Busy Week for Crusaders to Wrap Up Regular Season
Monday, May 11, 2009
Busy Week for Crusaders to Wrap Up Regular Season
Valpo looks to finish second in the Horizon League this week. (Ray Acevedo)

Valparaiso (27-21, 12-10 Horizon)
Exhibition at Gary SouthShore RailCats
Tuesday, May 12, 6 p.m. CDT - U.S. Steel Yard, Gary
Game #49 vs. Illinois State (21-20, 11-11 MVC)
Wednesday, May 13, 3 p.m. CDT - Emory G. Bauer Field
Games #50-52 vs. UIC (25-21, 16-6 Horizon)
Friday, May 15, 3 p.m. CDT - Emory G. Bauer Field
Saturday, May 16, 12 p.m. CDT (DH) - Emory G. Bauer Field

This Week in Crusader Baseball: Valparaiso heads into the final week of the 2009 regular season with lots still on the line.  The Crusaders are nearing the 30-win mark and can finish as high as second in the Horizon League standings.  This week Valpo plays an exhibition against Gary at the U.S. Steel Yard on Tuesday, hosts Illinois State on Wednesday, and wraps up Horizon League play against regular season champion UIC on Friday and Saturday.

On the Air:  Tuesday’s game against Gary as well as Wednesday’s contest against Illinois State can be heard live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpoathletics.com.  Friday’s game against UIC as well as game one of Saturday’s twinbill will also be broadcast.  Game two on Saturday will not be carried.  In addition, live stats via Gametracker will be available through www.valpoathletics.com for every game this week.

Pitching Rotation: In Tuesday’s exhibition game, multiple hurlers are expected to pitch for both teams.  John Snelten (RHP, 3-3, 4.31) is slated to toe the rubber for Valpo against Illinois State on Wednesday while the Redbirds counter with Ryan Camp (RHP, 4-3, 4.90).  This weekend against UIC, Valpo plans to send Jon Gulbransen (LHP, 5-6, 5.47) to the mound on Friday while Alex Berry (RHP, 3-5, 5.48) and Bryce Shafer (RHP, 6-3, 3.84) are tentatively slated for Saturday.  UIC has not announced its rotation, but has been sending Adam Worthington (RHP, 4-5, 3.31), Chris Kovacevich (LHP, 6-4, 3.81), and Mike Kool (RHP, 4-7, 6.99) to the mound on the weekends.

Wrapping Up Recent Action: Valpo opened last week with a 14-2 victory over Northwestern at U.S. Steel Yard behind a complete game performance from John Snelten.  Saturday, the Crusaders split a twinbill at Youngstown State.  The Penguins won the opener 8-4, jumping out to an early 6-0 lead, before Valpo took the nightcap 6-5.  In Sunday’s doubleheader, the Crusaders rallied from a 6-1 deficit in the opener to earn a 7-6 victory against the Bulldogs.  Valpo again had to rally in game two, scoring four times in the seventh inning on the way to a 6-3 win.

Scouting Gary: The RailCats are wrapping up exhibition play this week before opening the Northern League (Independent) slate next weekend at Fargo-Moorhead.  Gary has won the Northern League in two of the last four seasons.

Scouting Illinois State: The Redbirds enter the week having dropped eight of its last 10 games after starting the season 19-12 overall.  Illinois State is .500 in the Missouri Valley Conference, currently sitting in fifth place.  Collin Salzenstein is the team’s leading hitter at .327 while Ryan Court is hitting .312 with four homers and 37 runs batted in.  As a team Illinois State is hitting .278.  The pitching staff is led by Ryan Copeland and his 3.75 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 81.2 innings.  The Redbirds staff has a 5.36 ERA on the year.

Scouting UIC: The Flames have wrapped up the Horizon League regular season title after winning five of their last six games.  Jake Carr leads the team hitting .338 with six homers and 34 runs batted in on the year.  As a team, UIC is hitting .293.  On the mound, closer Derek Miramontes is 5-0 with seven saves and a 2.02 ERA on a staff that has posted a 4.84 ERA overall.

Miller Sets School’s Single Season Saves Record, Among Nation’s Leaders This Year: Jarad Miller recorded three more saves last weekend and has slammed the door in his last eight appearances overall to shatter Valparaiso’s single season save mark.  The sophomore has 16 saves this season already, bettering Justin Craker’s mark of 12 set in 2001.  He enters the week ranked among the top five nationally in saves.  In Valpo’s 12 Horizon League victories this year, Miller has recorded 11 saves.

First Time in Awhile: Valparaiso has already secured its first .500 season since the Crusaders went 30-27 during the 1999 campaign.  With one win against UIC this weekend, the Crusaders will post a conference record over .500 for the first time since 2001 when Valpo went 14-10 in the Mid-Continent Conference.

Fighting For Second: As Valpo heads into the final weekend of the regular season, the Crusaders are assured of not finishing any lower than fifth in the Horizon League standings, thus avoiding the 6-7 play-in game on Tuesday at the conference tournament.  The Crusaders are a half game out of second in the standings, and need to win one more game against UIC than Milwaukee does against Butler and Wright State does against Cleveland State this weekend to earn a second bye in the tournament and not play until Thursday. 

Approaching the 30-Win Mark: Valparaiso needs just three more victories to reach 30 wins for the first time since the 1999 team won 30.  The Crusader record for wins in a season is 35, set in 1985.

Finally a Day Off:  Josh Wallace had started all 47 games this season for Valpo before finally getting a day off in the final game of Sunday’s twinbill with Butler.  Every Crusader has now had at least one game off this season.

Home Sweet Home: Valpo is 15-4 at Emory G. Bauer Field this season after finishing 10-6 there one year ago.  Valpo still has four games scheduled for its home park this year.

Lenski Leads the League in Hitting: Matt Lenski entered the week leading the Horizon League in batting, hitting .418 on the season, and holds a 45-point lead on Wright State’s Jeff Mercer.  He also leads the conference in on base percentage (.497), is third in slugging percentage (.601), is fourth in hits (64), is fifth with 41 runs batted in, and is tied for sixth in doubles with 13.  The senior catcher has 24 multi-hit games in 41 games played, including a four-hit contest and seven three-hit tallies.

Streaking as a Team: Valpo enters the week having won nine of its last 11 games.  The Crusaders have posted a 17-6 record since April 10, including a 6-2 mark thus far in the month of May.

Quite a Freshman Season: Rookie Steven Scoby has had a stellar freshman season for the Crusaders.  The outfielder is hitting .307 with 20 runs batted in while having played in all but two contests this year.  He has added five stolen bases and a .366 on base percentage for the Brown and Gold.

On the Run: Valpo has stole 46 bases on the season with the trio of Damon McCormick, Dan DeBruin, and Kyle Gaedele accounting for most of the thefts.  McCormick ranks third in the Horizon League with 11 steals in 13 attempts while DeBruin is tied for fifth with 10 steals in 12 tries.  Gaedele is 8-of-10 on the base paths this season.

Shafer Tied for the League Lead in Wins: Bryce Shafer remains tied for the Horizon League leader in wins with six victories on the season.  Last weekend he suffered a no decision against Butler, but remains among the top-five in the conference in ERA (3.84) and strikeouts (71) as well.

Pitching Ranks as the League’s Best: As a team, Valpo pitchers lead the Horizon League limiting opponents to a .273 average on the season.  Crusaders hurlers are also tops in the league with a 4.60 earned run average on the year, and lead the league in saves with 16.  Valpo pitchers also lead the league in wins, fewest hits allowed, and fewest runs allowed.

Doing it All: Damon McCormick, who plays infield most of the time for the Crusaders, has appeared in seven games on the mound for Valpo this season.  In 11.2 innings, the sophomore is 1-0 with a save and has yet to allow an earned run.  Opponents are hitting just .061 against McCormick this season.

Settled by the Eighth: Valpo is 21-0 this season when leading after eight innings of play.  However, the Crusaders are 0-19 when trailing after eight innings.   

Still Perfect in the Field: Ryan O’Gara has yet to commit an error at first base this season in 266 chances.  He leads the team in chances as well as putouts with 249.

Miller Sets All-Time Save Mark: On April 4, with his save against Cleveland State, Jarad Miller set Valpo’s career save record.  He now has 25 career saves, 11 more than Adam Knobel’s previous mark of 14.

Winning Extra Inning Games: Valparaiso won both games that went extra innings against North Dakota, its only two walk-off victories of the season.  The Crusaders have won five straight extra inning contests dating back to the 2008 campaign.

Sweeping Twinbills: Valparaiso has swept six doubleheaders already this season, after taking both twinbills against Butler.  The Crusaders have also recorded sweeps against Morehead State, Arkansas-Little Rock, North Dakota and Milwaukee.  Valpo managed to sweep just one doubleheader in all of 2008.