Sam Stewart Named Louisville Slugger/NFCA National Player of the Week
Tuesday proved to be a historic day for the Valparaiso University softball program, as senior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) was named the Louisville Slugger/NFCA National Player of the Week following her outstanding performance in the final weekend of the regular season. Stewart is the first player in program history to earn a National Player of the Week award.
"Sam has grown so much as a player over her time here, and for her to earn national recognition for her play in her final home series is a testament to all of her hard work and buy-in to our program and her role within it,” said Crusader head coach Kate Stake.
Stewart reached base in all 11 of her plate appearances in the three-game sweep of Wright State, going 3-for-3 with eight walks (five intentional), six runs scored, two home runs and three RBIs. By reaching base 11 straight times, Stewart is already tied for seventh in the NCAA all-time record book for consecutive plate appearances reaching base. In the middle game of the series, Stewart broke Valpo’s single-season records for both home runs and walks.
Stewart opened the series by drawing three straight walks in the series opener. In her fourth plate appearance, leading off the seventh inning with Valpo trailing by one, Stewart laced a single to left and eventually scored the game-tying run in the Crusaders’ victory.
Stewart got a pitch to hit in her first at-bat in the second game and took full advantage, launching her 14th home run of the season. The next two times to the plate, she was issued intentional walks – the second of which was her 41st free pass of the year, breaking Valpo’s single-season mark. Then, in her final at-bat of the run-rule win, Stewart delivered a two-run homer to close out the victory and set a new single-season record for home runs at 15.
In the final game of the Crusaders’ three-game series, the Raiders wanted no part of Stewart, intentionally walking her all three times she stepped up to the plate. The final intentional walk came to lead off the bottom of the sixth with Valpo trailing by a run, and Stewart again came around to score the tying run as the Crusaders closed out the sweep.
“Sam had limited opportunities to swing the bat last weekend, but stayed focused and came through every time she was given the chance,” said Stake. “It was also impressive to watch Sam stay locked in while being walked so many times and make a difference for us on the basepaths. It was only appropriate that the final swing of her career on her home field ended up being a home run."
The National Player of the Week honor caps off a whirlwind of honors in the past day-plus for Stewart. She was tabbed the Horizon League Player of the Week for the second time this season on Monday afternoon, and then learned Tuesday morning she had received Horizon League Player of the Year accolades.
Incoming Freshman Wins First Level of U.S. Open Qualifying
Valparaiso University men’s golf incoming freshman Drew Alexander (McCordsville, Ind. / Hamilton Southeastern) won the first level of qualifying for the U.S. Open on Monday at Delaware Country Club.
Alexander shot a 66 (-4) and topped a field of nearly 80 players, including a number of established collegiate players. Alexander is one of three Crusaders who have signed National Letters of Intent for the 2017-18 season.
Crusaders, Boilermakers Washed Out
The Valparaiso University baseball team has announced that Tuesday’s scheduled game against Purdue has been cancelled due to rain. The game will not be made up.
The Crusaders will play back-to-back doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, starting with a visit to Milwaukee on Saturday, May 13 at noon CT. Links to live coverage will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Stewart Named Horizon League Player of the Year; Calombaris, Trepanier Earn All-League Honors
Valparaiso University senior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) received the Horizon League’s top honor on Tuesday, as the league announced that Stewart has been named the Horizon League Player of the Year in voting by the league’s head coaches. In addition, classmate Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) joined Stewart as a First Team All-League selection, while sophomore Carly Trepanier (Manteno, Ill./Manteno) earned a Second Team All-League spot for the second straight year.
Stewart has enjoyed one of the top seasons in program history and is among the nation’s best in numerous categories. She enters this week’s Horizon League Championship atop the league in eight different offensive categories, including all three Triple Crown categories – batting average (.395), home runs (15) and RBIs (46). Stewart currently ranks sixth nationally in walks (1.00/game), seventh in on-base percentage (.562), 10th in slugging percentage (.851) and 13th in home runs/game (0.34).
Stewart is coming off of one of the most impressive weekends of play possible in her final series at the Valpo Softball Complex. She reached base in all 11 plate appearances over her final three home games, a streak which is the best in program history and already is tied for seventh-longest in NCAA history. Along the way, she set Valpo’s single-season records for home runs and walks, marks which now stand at 15 and 44, respectively.
Calombaris joined her longtime neighbor and classmate as a First Team All-League selection after putting together the best season of her career this year. She stepped up in Horizon League play, hitting .345 in league-only action with 12 runs scored and 18 RBIs. Calombaris ranks among the top-10 in the league in league-only play in hits, RBIs, doubles and total bases. Overall, she is hitting .285 this year with 24 runs scored, 22 RBIs and a team-best 10 doubles. Calombaris has been a rock defensively at third base as well, committing just five errors this year and tallying 127 assists – second in the Horizon League and seventh in a single season in program history.
Trepanier repeated as a Second Team All-Horizon League honoree with her strong performance from the leadoff spot as a sophomore. Trepanier is hitting .364 overall, good for second on the team, and leads the team and ranks second in the league with 60 hits. She has swiped a team-best 15 bases, which ranks fourth among league players, and also ranks among the league’s top-six in runs scored, on-base percentage, batting average and total bases.
Stewart is just the second player in Valpo program history to earn league Player of the Year honors and the first to earn the accolade outright, as Kaitlyn Ranieri was tabbed the Horizon League co-Player of the Year in 2014. In addition, the Crusaders had multiple players receive First Team All-League honors for the first time since 2012.
Women’s Basketball Announces 2016-17 Award Winners
The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team has announced its award winners for the 2016-17 season.
The Crusaders recognized the team’s Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, Hardest Worker, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Player of the Year and Fountain Award Winner.
Team MVP: Dani Franklin - Junior - Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Franklin finished the season with 559 points, which ranks second in program history for points in a single year. She led the Crusaders in scoring with 18.0 points per game and rebounding with 7.8 boards per contest. Franklin crossed the 1,000-point plateau as only a junior, and enters her senior season with 1,236 career points, which already ranks sixth in program history. Her 18.0 points per game are fifth in program history for single-season scoring average. She also shot 85.8 percent at the free-throw line, the second-best single-season free-throw percentage in program history. Franklin started the year with a 34-point performance on Nov. 12 at Stetson. It was the fifth-highest single-game scoring output in program history and the highest since 1992. Franklin finished the season second in the Horizon League in scoring, eighth in rebounding, second in free-throw percentage, second in three-point field goal percentage (.430) and fourth in made 3s per game (2.1).
“The words Most Valuable Player summarize Dani Franklin’s season perfectly,” Valpo head coach Tracey Dorow said. “She could have won nearly every award she was eligible for this year. She was so valuable in so many areas. She defended much better than what she had the last couple of years. She really tried to challenge herself and come out of her comfort zone this year. I can’t say enough good things about Dani and her value to our team, which is why she earned this award.”
Most Improved Players: Dani Franklin and Georgi Donchetz
Franklin has been a standout throughout her collegiate career, but this season she reached a whole new level. She increased her scoring average from last year by nearly eight points, boosted her 3-point percentage by nearly 12 percent and over doubled her number of total rebounds and made free throws from a year ago. For her efforts this season, Franklin was recognized as a Horizon League all-second team honoree.
“Dani has grown from wanting to be a spot-up 3-point shooter her first few years to scoring regularly in a variety of ways,” Dorow said. “She has become much more consistent. She’s put in the work and you can see how much she’s improved from year to year.”
After two injury-riddled seasons during which Donchetz played sparingly, she burst onto the scene as a regular contributor throughout her junior campaign. Donchetz played in 28 games and made eight starts. She set single-season career bests in points, rebounds, assists and shooting percentage.
“Georgi was a significant member of the core group on the floor this season,” Dorow said. “She played multiple positions and made a difference at every spot. Sometimes her impact showed through numbers, but most of the time it was by being the glue that kept our team together.”
Hardest Worker: Addison Stoller - Freshman - Cissna Park, Ill.
Stoller’s first collegiate season took an unexpected and unwelcomed turn when she suffered a season-ending knee injury in only the fifth game of the year on Nov. 25 against Liberty. When faced with such adversity, Stoller’s work ethic and resiliency showed through. Although her injury prevented her from making an impact on the court for the remainder of the season, the Crusaders are optimistic that her hard work during the rehabilitation process will pay dividends for the team as she returns to the court for the 2017-18 campaign.
“It was hard to pick this one because all of our kids work hard, but Addy stood out,” Dorow said. “Before she got hurt, she was doing so much extra to prepare herself to be on the court this season. After she got hurt, she was always in the training room. That’s her mentality – she wants to do more than everybody else. As we look to the future, that’s the mentality that we want from our entire team. If everybody works as hard as Addison Stoller, we’re going to be right where we need to be.”
Rookie of the Year: Caitlin Morrison - Freshman - Glenview, Ill.
Morrison started 25 games as a freshman this season, chipping in 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. She buried 22 3-pointers and made 50 total field goals this year. Morrison finished the season strong, scoring a career-high 11 points and matching a career high with eight rebounds in Valpo’s first round Horizon League Tournament win over Youngstown State on March 3.
“Caitlin earned the right to start as a freshman, and a lot of that was due to her athleticism and attributes people don’t always see from the stands,” Dorow said. “You could see flashes of brilliance this year. I’m excited for her future now that Caitlin knows what to expect at the college level and how to prepare for next season.”
Sixth Player of the Year: Grace Hales - Cromwell, Ind. - Westview
Hales knocked down 3 threes in her Valpo debut, becoming the first Crusader freshman to do so in the last decade. She also made a good first impression in the Horizon League opener on Dec. 29, scoring a career-high 13 points at Detroit Mercy. She led the team in scoring on Feb. 16 against Oakland with 11 points. Hales was a consistent force off the bench, contributing 5.5 points per game while making one start in 31 appearances. She finished the season second on the team in free-throw percentage at 81.4 after enjoying a stretch of 21 straight made free throws that spanned December, January and February.
“Grace came off the bench the whole season and our opponents always had to worry about her,” Dorow said. “She surprised us with her ability to drive to the hoop and get to the free-throw line. It’s exciting to see her ability to both attack the basket and shoot the 3. She did some things we didn’t expect her freshman year, and we can’t wait to see her build on that going forward.”
Fountain Award: Georgi Donchetz - Junior - Savage, Minn.
Perhaps the premiere award handed out by the Valpo women’s basketball program, the Fountain Award is given annually to the player who most raises the team’s energy level. There was little question Donchetz would be the runaway winner for this honor for the second consecutive season.
“This award is all about what we stand for as a program,” Dorow said. “We really want players who are excited about playing basketball here at Valpo. You can see the passion in Georgi. She exemplifies everything about this award.”
Valpo Adds Benton to Women’s Basketball Coaching Staff
The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team has announced a new addition to its staff as the Crusaders welcome assistant coach Eddie Benton Jr. to the program.
A veteran who has been coaching collegiately since 1999, Benton comes to the Crusaders after coaching most recently in the Atlantic 10 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Duquesne from 2013-2016. Benton helped guide the Dukes to a program-record 28 victories in 2015-16, a season that culminated with a win in the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, as Duquesne defeated Seton Hall in the opening round before playing UConn in the Round of 32.
“One of the biggest things I bring to the table is that I know what it takes to be successful and win,” Benton said. “Every program I’ve been in, we’ve won. You have to be relentless in your preparation. If you do that, you’ll be rewarded with the wins. I’m equipped to deal with a lot of different people and make everybody come together.”
Benton, a former professional player who was inducted into the University of Vermont Hall of Fame in 2006, has also spent time as the head coach at LaRoche College (2004-2012) and as an assistant at Saint Francis University – Pennsylvania (2012-2013) and Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa. (2001-2004). He started his coaching career at LaRoche College as an assistant on the men’s staff from 1999-2001 after serving as a student assistant at the University of Vermont during the 1996-97 season.
When Valpo head coach Tracey Dorow received Benton’s application, she had a feeling he was the right fit. Once she spoke to Benton during the interview process, there was no doubt he was her top choice in a competitive field of over 150 applicants.
“He applied the last day the position was open,” Dorow said. “The timing seemed perfect for both sides. He has a wealth of experience, and when he came in, you could see the energy emanate from him. It was clear that he belongs here.”
Benton helped guide Duquesne to the WNIT back-to-back years, including a WNIT Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2014-15. That set up the memorable 2015-16 season that saw the Dukes earn a national ranking for three weeks, finish with the second-most road wins in all of Division I and win the A10 regular season title.
The newest member of Valpo’s staff was named the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. In both of those years, Benton guided LaRoche to an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament and the conference’s tournament and regular season titles. LaRoche enjoyed a 30-game conference winning streak spanning those seasons.
Before beginning his coaching tenure, Benton enjoyed an accomplished playing career. He adds another ex-professional player to a staff that already includes former WNBA forward Megan Leuzinger and another veteran presence to a group of assistants that already features Justin Rees, who is entering his 19th season as a collegiate coach.
Benton won the 1996 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given to the top point guard in the country under six feet. He also earned the 1996 Bob Cousy Award, given to the top point guard in New England. He left Vermont as the school’s all-time leading scorer (2,474) and individual single-game scoring record-holder (54). His professional career included time with the Venezuela Punta Fijo (1999) and the Isreal Carmiel (1998).
“I’m going to be working with our guards, and I think I have the ability to help those young ladies maximize their potential every single day,” Benton said. “The young ladies have to realize that the small components equate to winning. Working as hard as you can and being the best teammate you can be is a recipe for winning.”
Benton has two children, his daughter NyAsia (12) and son Eddie III (10). Dorow said the family atmosphere at Valpo will make Benton and his children feel right at home.
“The Valpo environment, the Christian belief and Coach Dorow were three big factors in my decision,” Benton said. “When I met the players and saw how much they want to be pushed, I knew this was the right fit. I could tell Coach Dorow really wanted me here. Her vision is my vision. She wants to win doing it the right way. That’s somebody I want to work for.”
In his initial visit to campus, Benton made a good first impression on Valpo’s current players.
“They love him already,” Dorow said. “Each candidate that came to campus got to spend 15-20 minutes with the team. There was something about him and his passion that made them want to take the court right then. There were a number of them that stuck around and talked with him afterward, and that’s unique. One of the biggest keys for him is that relationships are the most important part of coaching. That fits my philosophy and will enrich the Valpo women’s basketball program.”
Stewart Named Horizon League Player of the Week
Valparaiso University senior Sam Stewart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) has been named the Horizon League Player of the Week after enjoying a weekend to remember in the final home series of her career, reaching base in all 11 of her plate appearances and breaking Valpo’s single-season home runs and walks records.
Stewart opened the weekend by being walked in each of her first three plate appearances in the series opener with Wright State. She finally got a pitch to hit in the bottom of the seventh, trailing by a run, and drilled it into left field for a leadoff single – leading to her eventually scoring the tying run.
The second game of the series saw Stewart break the pair of program single-season records to cap off her Senior Day. She opened the game with a solo homer in the first to tie the home run mark. The Raiders then intentionally walked her in each of her next two plate appearances, first tying and then breaking the single-season walks record. Stewart closed out the game with a two-run homer to finish up the run-rule victory, her 15th round –tripper of the year to set a new Valpo standard.
On Sunday, Wright State decided it wanted no part of Stewart, intentionally walking her in each of her three plate appearances. The senior still found a way to leave her mark offensively, however, coming around to score the tying run as the Crusaders rallied in the sixth inning for the 2-1 victory.
For the weekend, Stewart went 3-for-3 with eight walks – five intentional. She hit two home runs and drove in three runs while scoring six runs as well. By reaching base in 11 consecutive plate appearances, Stewart is already tied for the seventh-longest streak of consecutive plate appearances reaching in NCAA history.
Year-End Awards Presented at Valparaiso’s ARC Awards Sunday
Valparaiso University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) announced its year-end awards on Sunday evening at the ninth annual Athletic Recognition Ceremony (ARC) Awards.
Senior men’s tennis standout Jeffrey Schorsch (Perrysburg, Ohio/Perrysburg) was named Valparaiso’s Male Athlete of the Year, while senior volleyball player Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) was honored as the Female Athlete of the Year. Men’s soccer forward Kendan Anderson (Portmore, Jamaica/St. George’s College [South Florida/ASA College]) earned Male Newcomer of the Year accolades, and softball junior Kenzie Grossmann (Perry, Mo./Mark Twain [Morehead State]) received Female Newcomer of the Year honors.
Schorsch earned Male Athlete of the Year honors as his stellar Crusader career comes to a close. Schorsch was named Horizon League Player of the Year for a third straight year, only the second player in league history to earn top honors three times. He led the men’s tennis team in both singles and doubles wins while playing atop the lineup and will end his career tops in program history in career singles wins
Longoria received the Female Athlete of the Year award following a senior season where she was tabbed an Honorable Mention All-American by Volleyball Magazine and the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. Longoria led the league and finished 12th in the nation in digs/set, and leaves the Crusader program third all-time in career digs. Over the final 13 matches of the 2016 season, Longoria filled an unprecedented role in D-I volleyball by playing both libero and setter simultaneously.
Anderson claimed the Male Newcomer of the Year accolade after a Second Team All-Horizon League campaign. In his first season as a Crusader, Anderson ranked second on the team and third in the league with eight goals despite missing a portion of the season due to injury.
Grossmann brought home the Female Newcomer of the Year award as she leads the Horizon League with 19 wins this year, tied for third-most in a single season in program history. She also ranks among the league leaders in ERA and strikeouts as well.
In addition Sunday, senior men’s golfer Peter Webb (Madison, Wis./James Madison Memorial) was the recipient of the Bill Steinbrecher Sportsmanship Award and senior volleyball player Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) received the Rebecca D. Carter Memorial Award, given to the male and female student-athletes who have best exemplified integrity and sportsmanship while representing Valparaiso University. Director of athletics Mark LaBarbera presented the Anderson-Hoffman Memorial Service Award, awarded to the student-athlete who best demonstrates what it means to be a champion in the community, to senior softball player Jorgi Calombaris (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East), with the help of softball’s Team IMPACT team member Andie Kalemba.
This year’s awards were rounded out by the Unsung Hero Awards, presented to football’s Brandon Doepke (Fitchburg, Wis./Madison West) and volleyball’s Rachel Bruinsma (New Era, Mich./Western Michigan Christian), and the Performance of the Year Awards, won by senior Liz Owen (Freedom, Wis./Freedom) for her efforts at the Horizon League Indoor Track and Field Championships and by the men’s tennis doubles team of Schorsch and Charlie Emhardt (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) for their run at the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships
The awards were voted on by SAAC, which has representatives from all 21 of Valparaiso’s athletic teams, and by Valpo Athletics coaches and staff members. Sunday night’s program also featured recognition of all the student-athletes who have earned athletic or academic honors this year and a number of videos throughout the show.
Doubleheader Split a Tale of Two Games for Valpo Baseball
The two games of Sunday’s doubleheader represented quite the contrast to one another for the Valparaiso offense. The Crusaders banged out 18 hits on their way to a 13-3 win over Oakland in Game 1, but didn’t save any firepower for Game 2, when they scratched out just one hit and fell 7-0. The games were originally scheduled to take place in Rochester, Mich., but were moved to Emory G. Bauer Field.
How It Happened – Game 1
- Both starting pitchers were strong in the early going, as neither Valpo’s Grant Inman (Fort Wayne, Ind. / Carroll) nor Oakland’s Jake Lee permitted a run in the first three innings.
- The scoreless tie was snapped in the top of the fourth, when Chase Dawson grounded a run-scoring double through the left side, then came in to score on an RBI single by James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos [Golden West]).
- The Crusaders made the Grizzlies pay for a defensive miscue in the fifth as they plated a pair of unearned runs. Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) was credited with an RBI on a ground ball to short, then Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) picked up a run-scoring base hit to left.
- The Grizzlies got two back in the sixth as Mike McGee had an RBI single and Ryan Fitzgerald clubbed a run-scoring double to disrupt Inman’s shutout and slice the Valpo lead in half.
- The Crusaders broke it open when they poured on five insurance runs in the seventh inning. Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) had a single to drive in two, then Stea unloaded a three-run homer. Four of the five runs in the inning were unearned.
- Garbella corralled his second RBI of the contest in the eighth to make it 10-2.
- McGee lifted a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth, but then the Crusaders tacked on three more in the top of the ninth. Stea singled to score a run and Jake Hanson singled to drive in a pair.
How It Happened – Game 2
- Not much went right for the Crusaders in the nightcap. Oakland starter Conor Bowers took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning, but Garbella broke it up with a ground ball single through the left side of the infield. The Garbella knock stood as Valpo’s only hit of the game.
- The Crusaders committed a season-high five errors, making five of Oakland’s seven runs unearned.
- The lone bright spot was the bullpen, as Chet Joslyn (Battle Creek, Mich. / Lakeview) and Garrett Hill (San Marino, Calif. / San Marino) combined for 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Inside the Games
- Inman went 5 1/3 innings in Game 1 to pick up the win and boost his record to 4-5. He allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits while striking out three and walking three.
- When Inman departed, Hayden Kissee (Indianapolis / Greenfield Central [Kaskaskia College]) took over and worked the remainder of the game. He allowed one run on three hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings to pick up his first career save.
- Lee was saddled with the loss and plummeted to 1-6. He allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits and three walks in four frames.
- All nine players in the Game 1 starting lineup had at least one hit. Seven Crusaders had multi-hit games.
- Stea led the way with a 3-for-5 performance while racking up a career-high five RBIs. He became the third Crusader to enjoy a five RBI game this season, joining Garbella and Palace.
- The 1 hour, 56 minute second game was the quickest nine-inning Valpo game since May 10, 2013, a 3-0 loss at UIC that lasted 1:55.
- Bowers dazzled to the tune of one hit, three walks and eight strikeouts over eight scoreless innings. He picked up the win and moved to 1-3.
- Valpo starter Ellis Foreman was hit with the loss, allowing seven runs (two earned) on nine hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings to fall to 2-2.
The Crusaders will host Big Ten foe Purdue on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Emory G. Bauer Field. The game will be broadcast on 95.1 FM Valparaiso, WVUR. Links to live audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.