third with two out in the fifth, but Seib got a fly ball to right to get out of the inning and keep the game scoreless.
- Valpo was the first team to crack the scoreboard, plating a run in the top of the sixth with a two-out rally. Sophomore Ryan Milkowski (Olathe, Kan./Olathe West) was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a five-pitch walk to senior Addi Burke (Mesquite, Texas/John Horn). Junior Kate Beckemeyer (Forsyth, Ill./Maroa-Forsyth [Parkland]) then delivered a first-pitch single to score freshman Alexis Johnson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central), who pinch-ran for Milkowski.
- Seib pitched out of trouble in the sixth after the first two Belmont hitters reached, getting a pair of outs in the air followed by a groundout to keep it a 1-0 game.
- A leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh was followed by two force-outs at second as Valpo moved within one out of taking the opener. But a two-out single put two runners on, and Belmont’s Cheyenne Cavanaugh connected on a walk-off triple.
How It Happened – Game Two
- Valpo struck first for the second straight game, this time doing so early on in the second inning. Beckemeyer knocked a one-out single to right, and two batters later, junior Taylor Tonoian (Saugus, Calif./Saugus) drilled a no-doubt homer to left-center field to give Valpo a 2-0 advantage.
- Given a two-run lead, freshman Caitlyn Kowalski (Temperance, Mich./Notre Dame Academy) struck out the side in the bottom of the frame around a pair of Belmont baserunners.
- Sacrifice flies gave Valpo added cushion to its lead in each of the next two innings. In the third, freshman Kayla Skapyak (Macomb, Mich./Dakota) led off with a four-pitch walk and scored on a fly ball to the outfield from junior Jaina Westphal (Waterford, Wis./Burlington).
- The next inning saw Beckemeyer lead off with a base knock and come around to score on a sac fly by junior Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township).
- Valpo scored five runs in its half of the fifth to push the game into run-rule territory, highlighted by a three-run homer with two outs from Herschbach.
- Belmont broke up the shutout in the bottom of the fifth, but with two on and two out, Kowalski registered another strikeout to close out the run-rule victory.
Inside the Games
- It was a stellar day at the plate for Burke, who continued her strong start to the 2021 campaign by reaching base five times, going 4-for-5 with a walk. The senior was 2-for-2 and drew a free pass in the opener before going 2-for-3 with a double in the victory. Through six games this year, Burke is hitting a team-best .500.
- Beckemeyer went 3-for-6 over the two games on Saturday and is now hitting .375 this year. She gave Valpo the lead with her run-scoring hit in the first game and then scored a career-high three runs in the victory.
- Herschbach and Tonoian both connected on their respective first home runs of the season and second home runs of their careers in the win in the second game. Herschbach drove in four runs in the victory, setting a new career high, while Tonoian drove in three as she tallied a sac fly and was hit by a pitch in addition to her round-tripper.
- Skapyak and senior Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) both reached base twice in the run-rule win as well.
- Seib took the tough-luck loss in the opener despite carrying a shutout into the seventh inning. Kowalski picked up the complete-game win in the nightcap, scattering six hits while striking out eight.
- Saturday marked the first doubleheader Valpo played against the same team since closing out MVC play with a twinbill versus Illinois State on May 4, 2019. It also was the program’s first doubleheader in early-season non-conference action outside a tournament setting since taking on Marshall in a pair of games on March 9, 2010.
Thoughts From Coach Stake
“It’s been a tricky week for the program. And then we came out with good pitching and defense, but couldn’t figure it out at the plate in game one. A walk-off loss is a gut punch at that point. But, instead of letting everything take us to our knees, we came out fighting in game two. I don’t know that there was a team-wide shift in approach, necessarily. But I think that when we finally put a handful of runs on the board, we were able to play a bit more comfortable, and then found ourselves in a rhythm of finding success and passing that confidence down the line.”
“Easton was dialed in today and executed our game plan well. It was her best outing this season, and it’s unfortunate she was on the receiving end of a tough-luck loss, but that doesn’t take away from her performance. We had trouble scoring that game, and pitching with no margin for error is a challenge — I thought Easton rose up to that challenge.”
“I’m proud of CK for her bounce-back performance in game two. She gave up a game-winning hit to the one batter she faced to end the first game, and she didn’t let it set her back on her heels when she started the next game 25 minutes later. She did a nice job missing bats and keeping Belmont guessing today.”
“Addi’s playing unconscious. There isn’t a whole lot more to say than that. She’s had a great start, period.”
“Coming off an injury, this is the first time Taylor Tonoian has been on the field this season. She may be wearing the same jersey number she has for the past two years, but she is not the same player. She’s grown a lot, and I’m not surprised she put a ball that far over the fence or that her home run created the momentum it did with her teammates. She has a lot of influence on this team.”
“I wanted to make sure to give a nod to Ryan on the defensive side of the ball. While she wasn’t on the field today, we’re short-staffed right now with our coaching personnel, and Ryan had a significant impact on the game working alongside me in the dugout today.”
“I was pumped for Hersch to put one over the wall today. That’s probably the hardest-hit ball I’ve seen from her. I hope that creates some muscle memory for her as we roll toward the start of conference here in a couple weeks.”
Valpo (2-4) heads off to the Thundering Herd Round Robin in Huntington, W.V. next weekend.