The Valpo softball offense had its highest output of hits since the start of MVC play on Saturday, led by a three-hit afternoon from freshman Kim Rodas (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon), but it wouldn’t be enough to top visiting Drake, as the Bulldogs came away 8-4 victors.
How It Happened
- Drake jumped on top from the start on Saturday, going up 3-0 three batters into the game on two walks and a home run.
- The Bulldogs added another run in the first to push the lead to 4-0 and still had runners on second and third with nobody out. But senior Lauren Kehlenbrink (Ballwin, Mo./Parkway South) picked a timely moment for her second pickoff of the season, nailing the runner off third for the first out. Valpo then erased the lead runner on a ground ball and junior Caitlin Kowalski (Temperance, Mich./Notre Dame Academy) registered a strikeout to limit the damage to four runs.
- Valpo knew it would have to chip away at the deficit and started to do so in the bottom of the first. With two outs and nobody on, junior Regi Hecker (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Blue Springs South) and Rodas beat out consecutive infield singles. Hecker came around to score on a Drake error to cut the deficit to 4-1.
- Kowalski settled down after the rough opening frame, retiring nine of the 10 batters she faced over three straight shutout innings to keep the Bulldogs on four runs.
- The top of the order produced another run in the bottom of the fourth. Junior Alexis Johnson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) led off the frame with a single back through the middle and fifth-year Taylor Herschbach (Lockport, Ill./Lockport Township) worked a full-count walk to put two on with nobody out.
- Both runners moved up 60 feet, giving the Beacons two in scoring position with one away. Rodas followed by dropping a single into shallow left-center to plate Johnson, making it 4-2, and the rookie moved up to second on the throw in to third to put the potential tying run in scoring position. But a strikeout and a groundout stranded the two runners in scoring position.
- Valpo had another shot with a runner in position to score in the fourth, turning a leadoff single into a runner on second with two out, but a lineout ended that threat.
- Drake looked poised to add more insurance in the top of the fifth, as its leadoff hitter reached third with nobody out on a single, wild pitch and error. Kowalski kept her there, however, as she induced a grounder to a drawn-in infield and a popup for the first two outs. After a walk and stolen base, the junior registered a strikeout looking to keep it a two-run game.
- The turning point of the game came in the bottom of the fifth. Herschbach led off the inning with a single, and Hecker seemingly picked up a single of her own to put two on with nobody out. But Herschbach was adjudged to have left first early, negating the hit as she was called out. After an out, Rodas picked up a base knock — what could have been three straight singles to lead off the inning turned into just a runner on first with two outs, and the Beacons wouldn’t score in the inning.
- Drake pushed its lead to 8-2 in the top of the sixth with its second four-run frame of the game.
- Valpo refused to go quietly, coming right back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth as junior Emily Crompton (Salem, Ill./Christ Our Rock Lutheran) came home on a pinch-hit RBI single from freshman Lexi Szostak (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park) and pinch-runner Lyna Vasquez (Moreno Valley, Calif./Valley View) scored on an RBI grounder from Johnson.
- Hecker drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the bottom of the seventh, prompting Drake to go to its bullpen and bring in Friday winning pitcher Mackenzie Hupke, who retired the next three in order to close the game.
Inside the Game
- Valpo tallied eight hits on Saturday, its highest single-game total since recording nine hits against Eastern Illinois March 5.
- Rodas picked up three of those hits, recording hits in each of her first three at-bats as she finished 3-for-4. It was the first three-hit game of the freshman’s career and the fourth by a Valpo player this season.
- Hecker and Herschbach each reached base twice apiece as well, as both players registered a single and a walk.
- With her walk in the third inning, Herschbach pushed her on-base streak to nine consecutive games — a career best. The nine-game on-base streak is also the best by a Valpo player this season.
- Szostak improved to 4-for-11 coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter this season.
- Kowalski went the distance in the circle, throwing her second complete game in the last week. The junior tossed 154 pitches to go the seven innings.
Valpo (8-32, 4-15) concludes the series with Drake on Sunday at noon from the Valpo Softball Complex. The game can be seen live on ESPN+.