It might have taken one more day than expected to get this weekend’s action from Louisville underway, but the Valpo softball team made sure it was well worth the wait on Saturday as the Beacons opened the weekend with a pair of victories, defeating host Bellarmine, 6-2, before edging Eastern Illinois, 2-1.
How It Happened – Bellarmine
- The host Knights were on the front foot early on, connecting for a solo homer in the bottom of the first and a two-out RBI single for an unearned run in the second to take a 2-0 lead.
- Valpo came right back and started chipping away at the deficit in the third. Freshman Lexi Szostak (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park) connected on a one-out double and eventually scored on a Bellarmine error to cut the Knights’ advantage in half.
- The Beacons evened the scoreline in the top of the fourth. Junior Emily Crompton (Salem, Ill./Christ Our Rock Lutheran) worked a full-count walk, fouling off three two-strike pitches, to lead off the inning, moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt and advanced 60 feet closer to scoring on a single from freshman Kim Rodas (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon). Crompton completed the journey around the bases, tying the game at 2-2 as she scampered home on a bunt single by junior Alexis Johnson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central).
- The first three batters of the fifth inning proved the decisive stretch of the ballgame. Junior Regi Hecker (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Blue Springs South) led off the frame with a two-strike single and junior Kayla Skapyak (Macomb, Mich./Dakota) followed with an infield single. Senior Lauren Kehlenbrink (Ballwin, Mo./Parkway South) stepped up, watched the first four pitches go by to work a 3-1 count and then drilled the fifth pitch of the at-bat deep to left for a three-run homer to give Valpo a 5-2 lead.
- The Beacons got an insurance run in the top of the sixth, as Szostak led off with her second double of the game and came around to score on a pinch-hit RBI single from sophomore Kaiah Fenters (Speedway, Ind./Speedway).
- While the offense delivered the six consecutive runs, junior Caitlyn Kowalski (Temperance, Mich./Notre Dame Academy) took care of work in the circle. Kowalski entered in the bottom of the fourth after Valpo tied the game and threw four hitless innings, not allowing a single Bellarmine runner past first base.
How It Happened – EIU
- Eastern Illinois jumped on top with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the first
- The Beacons responded immediately in the top of the second with back-to-back one-out doubles. Fifth-year Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) delivered the first two-bagger and scored on the second double, this one off the bat of Rodas to tie the game.
- The Panthers got a leadoff double in their half of the second, but the Beacons stranded that runner on third — which proved to be critical as the game played out.
- Again, it was a two-bagger which got things started in the top of the third for Valpo, as Hecker doubled with one out. Two batters later, Kehlenbrink knocked a single into center field to bring Hecker around to score and give Valpo the 2-1 lead.
- With a one-run edge, the combination of senior Easton Seib (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs South) and Kowalski got the job done in the circle. Handed the advantage, Seib did not allow a runner past first base from the third through the fifth innings.
- Kowalski entered in the sixth, where a baserunner on a two-out error was erased by Kehlenbrink catching her trying to steal. EIU opened the seventh with a single and a sacrifice bunt to move the potential tying run into scoring position, but Kowalski recorded a big strikeout for out two and then induced an easy fly ball for the final out.
Inside the Games
- Valpo outhit both of its opponents in Saturday’s pair of victories, holding an 11-2 advantage in the hits department versus Bellarmine and 8-7 against Eastern Illinois. The 11 hits against the host Knights were a season best for the Beacons.
- Kehlenbrink went 3-for-7 over the two games and had the big blow with her 3-run homer in the win over Bellarmine. The home run was the eighth of her career.
- Szostak registered a pair of doubles and scored two runs in the opening win. Her two doubles in a single game has been bested just once in program history.
- Rodas also picked up a pair of hits against Bellarmine, while the trio of Hecker, Herschbach and Johnson all reached base twice with a hit and a walk in the win over the Knights.
- Hecker continued on to go 3-for-4 with a run scored out of the leadoff spot in the win over EIU, her third career three-hit game.
- Herschbach also posted a multi-hit game in Valpo’s nightcap, going 2-for-3 with a run scored in the win over the Panthers. The veteran did have her consecutive stolen base streak broken on Saturday at 14, as she was caught stealing against Bellarmine for the first time since March 7, 2020.
- In the circle, Seib started and surrendered just two hits and one earned run in the first three innings against Bellarmine before giving way to Kowalski, who threw four no-hit innings with eight strikeouts to pick up the victory.
- For Kowalski, it was her second career outing of at least four innings of relief work without giving up a hit, while the eight strikeouts tied for the second-most of her career.
- Against Eastern Illinois, Seib again received the starting assignment and scattered six hits over the first five innings to earn the win.
- Kowalski recorded her first career save as she closed out the victory over the Panthers with two innings of work.
Valpo (3-9) looks to keep the wins coming on Sunday as the Beacons rematch with both opponents — Eastern Illinois at 12:30 p.m. CT and Bellarmine at 3 p.m. CT. Start time for the opening game could be pushed back, as EIU and Bellarmine have to conclude their game from Saturday — halted by darkness mid-seventh inning with the score tied — before playing their first full game of the day Sunday prior to Valpo taking the field.