Valparaiso (3-11, 0-0 MVC)
March 11 - at Eastern Kentucky (12-8) - noon CT DH
March 12 - at Eastern Kentucky - noon CT
Next Up in Valpo Softball: The Valpo softball team faces its final weekend of nonconference play this weekend, playing a three-game series over two days at Eastern Kentucky. The Beacons and Colonels will play a twinbill Saturday afternoon before closing the series with a single game on Sunday.
Previously: Valpo split four games last weekend, winning its lone matchup at host Bellarmine and taking one out of three against Eastern Illinois. A scheduled second game against Bellarmine was canceled due to darkness.
Looking Ahead: One last game before MVC play begins awaits next Wednesday, as the Beacons begin their road trip with a single game at Big Ten foe Illinois. Valpo continues on down to Southern Illinois, where the three-game MVC series against the Salukis opens on Friday, March 17.
Following Valpo Softball: All three games this weekend can be seen live on ESPN+. All games will have live stats as well.
Head Coach Meaggan Pettipiece: Meaggan Pettipiece was hired in September 2022 as head coach of the Valpo softball program. Pettipiece brings over a decade of experience as a collegiate head coach, most recently the last three seasons at the Division I level at Akron. Prior to her time at Akron, Pettipiece spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Kent State and was head coach at Northwood for 10 years. Pettipiece, who owns 253 career coaching victories, was an All-American on the diamond and helped California University of Pennsylvania to a D-II national title in 1998 collegiately before playing internationally for Team Canada, including at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Series Notes: Valpo enters this weekend 1-5 all-time against Eastern Kentucky. The Beacons fell to the Colonels last season in Lexington, Ky. by a 4-1 final. The two teams met on opening weekend of this season as well at the DePaul Dome Tournament, where EKU earned a 9-2 win. Valpo led 2-1 through five innings of that contest before EKU scored eight unanswered runs over the final two frames.
Scouting the Opposition: EKU enters this weekend's series at 12-8 overall, but has lost its last three games - twice to Indiana State, and a midweek matchup on Wednesday against Westerne Kentucky, 3-2 in 13 innings. The Colonels rank 45th nationally in scoring, averaging 5.6 runs/game, and their offense is led by Vianna Barron, who is hitting .400 with 21 runs scored and 20 RBIs. In the circle, Lauren Narvaez has been one of the nation's workhorses, throwing 74.1 innings to date with a 3.96 ERA and a 6-3 record.
What’s Back: Valpo returns 10 of 18 letterwinners from last season’s squad for the 2023 campaign. In all, 40.4% of Valpo’s plate appearances are back for this season and 63.6% of last season’s inning pitched return as well.
Who’s New: This year's 16-player roster includes six newcomers donning the Brown and Gold for the first time. A quintet of freshmen - Kaia Garnica, Kimberli Rodas, Lexi Szostak, Lyna Vasquez and Cadence Augustine - are joined by Kent State transfer Autumn Acord. While Garnica was sidelined on opening weekend, the other five all made their Valpo debuts at the DePaul Dome Tournament.
Hitting the 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. This is the final weekend of action away from home prior to the start of conference play. The Beacons have a mid-week game at Illinois leading into their conference-opening weekend at Southern Illinois before finally opening the home slate at the Valpo Softball Complex March 24 versus Illinois State. All told, Valpo is slated to play its first 21 games of the season away from home.
Hecker Earns Weekly Award: Junior outfielder Regi Hecker was recognized by the MVC as its Player of the Week for her work in action on Saturday and Sunday. Hecker hit .667 and OPSed 1.528 over those three games, reaching base multiple times in each game out of the leadoff spot in the order and scoring the go-ahead run in both of Valpo's wins. Hecker reached base in each of her last seven plate appearances of the weekend, a streak which extended to eight in Monday's game. She is Valpo’s first offensive Player of the Week honoree since the program joined the MVC. Through three weekends of play, she is hitting a team-best .343 and ranks ninth in the Valley with a .477 on-base percentage.
A W and a SV for CK: Junior pitcher Caitlin Kowalski had a big hand in both of Valpo's wins on Friday. Kowalski entered to start the 4th inning against Bellarmine with the score tied 1-1 and proceeded to throw four no-hit innings in relief, striking out eight and walking just two to earn the victory. Later that day, Kowalski came in to start the 6th inning with Valpo leading 2-1 against Eastern Illinois and tossed two shutout innings for her first career save. Kowalski has struck out 35 batters in 28.1 innings this year, ranking 66th nationally in Ks/7 innings.
Hersch Picks Up Hits: Fifth-year infielder Taylor Herschbach had a pair of multi-hit games in Louisville last weekend, picking up two hits and scoring a run in each of the first two games against EIU. Herschbach also reached base twice via a hit and a walk in the win over Bellarmine as well. On the season, Herschbach is hitting .289 and is tied for a team high with eight walks, reaching base at a .413 clip.
Turning Two: Defensively, Valpo turned a pair of double plays last weekend in Louisville - a 4-3 line drive twin killing in its first game against EIU and an unconventional 5-3 double play where the lead runner was tagged out in the second EIU game. Through their first 14 games of the season, the Beacons are averaging a double play every other game defensively, which ranks them 15th nationally in double plays/game.