Valparaiso (5-15, 0-0 Horizon)
Games #21-23 at Wright State (6-10, 0-0 Horizon)
Friday, Mar. 26, 5:30 p.m. CDT - Dayton, Ohio
Saturday, Mar. 27, 12 p.m. CDT (DH) - Dayton, Ohio
This Week in Crusader Baseball: Valparaiso opens the 2010 Horizon League schedule this weekend as the Crusaders travel to Dayton, Ohio for a three-game set with the preseason favorites, the Wright State Raiders. The weekend set wraps up a 23-game road trip for the Brown and Gold to open the season, as Valpo will return home to Emory G. Bauer Field on Tuesday to host Central Michigan.
On the Air: None of the three games at Wright State will be carried on the radio or broadcast online. Live stats will be available for all three games this weekend against the Raiders though.
Pitching Rotation: A pair of right-handers will toe the rubber in the series opener on Friday night. Valpo will send Damon McCormick (RHP, 2-0, 5.48) to the mound against the Raiders’ Max Friedman (RHP, 0-2, 6.00). In game one on Saturday, Bryce Shafer (RHP, 2-2, 5.62) will take to the hill for the Brown and Gold opposite of Casey Henn (RHP, 2-0, 2.92). The series finale will feature Jon Gulbransen (LHP, 1-2, 3.03) on the mound for Valpo against Wright State’s Alex Kaminsky (RHP, 2-1, 4.05).
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 76-108 record both at Valpo and for his career.
Wrapping Up Last Week’s Action: The Crusaders were swept in a three-game weekend series at Southeast Missouri State. In the opener on Friday, Valpo scored three times in the opening inning, but the Redhawks scored three or more runs in four different innings on the way to a 17-4 victory. In the nightcap on Friday, the Crusaders tried to rally in the seventh (a seven-inning game), scoring twice, but fell just short in a 5-3 loss. Saturday’s series finale saw Valpo tie the game in the sixth after falling behind 5-0, but Southeast Missouri State scored three in the seventh and won 8-7.
Scouting Wright State: The Raiders played their seventh nationally-ranked opponent of the season on Wednesday night at #20 Vanderbilt, and fell to the Commodores 18-2. Jake Hibberd and Casey McGrew lead the Wright State offense. Hibbard is hitting .383 with 14 runs batted in while McGrew is hitting .367 and has a team-best three stolen bases. As a team Wright State is hitting .292. On the mound, Raider pitchers have tallied a 6.07 earned run average.
Valpo in Horizon League Openers: The Crusaders have won their conference opener in each of the first two years the Brown and Gold has been in the Horizon League. In 2008, Valpo defeated Wright State in Dayton, part of a two-game series split. Last year, the Crusaders took the first two games of the weekend set at Butler before the Bulldogs bounced back in the series finale.
Frane a Streaky Hitter: Justin Frane has all of his hits bunched together this season. Currently in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak, Frane is batting .386 for the Brown and Gold this year. His other hits this year came during his first five-game hitting streak of the year.
Heinkel Makes Most of His Starts: Paul Heinkel has drawn nine starting assignments for the Brown and Gold this season. In his starts, the redshirt-sophomore is hitting .448 with six runs batted in.
On the Road Again: After opening the 2009 season with 18 straight games away from Valparaiso, the Crusaders have added even more road contests to the start of this year. Valpo is playing its first 23 games away from Emory G. Bauer Field, not opening at home until game number 24 against Central Michigan on March 30.
Tough on Lefties: Right-hander Will Robinson has been tough on left-handed hitters this season. In his first year as a Division I hurler, Robinson has allowed lefties to hit just .179 (5-for-28) against him on the year.
Errors Prove Costly: Defensive miscues have led to quite a few opponent runs thus far this season. Valpo has made 38 errors on the year, leading to 49 unearned runs (2.5 per game). Every pitcher except Will Hagel and Tyler Deetjen have fallen victim, as those two are the only hurlers not to allow an unearned run yet this year.
Gulbransen Solid on the Hill: Jon Gulbransen ranks third in the Horizon League with a 3.03 earned run average this season, while ranking eighth with opponents hitting just .277 against the southpaw. Gulbransen’s 35 strikeouts lead the conference, as do his 35.2 innings pitched.
Gaedele Does a Little of Everything: Kyle Gaedele ranks among the Horizon League leaders in seven different categories. The sophomore is tied for the league lead in steals (6-for-6), ranks second in runs score (22), is second in hits (28) and runs batted in (22), is tied for sixth in walks (9), is tied for fourth in triples (2), and is tied for fifth in doubles (6). Gaedele is hitting .337 on the year for the Crusaders as well.
Shafer Nearing Career Top-10 Lists: Bryce Shafer needs just three more victories to move into a tie with eight others for 10th place on the Valpo career win list. He currently has 13 victories in two-plus seasons with the Brown and Gold. Shafer also needs just 19 more strikeouts to match Sean Galiher’s 10th place career total of 180. Shafer enters the weekend with 161 strikeouts.
Pencil Them in the Lineup: Kyle Gaedele has batted third in every game this year while Ryan O’Gara has played first and hit cleanup in each game.
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. Kyle Gaedele ran his hitting streak to nine earlier this year as well. Justin Frane enters this weekend with the longest active streak, having hit safely in his last seven games.
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. He also posted an .875 slugging percentage.
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.