March 21, 20211234567RHE
Win: Kowalski (4-5) 5.140003
Loss: Branon (0-2) 6.053303
Moeder (VALPO) 312100
Monteer (BRAD) 401000
Blume (BRAD) 401000
Smith (BRAD) 301000
Thompson (BRAD) 201010
van Breusegen (BRAD) 301000
Mead (BRAD) 301000
Softball Earns Shutout Win Over Bradley to Close Weekend
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Softball Earns Shutout Win Over Bradley to Close Weekend
Caitlyn Kowalski threw 5.1 shutout innings in relief Sunday. (Jessica Leifheit)

The Valpo softball team got big outs from its pitchers with the bases loaded in the first two innings, and the offense did the rest from there, as the Brown and Gold closed out their opening weekend of MVC play with a 4-0 road win at Bradley on Sunday afternoon.

How It Happened

  • Bradley loaded the bases with a two-out rally in the bottom of the first on a single, a hit batter and a walk. Valpo starter Easton Seib (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs South) made sure that the Braves wouldn’t take the lead, however, winning a nine-pitch battle with a strikeout on a full count to keep it scoreless.
  • Bradley threatened again in its half of the second, again using a walk, a base hit and a hit batter to load the bases with two outs. This time, freshman Caitlin Kowalski (Temperance, Mich./Notre Dame Academy) was called upon out of the bullpen and delivered the necessary out, inducing a fly ball to center to strand the bases full of Braves.
  • Valpo took full advantage of its first chance to score in the top of the third. Junior Peyton Moeder (Shawnee, Kan./Mill Valley) led off with an infield single and freshman Regi Hecker (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Blue Springs South) followed with a perfectly placed bunt. Hecker beat it out for a bunt single, and heads-up baserunning from Moeder allowed her to advance all the way to third as the throw went to first.
  • After a grounder advanced Hecker into scoring position, junior Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) lined a single the other way to score Moeder. Senior Addi Burke (Mesquite, Texas/John Horn) followed with a groundout that plated Hecker to make it 2-0 Valpo.
  • Bradley put together a mini-threat in the bottom of the third, putting the potential tying runs on base with two outs. But Kowalski again got an easy ball in the air to the outfield to keep the Braves off the board.
  • A pair of highlight-reel defensive plays sandwiched a strikeout from Kowalski in a 1-2-3 fourth inning. Freshman Kayla Skapyak (Macomb, Mich./Dakota) opened the inning with a nice diving grab on a shallow liner from a Bradley slapper, and following Kowalski’s strikeout, Burke laid out to her left to snag a looping liner to close out the inning.
  • Valpo scored a pair of key insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Sophomore Ryan Milkowski (Olathe, Kan./Olathe West) led off the frame with a single, and after freshman Alexis Johnson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) pinch-ran, junior Taylor Tonoian (Saugus, Calif./Saugus) drew a five-pitch walk to put two runners on base.
  • A sacrifice bunt from Jaina Westphal (Waterford, Wis./Burlington) moved both runners into scoring position, and both scored on the very next batter, as Moeder hit an infield grounder. With Moeder’s speed, the Bradley shortstop overthrew first base in an effort to beat her to the bag, which allowed both Johnson and Tonoian to score and make it 4-0.
  • The insurance runs proved unnecessary in the end, as Kowalski and the Valpo defense didn’t allow a Braves runner past second base after the third inning. The rookie pitched around a leadoff single in the seventh, needing just seven pitches to record the final three outs.

Inside the Game

  • Valpo bounced back from a doubleheader sweep on Saturday to earn the Sunday victory in the series finale. This is the second straight MVC slate that Valpo has started with a 1-2 record at Bradley, taking the final game of the series.
  • The shutout was Valpo’s first since blanking Evansville 5-0 in Peoria on May 8, 2019 at the MVC Tournament.
  • Valpo’s last shutout in MVC play came at Illinois State, a 9-0 win on May 5, 2018.
  • Seib earned the start in the circle and went the first 1.2 innings, including the strikeout to strand the bases loaded in the first.
  • Kowalski picked up the victory as she went the final 5.1 innings, scattering four hits while striking out three and not walking anybody. The freshman improved to 4-5 on the season.
  • Valpo tallied just five hits on the day, but four of them came in the two innings the Brown and Gold scored as they left just one runner on base Sunday.
  • Moeder led the way as she recorded a pair of hits and drove in a key run in the seventh inning. The junior has tallied eight hits over Valpo’s last four games, including three multi-hit games.

Thoughts From Coach Stake

“It’s hard to throw a shutout against Bradley, or against any of the teams in the Valley in general. I think Easton, Caitlyn, T and our defense worked hard together to keep Bradley off the board today. Their hitters put the ball in the air a lot, and the stadium has a consistent crosswind — our outfielders did a good job sticking with some tricky balls out there.”

“Saturday was hard — we got beat badly that second game. Once Bradley got momentum, we couldn’t stop them. So today, I’m super pleased that our team didn’t come out ‘afraid to lose’, and that even though Bradley loaded the bases twice to start the game, we didn’t get tight. Easton got a big 3-2 strikeout to get us out of the first and Caitlyn came in to close the door in the second. We won this game in the first two innings even though we didn’t score until the third inning.”

Next Up

Valpo (5-11, 1-2 MVC) briefly steps out of conference play for a mid-week game at Notre Dame Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. CT. The game is scheduled for broadcast on ACC Network Extra.