Valparaiso (7-11, 2-1 Horizon)
Games #19-21 vs. Milwaukee (4-13, 0-0 Horizon)
Thursday, Mar. 26, 3 p.m. CDT - Emory G. Bauer Field
Friday, Mar. 27 (DH), 12 p.m. CDT - Emory G. Bauer Field
This Week in Crusader Baseball: After playing 18 straight games on the road, the Valparaiso Crusaders will open the home portion of the 2009 baseball season this weekend at Emory G. Bauer Field. Valpo will host Milwaukee in a single game on Thursday before the two schools meet for a doubleheader on Friday to wrap up the series.
On the Air: Thursday’s game against the Panthers can be heard live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Friday’s games will not be broadcast due to other contractual obligations by the station.
Pitching Rotation: In Thursday’s series opener, Valparaiso will send Jon Gulbransen (LHP, 3-2, 5.28) to the hill against Milwaukee’s Brad Lusti (RHP, 0-2, 9.43). On Friday, the Crusaders will send Alex Berry (RHP, 0-3, 6.26) to the mound in one game but have yet to determine the starter of the other against the Panthers’ Kyle Schmidt (RHP, 0-2, 9.00) and Andy Hetebrueg (RHP, 0-3, 14.36).
Wrapping Up Recent Action: The Crusaders split four games last week, falling 10-4 at Notre Dame on Wednesday before taking two of three from Butler to open the Horizon League slate. Valpo pounded out 14 runs and 18 hits in the opener, a 14-1 victory, on Friday. In game one on Saturday, the Crusaders tallied 10 more runs on the way to a 10-5 win, before the offense was held in check in the nightcap as the Bulldogs salvaged the series finale 5-2.
Scouting Milwaukee: The Panthers are opening Horizon League action this weekend in Valpo and have been idle since March 18 after being rained out at Northern Iowa on Tuesday. Milwaukee has dropped three straight, including a twinbill at Central Michigan. Josh Groves and Ben Long lead the Panther offense, each hitting .370. Long has driven in 11 runs as well. As a team, Milwaukee is hitting .260 while the pitching staff has registered a 10.33 earned run average.
Weather Plays Havic With Schedule: With rains forecasted for Saturday and Sunday, along with cold temperatures, the Crusaders and Panthers moved this weekend’s series up a day, and will begin the series with a single game on Thursday instead of Friday. The two schools then will play a doubleheader on Friday to try and avoid the inclement weather of the weekend.
Valpo Sports League’s Top Hitter: Matt Lenski entered the week leading the Horizon League in batting, hitting .419 on the season. The senior catcher had his 12-game hitting streak snapped in the series finale at Butler. Lenski also is tied for third in the conference in on base percentage (.468) and is tied for eighth with 12 runs batted in on the season.
Breaking Out the Bats: Valpo tallied season highs in both runs and hits in game one Horizon League play at Butler last Friday. The Crusaders tallied 14 runs on 18 hits, and had its highest scoring output since May 3, 2008 when the Crusaders scored 20 runs at Milwaukee in game two of a doubleheader.
Wallace Goes Yard Again: Josh Wallace homered again last weekend against Butler and leads the Horizon League with five round-trippers on the season. The junior now has 17 career homers, just four shy of moving into the top-10 all-time at Valparaiso.
Racking Up Victories: Bryce Shafer and Jon Gulbransen share the Horizon League lead with three wins each. The two sophomore starters have accounted for six of the seven Crusader victories on the season. Gulbransen has already matched his win total from 2008 while Shafer is on win shy of his 2008 team-leading total.
Playing Solid Defense: As a team, Valpo leads the Horizon League fielding at a .970 rate. Through 18 games this season, the Brown and Gold has committed 19 errors, fewest in the conference. Because of the stellar defense, the Crusader pitching staff has surrendered just 11 unearned runs on the year.
Getting On Base: As a team, Valpo leads the conference with a .354 on base percentage. The Crusaders are hitting .270 as a team, but has been extremely patient at the plate, drawing 68 walks in 18 games (3.8 per game). The Crusaders also have been hit by 13 pitches, getting on base any way possible.
Saving the Day: The back end of the Crusader pitching staff has gotten the job done this season. Valpo leads the Horizon League with six saves on the year. Jarad Miller has recorded three for the Brown and Gold while Steve Godawa has added a pair. Damon McCormick notched his first collegiate save on Friday in the opener of the Butler series, working the final three innings.
Miller Keeps Moving Up: Sophomore Jarad Miller has a league-leading three saves this season and 12 for his career, moving him past Dallas Cawiezell into third place on the saves list. Miller is just one behind Justin Craker for second with 13 career saves while Adam Knobel holds the school record with 14 saves. Miller led the Horizon League in 2008 with nine saves on the season as well.
Pitching Staff Takes Care of Business: The Crusader pitching staff ranks second in the Horizon League as a team with a 5.88 earned run average, trailing just UIC. Opponents are hitting .282 against the Crusaders, lowest of any conference team. Valpo hurlers have struck out 110 opponents on the year, one behind Butler for the Horizon League lead as well.
Shober Comes Through: Ryan Shober had his best weekend as a Crusader in the conference opener against Butler. The freshman hit .545 (6-for-11) and scored five runs in the three game series. He also walked twice for a .643 on base percentage and stole a base.
Streaking: Dan DeBruin enters the weekend with the team’s longest hitting streak, having hit safely in six straight games. Kyle Gaedele and Josh Wallace both have five game streaks going heading into the Milwaukee series.