#4 Valparaiso (27-22, 12-11 Horizon)
at 2009 Horizon League Baseball Championships
May 20-24, The Pipe Yard (1,500) - Lorain, Ohio
Round 1 vs. #5 Cleveland State (20-29, 12-13 Horizon)
May 20, 10 a.m. CDT
This Week in Crusader Baseball: Valparaiso travels to The Pipe Yard in Lorain, Ohio beginning Wednesday morning as the Crusaders begin their quest for the 2009 Horizon League Baseball Championships crown. The fourth-seeded Crusaders will face fifth-seeded, and tournament host, Cleveland State in the first game of the double elimination event.
On the Air: Every game of Valparaiso’s run in the 2009 Horizon League Baseball Championships will be broadcast live through sportsjuice.com on the Valpo website, www.valpoathletics.com. Keaton Gillogly and Mike Targonski will call every pitch of the action throughout the week. In addition, live stats via Gametracker will be available through www.valpoathletics.com for every game this week.
Pitching Rotation: In Wednesday’s tournament opener, the Crusaders will send southpaw Jon Gulbransen (5-6, 5.47 ERA) to the hill to face the Vikings. Cleveland State will counter with right-hander Josh Hungerman (4-6, 4.76 ERA). The rest of Valpo’s rotation for the tournament will be determined on a game-by-game basis.
Wrapping Up Recent Action: Valpo played an exhibition game to open the week on Tuesday night against the Northern League’s (Independent) Gary SouthShore RailCats. The pro team scored a run in the ninth to win 2-1 in a game played with wooden bats, despite the Valpo pitching staff limiting the hosts to just three hits. The Crusaders game against UIC on Friday as well as the twinbill on Saturday was rained out. Valpo and the Flames made up one game on Sunday with UIC winning 2-1 in 10 innings, with both runs being unearned due to two Crusader errors.
Scouting Cleveland State: The Vikings finished fifth in the Horizon League during the regular season, taking two of three from Wright State to close the year. Cleveland State won two out of three games against Valpo during the regular season, all in Lorain back in early April. Ryan Franks leads the Vikings offense hitting .388 with 17 runs batted in while Josh Hungerman is hitting .357 with 11 homers and 49 runs batted in. Tyler Winn also has 11 long balls for the Vikings, which have hit 48 as a team to go along with a .298 team batting average. The pitching staff has a 6.48 ERA and opponents are hitting .298 against CSU hurlers. Nate Dick has a team-low 3.49 ERA while Hungerman has started a team-high 12 games with the opposition hitting .234 against him.
Valpo’s Tournament History: In Valpo’s inaugural season in the Horizon League, 2008, the Crusaders faced Butler in the 6-7 play-in game, downing the Bulldogs 6-5. In the double elimination event, Valpo defeated Youngstown State 3-2 before falling out of the winner’s bracket with an 8-5 loss to UIC. Valpo knocked Wright State out of the tournament 13-4 to advance to the loser’s bracket final before falling to Milwaukee 8-3.
Lenski and DeBruin Earn All-Horizon League Honors: Matt Lenski, the Horizon League’s leading hitter at .420, has been named the conference’s First Team catcher while outfielder Dan DeBruin earned Second Team accolades when the postseason awards were announced. DeBruin ranks among the top-10 in the league in runs scored.
Two Rookie Outfielders Garner All-Newcomer Team Accolades: Freshmen outfielders Steven Scoby and Kyle Gaedele were each named to the Horizon League’s All-Newcomer Team after stellar rookie seasons for the Brown and Gold. Scoby enters the tournament hitting .301, second on the team, while Gaedele is a .285 hitter with eight steals.
Finishing Better Than Expected: The Crusaders were picked to finish fifth in the Horizon League preseason poll, according to the league’s head coaches but wrapped up the regular season in fourth place, exceeding expectations. The Brown and Gold finished just one-half game out of third place and two games back of league runner-up Milwaukee. Valpo finished sixth in the regular season last year, but placed third in the Horizon League Tournament. UIC, this year’s preseason favorite, won the regular season title.
Miller Sets School’s Single Season Saves Record, Second in the Nation This Year: Jarad Miller has slammed the door in his last eight save opportunities 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 tournament ranked second nationally in saves. In Valpo’s 12 Horizon League victories this year, Miller has recorded 11 saves.
First Time in Awhile: Valparaiso has already assured itself of finishing the season over .500 for the first time since 1999 when the Crusaders went 30-27. The Crusaders also posed a conference record over .500 for the first time since 2001 when Valpo went 14-10 in the Mid-Continent Conference. The 27 wins are also the most for the Brown and Gold since the 2001 team won 28 contests. The last Valpo team to win 30 games was the 1999 squad.
Home Sweet Home: Valpo finished 15-5 at Emory G. Bauer Field this season after finishing 10-6 there one year ago.
Lenski Leads the League in Hitting: Matt Lenski entered the tournament leading the Horizon League in batting, hitting .420 on the season, and holds a 35-point lead on Youngstown State’s John Koehnlein. He also leads the conference in on base percentage (.497), is third in slugging percentage (.611), is tied for fifth in hits (66), is fifth with 42 runs batted in, and is seventh in doubles with 15. The senior catcher has 25 multi-hit games in 42 games played, including a four-hit contest and seven three-hit tallies.
Streaking as a Team: Valpo enters the tournament having won nine of its last 12 games. The Crusaders have posted a 17-7 record since April 10.
Quite a Freshman Season: Rookie Steven Scoby has had a stellar freshman season for the Crusaders. The outfielder is hitting .301 with 20 runs batted in while having played in all but two contests this year. He has added five stolen bases and a .364 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 sixth 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. He has had no decisions in his last two starts against Butler and UIC, but remains among the top-four in the conference in ERA (3.74) and strikeouts (72) as well.
Pitching Ranks as the League’s Best: As a team, Valpo pitchers lead the Horizon League limiting opponents to a .270 average on the season. Crusaders hurlers are also tops in the league with a 4.49 earned run average on the year, and lead the league in saves with 19. Valpo pitchers also lead the league in fewest hits allowed, fewest runs allowed, and fewest homers 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.
Lenski Earns Academic All-District V Honors: Matt Lenski was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-district V First Team as a catcher. The nursing major sported a 3.40 cumulative grade point average entering the spring semester and is now eligible to earn Academic All-America honors.
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.
Sweeping Twinbills: Valparaiso swept six doubleheaders 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.
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.
Lenski Earns Scholar-Athlete of the Week Honors: Matt Lenski was named the Horizon League’s Scholar-Athlete of the Week on March 20 after hitting safely in all three games during the previous week. He went 4-for-8 with a homer and three runs batted in against Tennessee Tech in a twinbill that week.
Shafer Pitcher of the Week: Bryce Shafer earned Horizon League Pitcher of the Week honors for the second time in his career on April 27 after allowing just one unearned run and nine hits in eight innings in the win at Wright State. He fanned seven and walked just two.
Gulbransen Named Pitcher of the Week Twice This Season: Jon Gulbransen was named the Horizon League’s Pitcher of the Week on March 2 after his eight innings of shutout baseball against Arkansas-Little Rock. The sophomore southpaw allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out eight on his way to his second victory of the season. He also earned the honor for a second time on April 6 after tossing seven shutout innings at Cleveland State. Gulbransen scattered just two hits and walked one while striking out six to record his fourth victory of the season.