Valparaiso (8-9, 0-0 MVC)
March 19 - at Indiana State (12-10, 0-0 MVC) - 2 p.m. CT
March 20 - at Indiana State - 11 a.m. CT DH
Next Up in Valpo Softball: Missouri Valley Conference action gets underway for the Valpo softball team this weekend, as the Beacons make their way downstate to open the conference slate with a three-game series at Indiana State.
Previously: Valpo posted a 1-3 record last weekend at the Bluegrass Challenge in its final pre-conference tuneups, beating Central Michigan and falling to Louisville, Eastern Kentucky and #9/12 Kentucky. Valpo’s weekend finale against Buffalo was canceled due to cold.
Looking Ahead: Valpo will briefly step back from conference action mid-week next week with a non-conference game Wednesday afternoon at Western Michigan. The Beacons then return to MVC play next weekend at Missouri State.
Following Valpo Softball: All three of this weekend’s games will have live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Amanda Eberhart: Amanda Eberhart was hired as head coach of the Valpo softball program in July of 2021. She brings seven years of head coaching experience at the Division I level, most recently spending the last three years as the head coach at Omaha and previously leading the IUPUI program for four seasons. Eberhart, who owns 139 career victories as a head coach, also has eight seasons of experience on staffs at Big Ten programs.
Series History: Indiana State holds a 16-5 advantage in the all-time series, including wins in all four meetings last season - three in the regular season and one in the MVC Tournament. Since Valpo joined the Valley, the Sycamores have won eight of 10 matchups. The meeting in the MVC Tournament last season, a 9-5 ISU win, featured Regi Hecker’s first collegiate home run.
Scouting the Opposition: The Sycamores enter MVC play with a 12-10 record, most recently splitting four games last weekend at the Golden Eagle Classic as they beat Quinnipiac twice and lost to Bellarmine and to Tennessee Tech. Lexi Benko, who no-hit Quinnipiac in one of the wins last weekend, leads ISU in the circle with a 6-5 record and a 2.75 ERA. At the plate, Bella Peterson paces the Sycamores in numerous categories, hitting .351 with 16 runs scored.
What’s Back: Valpo returns 14 of 19 letterwinners from last season’s squad for the 2022 campaign. In all, 77.6% of Valpo’s plate appearances are back for this season and 89.8% of last season’s inning pitched return as well.
Who’s New: After redshirting due to injury last season, Kylie Millhorn looks for her first collegiate action this spring. In addition, four true freshmen - Addi Weaver, Cheyenne Nietz, Kaiah Fenters and Lauren Sena - round out Valpo’s 19-player roster.
The Long and Winding Road: This weekend’s games continue a long and winding road for the Beacons before they finally get the chance to play at the Valpo Softball Complex. After playing four weekends away from home in the pre-conference, Valpo’s first two weekends of MVC play are on the road as well, with a non-conference game at Western Michigan thrown in there too. All told, Valpo’s first 24 games of the year are scheduled away from home, as the home opener comes on April 2 - matching last year for the latest home opener since the 2003 season.
Conference Openers: Valpo will look to reverse its recent history in the opening series of conference play this weekend at Indiana State. In its first three seasons of MVC play, Valpo has posted a 2-7 record on the opening weekend of the Valley slate. That includes falling three times at Indiana State to open the 2018 conference schedule.
Putting the Ball in Play: Valpo enters MVC play with easily the fewest strikeouts at the plate of any Valley team. The Beacons have struck out just 70 times through the season’s first 17 games, bettering Indiana State’s total of 93 strikeouts, the second-fewest so far this year by an MVC team. Valpo is averaging just 4.1 strikeouts/game at the plate this year after striking out 5.9 times/game last season. On the flip side, the Beacons have only 37 combined walks/hit by pitches this year, also a conference low.
Running Wild: This year’s team has stolen 22 bases in 24 attempts through the season’s first 17 games, already matching last year’s team total for stolen bases. Four different Beacons have swiped four or more bags, led by Jaina Westphal and Kayla Skapyak, who have each stolen five bases apiece without being caught.
Slowing Down the Opposition: While Valpo has been super-efficient when it comes to stealing bases, it has turned the tables on the opposition when they attempt to run. The Beacons’ opponents this year are just 16-for-26 attempting to steal bases, compared to last year, when opponents were 66-for-80 on the basepaths. Valpo currently ranks third in the conference in caught stealing percentage as a team, led by Addi Weaver, who has thrown out six of 13 runners attempting to steal on her.
Slugging Away: Junior Ryan Milkowski has been the Beacons’ biggest power threat at the plate through four weekends of play this season. Milkowski is hitting .302, with seven of her 13 hits going for extra bases. She ranks in the top-10 in the Valley entering conference play in slugging percentage (.581, 8th), OPS (.985, 9th) and RBIs (12, 10th).
Seib Stands Out: Junior Easton Seib had another big effort in Valpo’s opener last weekend at the Bluegrass Challenge, tossing a three-hit shutout as the Beacons beat Central Michigan, 5-0. It was Seib’s second complete-game shutout of the year, and also featured nine strikeouts from the junior - easily a new career best in the category. With five wins in the circle so far this year, Seib is tied for fourth among MVC pitchers.
Reeling Off Wins: Valpo won each of its first four games at the Charleston Invitational en route to posting the tournament’s best record. Combined with the tournament-closing win over Western Michigan on opening weekend, the Beacons won five in a row - the program’s longest winning streak since a six-game winning streak late in the 2018 season. Valpo’s first three wins at Charleston were all by a single run, the first time since late 2013 the program has won three in a row, all by one run.