May 04, 20241234567RHE
Win: McDermott (5-21) 6.042222
Loss: Wischnowski (13-7) 6.0105115
Parks (UNI) 423000
Bush (VALPO) 412100
Szostak (VALPO) 302000
Kuhlmann (VALPO) 312000
Senior Day Stunner as Softball Rallies for Walk-Off Win Over UNI
Saturday, May 4, 2024
Senior Day Stunner as Softball Rallies for Walk-Off Win Over UNI
Valpo celebrates the walk-off win Saturday.

It was as if the script had already been written prior to the first pitch on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the Valpo Softball Complex. After all, how else would you explain a trio of the Beacons’ seniors — celebrating their Senior Day — being key components of a seventh-inning rally which resulted in Valpo erasing the entirety of a four-run deficit?

The comeback was completed in walk-off fashion as senior Regi Hecker (Lee’s Summit, Mo./Blue Springs South) delivered an RBI single, sending classmate Alexis Johnson (Schererville, Ind./Lake Central) across the plate with the decisive run as the Beacons took down second-place UNI by a 5-4 final.

How It Happened

  • UNI’s Kate Lappe connected on a two-run homer in the top of the first to give the Panthers the early 2-0 lead.
  • The Panthers extended their lead to four runs in the second courtesy of a sacrifice fly and a double steal.
  • After getting touched up entering in relief for the second inning, freshman Sydney McDermott (Stout, Ohio/Portsmouth West) kept UNI at bay over the next few frames. McDermott successfully navigated a leadoff walk in the third, a one-out double in the fourth and a leadoff single in the fifth.
  • Meanwhile, Valpo had chances of its own in all three frames. The Beacons put their first two hitters on in the third and had them both in scoring position with two out, had runners on the corners with one out in the fourth and got a one-out single in the fifth, but were unable to convert any of those chances.
  • McDermott set UNI down in order, including two strikeouts, in the sixth to prevent the Panthers from adding on.
  • Valpo cracked the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth. Freshman Natalie Bush (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian) reached on a UNI error to lead off the frame, and two batters later, senior Emily Crompton (Salem, Ill./Christ Our Rock Lutheran) lined a run-scoring single back through the middle to bring Bush home.
  • After a fielder’s choice, sophomore Lexi Szostak (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park) connected on a single to put runners on the corners with two outs. Junior Lauren Sena (McHenry, Ill./McHenry) pinch ran at third base, a move designed to put Szostak in motion and hopefully draw a throw which would allow Sena to score.
  • The move worked to perfection, as the Panthers threw down and Szostak got caught in a rundown, allowing Sena to steal home with the Beacons’ second run. Maybe just as important given the events of the next inning, Szostak eventually dove back into first without being tagged out, allowing Valpo to get one batter closer to turning over the lineup.
  • McDermott made sure the deficit stayed at two runs, pitching around a two-out double in the seventh.
  • Freshman Carson Kuhlmann (Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc) led off the bottom of the seventh with a first-pitch knock through the left side, turning over the lineup. A UNI error with senior Kayla Skapyak (Macomb, Mich./Dakota) batting allowed Kuhlmann to advance to second, putting the potential tying run on base with nobody out.
  • Johnson stepped to the plate and squared around looking to sacrifice, but her bunt was well-placed, eluding the UNI pitcher and rolling into no-mans land to the right of the circle for a single to load the bases — still with nobody out.
  • Bush, who had started Valpo’s rally in the sixth inning, came through in a clutch situation, fisting a 2-2 pitch into shallow right for a single, plating Kuhlmann to make it a 4-3 game.
  • The first pitch to Hecker resulted in a passed ball by UNI’s catcher, as Skapyak scampered home with the tying run and the potential winning run moved up to third base.
  • Hecker did the rest herself, working the count full before pulling a grounder past the Panthers’ drawn-in infield on the right side, scoring Johnson and setting off the Valpo celebration.

Inside the Game

  • Saturday was the program’s first win when trailing by at least four runs after five innings since March 21, 2009 against Detroit. That game saw Valpo overcome a 4-0 deficit with one run in the sixth and four in the seventh.
  • The walk-off was Valpo’s second of the season, as the Beacons previously earned a walk-off win in the series finale March 30 versus Bradley.
  • It is the program’s fourth walk-off win on Senior Day in the last nine years, as the 2018, 2017 and 2016 squads all picked up a walk-off win on their respective Senior Days. This was the first game in that group to feature seniors with both the game-winning run and RBI, however — the 2018 game saw a senior score the winning run, while it was a senior with the clinching RBI in 2016.
  • Prior to the game, the Beacons recognized the five members of their senior class — Crompton, Hecker, Johnson, Skapyak and Caitlyn Kowalski (Temperance, Mich./Notre Dame Academy).
  • All four of Valpo’s offensive seniors recorded a hit on Saturday, with Skapyak and Johnson both scoring a run and Crompton and Hecker both delivering an RBI.
  • In the circle, Kowalski made the start — her 107th pitching appearance at Valpo, tied for fifth-most in program history.
  • Skapyak’s defensive work was immaculate on Saturday, as she tracked down nine fly balls in center field. That is the most putouts by a Valpo outfielder in at least the last 25 years, surpassing Taylor Lawson, who tallied eight putouts in center in a 10-inning game at Cleveland State in 2015.
  • While the focus was on celebrating the seniors Saturday, a number of underclassmen had big contributions to the Beacons’ win, as three had multi-hit games in the lineup.
  • Szostak went 2-for-3 for her fifth career two-hit game, four of which have come this year
  • Bush closed out the afternoon 2-for-4 for the third multi-hit game of her rookie campaign, all of which have occurred in the last week and a half.
  • Meanwhile, Kuhlmann registered her first career multi-hit game with a 2-for-3 performance.
  • As a team, the Beacons totaled 10 hits on Saturday — their highest output since posting 12 hits in their March 3 win over Bowling Green.
  • A freshman proved crucial in the circle as well, as McDermott came in for the second inning and, after a rocky start, kept the Panthers at bay. She finished with six innings of work, allowing just four hits and two runs to pick up her fifth win of the year.
  • Saturday marked the sixth time this season that McDermott has tossed at least six innings and surrendered two runs or fewer.
  • Valpo’s win was just its second in program history over UNI, as it entered the game 1-21 against the Panthers. The victory was over a UNI squad which entered the weekend ranked #63 nationally in RPI, and it is the program’s first MVC win over a team which will finish in the top-two of the conference standings since taking two of three from second-place Missouri State in 2018.

Next Up

Valpo (9-38, 3-19 MVC) takes aim at a series victory as it closes the regular season on Sunday. First pitch against the Panthers is slated for noon.