Valparaiso (9-17, 0-0 Horizon)
Games #27-29 Youngstown State (13-12, 4-2 Horizon)
Friday, Apr. 9, 2 p.m. CDT - Niles, Ohio
Saturday, Apr. 10, 11 a.m. CDT (DH) - Niles, Ohio
This Week in Crusader Baseball: Valparaiso finally begins Horizon League action with a three-game weekend series at Youngstown State. The Crusaders were suppose to have started conference play two weeks ago, but had their series at Wright State cancelled due to rain and snow.
On the Air: All three games of this weekend’s series against the Penguins can be viewed online live through the Horizon League Network. Live stats will also be available for all three games this week through www.valpoathletics.com.
Pitching Rotation: Damon McCormick (RHP, 3-0, 5.72) is slated to take the ball in the series opener on Friday for the Crusaders against Aaron Swenson (RHP, 5-0, 4.98). In Saturday’s twinbill, Bryce Shafer (RHP, 3-3, 5.65) will throw the opener for the Brown and Gold against the Penguins’ Phil Klein (RHP, 2-0, 4.45). The series finale will feature Valpo southpaw Jon Gulbransen (LHP, 2-2, 3.16) against Youngstown State freshman Blake Aquadro (LHP, 0-1, 8.18).
Head Coach Tracy Woodson: Tracy Woodson is now in his fourth season at the helm of the Brown and Gold. A former World Series champion with the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, Woodson has a 80-110 record both at Valpo and for his career.
Wrapping Up Recent Action: The Crusaders won their fourth straight game on Monday afternoon with a 14-6 victory over Wabash College to wrap up their homestand. Kyle Muhlsteff and Karch Kowalczyk had four hits each while Kowalczyk and Robbie Robinson each drove home four runs. On Tuesday, Valpo saw its winning streak end, falling 14-5 at Purdue. Valpo jumped on top early 4-0, but the Boilermakers scored in six straight innings and took advantage of five Crusader errors.
Scouting Youngstown State: The Penguins have won three of their last four contests following a 22-8 win against Duquesne on Wednesday afternoon. Youngstown State has won two of three in each of its first two conference series (at Butler and at home against UIC). Jacke Healey leads the Penguins offensively hitting .429 with 10 homeruns and 43 runs batted in. Joe Iacobucci has added seven long balls and 23 RBIs while batting .362 on the season. Youngstown State is hitting .327 as a team this year while the pitching staff has posted a 7.18 earned run average. The Penguins are 3-2 at home thus far this season.
Last Year vs. Youngstown State: Valpo won three out of five against the Penguins a year ago, all during the regular season. Valpo took two of three at home during the first weekend in May before splitting a twinbill in Niles, Ohio one week later.
Games Added to the Schedule: The Crusaders have added a non-conference game to the schedule on April 14. Valpo will host Indiana-Northwest at Emory G. Bauer Field with the first pitch slated for 3 p.m. The Brown and Gold will also play an exhibition game against the Gary SouthShore RailCats for the second straight year on May 12 beginning at 6 p.m. at U.S. Steel Yard.
Crusaders Tie NCAA Records: Valparaiso tied a pair of NCAA records on April 2 in game one of its doubleheader against Chicago State. The Crusaders tied the NCAA Division I mark for runs in an inning, scoring 21 times in the fifth inning, setting a new fifth inning mark all-time in the process. In addition, the Brown and Gold tied a NCAA record for batters in an inning when 25 stepped to the plate in that fifth inning.
Frane Ties NCAA Triples Mark: In game two of the doubleheader against Chicago State on April 2, Justin Frane tied the NCAA record for triples in a game with three. He had a chance for a record-setting fourth three-bagger, hitting one into the gap, but it one-hopped the fence for a ground rule double.
Muhlsteff Riding a Streak: Kyle Muhlsteff enters the weekend riding a 10-game hitting streak for the Crusaders. Since the streak began on March 13 at Gardner-Webb, the senior is hitting .500 (24-for-48) with four homers, 14 runs batted in, and has scored 17 runs.
Double Figures a Common Occurrence: Valparaiso has had 10 or more hits in 11 of its last 12 games dating back to the start of the Gardner-Webb series on March 12. During the span the Crusaders have hit .385 as a team, raising the team average for the year to .318.
Getting the Runs Home: Valpo is scoring the runner from third with less than two outs 69.1% (56-of-81) of the time this season. Kyle Gaedele is a perfect 8-for-8 in this role, while David Klein has also been successful in all five opportunities he has had. Meanwhile Justin Frane has been productive with runners in scoring position, batting .500 (12-for-24) on the year.
Errors Prove Costly: Defensive miscues have led to quite a few opponent runs thus far this season. Valpo has made 52 errors on the year, leading to 63 unearned runs (2.4 per game). Every pitcher except for Tyler Deetjen has fallen victim, as he is the only hurler not to allow an unearned run yet this year. Bryce Shafer has allowed 19 unearned runs this season, most on the team.
K Factors: Bryce Shafer and Jon Gulbransen rank second and third in the Horizon League in strikeouts heading into Friday’s action. Shafer has fanned 45 hitters in 43 innings while Gulbransen has sat down 42 batters in 42.2 innings on the hill. Youngstown State’s Aaron Swenson, the starter in this weekend’s series opener, leads the conference with 46 strikeouts.
Stranding Baserunners: Steve Godawa has come out of the bullpen 12 times already this season, pitching 13.2 total innings. The junior right-hander has stranded 10 of the 13 runners he has inherited on base when he has toed the rubber.
Gaedele Registers 14 Multi-Hit Games: Kyle Gaedele has had two or more hits in 14 of Valpo’s 26 contests this season. The sophomore outfielder has had three three-hit games as well as a four-hit effort on the year to lead Valpo.
Shafer Nearing Career Top-10 Lists: Bryce Shafer needs just two more victories to move into a tie with eight others for 10th place on the Valpo career win list. He currently has 14 victories in two-plus seasons with the Brown and Gold. Shafer also needs just six more strikeouts to match Sean Galiher’s 10th place career total of 180. Shafer enters the weekend with 174 strikeouts.
Pencil Kyle in the Lineup: Kyle Gaedele and Kyle Muhlsteff are the only two Crusaders to appear in every game this year for the Brown and Gold, both starting every contest. Gaedele has started in either center or right for Valpo while Muhlsteff has started at either third base or shortstop.
Hitting Streaks: Ryan O’Gara has the season’s longest hitting streak at 12 for the Crusaders. The streak actually reached 14 straight games if you include the final two games from last 2009. Justin Frane registered an 11 game streak earlier this season as well, including hits in 10 consecutive at bats over a three-game stretch against Chicago State. Frane had games of 4-for-4 and 5-for-5 back-to-back against the Cougars.
Miller a Preseason All-American: Closer Jarad Miller was named to the Louisville Slugger NCAA Division I Preseason All-American Third Team as well as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award initial watch list. He earned Third Team All-America honors as a sophomore last year. With two saves this season, Miller now has a school-record 28 for his career.
Win #1100: Valparaiso picked up the 1,100th career victory in school history earlier this season with its 17-13 triumph over Saint Bonaventure on March 2.
O’Gara Earns Player of the Week Honors: Ryan O’Gara was named the Horizon League’s Batter of the Week on March 1 after hitting .563 (9-for-16) with two doubles, a homer, four runs scored, and seven runs batted in at the Jacksonville Tournament.
Valpo Tabbed Fifth: The Crusaders were picked to finish fourth in the Horizon League preseason poll, according to the league’s head coaches. Valpo finished fourth in the regular season last year as well. Wright State is the preseason favorite this year after winning the Horizon League Tournament and earning a NCAA Tournament berth last year. Last year’s regular season champion UIC is tabbed second followed by Milwaukee and Valpo.
Horizon League Tournament Comes to Northwest Indiana: Valparaiso will host the 2010 Horizon League Baseball Championship May 26-30 at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. The double elimination tournament will feature the top six teams in the conference based upon regular season play.