Crusader Baseball Set for Horizon League Championship
Valpo looks for more reasons to celebrate this week at the league tournament. (Ray Acevedo)
Crusader Baseball Set for Horizon League Championship
Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 Horizon League Baseball Championship
May 26-30, U. S. Steel Yard - Gary, Ind.
#4 Valparaiso (22-30, 9-10 Horizon)
Wednesday, May 26, 11 a.m. - vs. #5 Butler (21-27, 11-13)
Thursday-Sunday, TBA

This Week in Crusader Baseball: The 2010 Horizon League Baseball Championship takes place at U. S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. as Valparaiso hosts the league’s annual postseason tournament.  The Crusaders, the tournament’s fourth seed, will face Butler on Wednesday morning in the opening game of the event, which will run through the weekend.  The league champion will earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

On the Air:  Every Valparaiso game of the 2010 Horizon League Championship can be heard live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) as well as online through www.valpoathletics.com.  In addition, each game of the entire tournament can be viewed live online through the Horizon League Network.  Live stats will be available for every game this week through www.valpoathletics.com as well.

Pitching Rotation: Game one of the Horizon League tournament will see the Crusaders send Bryce Shafer (RHP, 6-4, 4.25) to the mound while Butler will counter with Mike Hernandez (RHP, 4-4, 5.57).  Shafer and Hernandez dueled back on May 8 in Valparaiso, with Hernandez getting the 2-1 win in 10 innings.  Hernandez allowed eight hits and struck out six going the distance.  Shafer worked nine innings for a no decision, allowing five hits while fanning 11 Bulldogs.  The rest of the week’s rotation will be determined as the opponents and times are known. 

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 93-123 record both at Valpo and for his career. 

Wrapping Up Recent Action:
The Crusaders closed out the regular season winning one of three at UIC last weekend.  After falling 13-10 in the series opener, Valpo downed the Flames 9-8 in game one of Saturday’s twinbill, marking the Brown and Gold’s first win against UIC since 2002, snapping a 15-game losing skid.  Valpo closed out the regular season falling 10-5 in game two of the twinbill.

Valpo in the Horizon League Tournament: The Crusaders are 4-4 in Horizon League Championship action, going 3-2 in 2008 before posting a 1-2 record in 2009.  Valpo’s fourth seed matches its highest ever with the 2009 team.  The Crusaders were the six seed in 2008.

Against the Tournament Field This Year...: Valpo went 1-2 against Butler, its first round opponent this season at Emory G. Bauer Field, while the doubleheader in Indianapolis was cancelled due to rain.  The Crusaders went 0-2 against top seed Wright State, being swept in a doubleheader in Valpo.  The series in Dayton was also cancelled due to rain.  Valpo was 1-2 at #2 seed Milwaukee, playing that series in Wisconsin.  The Crusaders also went 1-2 at #3 UIC, again playing the series on the road.  The twinbill slated for Valpo was cancelled.  Against the sixth seed, Youngstown State, Valpo won the series 3-2, taking two of three in Ohio and splitting a doubleheader at home.

... and All-Time in the Tournament: Valpo and Butler have met in the Horizon League Tournament each of the last two years, with the Crusaders posting a pair of wins.  Last year Valpo won 4-2 in an elimination game while the Crusaders notched a 6-5 triumph in 2008.  Valpo is also 1-0 all-time in tournament play against both Youngstown State and Wright State.  The Crusaders are 0-1 against UIC and 0-2 all-time against Milwaukee.

Record Setter: Kyle Muhlsteff set Valpo’s single season doubles record against Youngstown State on May 14.  His two-bagger late in game one of the twinbill gave him 22 for the season, passing Rob Hatrick (1997), Mark Pedersen (2001), and Zach Rodeghero (2008), all of whom had 21 in a single season.  His 22 doubles also tie him for the league’s lead this season.

Tying the School Mark: Kyle Gaedele’s seven triples this year match the school record set by Ken Manning (1989) and Rob Hadrick (1997) for three-baggers in a season.  He ranks second in the Horizon League in that same category.

Battling for the Single Season Runs Records: Kyle Gaedele and Kyle Muhlsteff are both chasing the single season runs record.  Both have already surpassed the old mark set by Mark Pedersen in 2001 when he had 55 runs scored in a single season. Gaedele enters the tournament having crossed the plate 59 times this year while Muhlsteff is just three runs behind Gaedele with 56.

Gaedele Holds RBI Record as Well: Kyle Gaedele’s 59 runs batted in this season have allowed him to surpass Steve Schank’s 1985 school old single season record of 58.

Shafer Nears Single Season Strikeout Record: Bryce Shafer’s 112 strikeouts this season are just 15 shy of Tim Juran’s single season school record for punchouts in a year.  Juran fanned 127 hitters back in 1971.  Shafer’s 112 Ks represent 33 more strikeouts than he had last year as a sophomore, and 62 more than he fanned during his freshman campaign.

Welcome Back OG: Ryan O’Gara returned to the Crusader lineup on Youngstown State on May 14 after missing 27 games with a broken arm from being hit by a pitch against Southeast Missouri on March 20.  In the five games since his return, O’Gara is hitting a solid .619 with three homeruns and nine runs batted in.  He has added two doubles and scored eight times, posting a 1.143 slugging percentage.  On the year, O’Gara is hitting a team-leading .426.

Robinson Likes Horizon League Pitching:
Robbie Robinson is hitting a team-leading .444 against the Horizon League this season.  His average ranks second among all league hitters in conference action.  Robinson is batting .330 on the year overall, raising it against the conference foes.

Playing Quickly: Valpo wastes little time on the diamond between innings, moving games along at a brisk pace.  The Crusaders have had two sub-two hour games this season for nine innings, including 1:57 against Butler.  The Brown and Gold has played more than three hours just four times since March 30, one of which was just 3:01 and another game which went 11 innings.

Hitting Streaks: Three different hitters have matched the team’s season long hitting streak, reaching safely in 15 straight games.  Kyle Gaedele, Robbie Robinson, and Justin Frane all hit safely in 15 games in a row this year.  Currently, Robinson has the team’s longest hitting streak heading into the tournament at 10 straight games, after having the 15-game hitting streak earlier this season.

Quite a Thief: Kyle Gaedele is a perfect 14-for-14 on the base paths this season.  His 14 steals rank third in the conference, but he has the most attempts of anyone in the league that has yet to be caught.  For his career Gaedele is now 22-of-24 swiping bases.

Picking the Right Spots to Run: Valparaiso’s 57 stolen base attempts this season rank second to last in the Horizon League, but the Crusaders are fifth overall in total steals with 50.  The Brown and Gold’s 87.7% success rate ranks best in the conference as no Crusader has been thrown out more than twice this year.  In addition to Kyle Gaedele being a perfect 14-for-14, Damon McCormick has swiped all nine bases he has attempted to steal this year.

A 1-2-3 Punch: Valpo’s weekend starting rotation of Jon Gulbransen, Bryce Shafer, and Damon McCormick have been as good as any starting staff in the league this year.  All three members of the trio rank among the top-seven in the Horizon League in earned run average.  Shafer enters the tournament third in the league at 4.25 while Gulbransen is fourth at 4.80.  McCormick has a 5.40 ERA as well.

Among the Nation’s Best: Kyle Gaedele was ranked ninth in the country with seven triples this season through May 16.  On the mound, Bryce Shafer’s 106 strikeouts were seventh best among all hurlers.  Damon McCormick also ranks 14th in the nation allowing just 1.24 walks per nine innings.

Shafer Among Several Career Top-10 Lists: Bryce Shafer has moved into sixth place on Valpo’s all-time win list.  He currently has 17 victories in three seasons with the Brown and Gold, on shy of moving into a tie with Richard Jones and Matt Rhode for fourth all-time.  Shafer also has moved past Tom Starck into fourth place on Valpo’s career strikeout list with 241.  He is 12 Ks shy of Shawn Barker’s 253 strikeouts for third on the all-time list.  Shafer has also moved into seventh place all-time with 253.1 career innings pitched.  He needs just 21.1 more innings to move up into the sixth spot and 22.1 more innings to move up into fifth position.

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. 

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.

Shafer Doubles Up on Horizon League Pitcher of the Week and People’s Choice Honors: Bryce Shafer was named the Horizon League’s Pitcher of the Week and was voted the People’s Choice winner through the Horizon League Network for the two consecutive weeks on April 12 and 19.  The junior right-hander went the distance against Cleveland State, allowing just two unearned runs while striking out 14 to get the victory.  The week before he went eight innings striking out 13 against Youngstown State.

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.