Over Easter weekend, the softball team played a series against Indiana State. After taking the first two games, the Crusaders demonstrated strength in their gameplay, showing they’re finally bouncing back from their difficult season.
“I think we are on an upward swing. I think they [the girls] are playing better ball then they have been, and I think they are playing the game hard. I think they are probably exhausted after how they played this weekend, and that is the type of character that will help us once it comes down to tournament time,” said Head Coach Kate Stake.
The Crusaders drew first blood with a bunt by freshman shortstop Taylor Herschbach to the pitcher, who committed a throwing error. Freshman center fielder Peyton Moeder, who was on second, advanced to third and saw the go-ahead to take home on the throwing error. The second run also occurred in a similar fashion, when sophomore first baseman Brittany Anderson reached on a fielding error by the pitcher to allow senior second baseman Carly Trepanier to score from third.
In the next inning with bases loaded, Trepanier singled through the right side to allow junior left fielder Morgan Matalin to score the third run. Two batters later, Herschbach got Indiana State in a fielder's-choice that resulted in another error, sending Moeder and freshman right fielder Jaina Westphal home.
In the bottom of the seventh, Valpo was down 6-5. After a single from Moeder, Trepanier doubled to the left that got Moeder to score the tying run. With Trepanier on second, Herschbach drove in a single through the right side, winning the game 7-6. Junior pitcher Jenna Edwards threw a complete game on the mound, giving up nine hits, five walks and six runs, two of them being earned while striking out eight.
Game two went differently, as Indiana State scoring five runs in the first two innings. It wouldn’t be until the bottom of the third when senior third baseman Jaymee Lawton hit a three-run double into right center. In the sixth, Matalin tripled to right field to get herself into scoring position. Moeder helped the effort with a single up the middle, bringing in the fourth run. Anderson drew a walk, and with Lawton up to bat, she pounded the ball to center to drive in three more runs, making the score 7-5.
With a quick half inning from Edwards to close out the game, the Crusaders took the series-winning game with a final score of 7-5. Freshman pitcher Taylor Knight started the game, going strong through six. She gave up eight hits, five runs, three walks and struck out one. Valpo collected a total of 12 hits, with Moeder leading the team with three.
“Their pitchers were pretty similar to each together. Just learning off of each of our at-bats really helped us to adjust. This is what we have been practicing. They had five pitchers, so switching between each one is what we have been working on all week, and it has paid off,” Lawton said.
Game three was a bit out of Valpo’s reach, as they let Indiana State take the lead in the first inning by scoring six runs. The only time Valpo scored was in the third inning. Matalin singled and advanced to second from Moeder’s groundout. Trepanier's single got Matalin to score the only run for Valpo. The Crusaders lost the game 9-1.
One of the biggest challenges for the Crusaders was the wind. Many of the fly balls driven into the outfield were being affected by the guests coming in, making it difficult for the outfielders to read the ball and make the necessary play.
“Our outfield has done a really good job on handling balls in the air. They are difficult to read, and even if you think you know where the wind moves the flag, it’s not necessarily the same above it or below it. But I think we did a good job handling the balls in the air,” Stake said.
Valpo continued the journey with a home game against Loyola on Wednesday, but they lost 5-2. They move on to play a weekend series against Evansville. It starts with a doubleheader on Saturday and a third game on Sunday. The Crusaders will return home on May 3 where they will compete against Illinois State in a three-day series.