Crusader Baseball Closes the Regular Season in the Windy City
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Crusader Baseball Closes the Regular Season in the Windy City
Valpo will close out the year this weekend at UIC. (Ray Acevedo)

Valparaiso (21-28, 8-8 Horizon)
Games #50-52 at UIC (20-27, 13-8 Horizon)
Thursday, May 20, 7:05 p.m. - Chicago, Ill.
Friday, May 21, 1:05 p.m. (DH) - Chicago, Ill.

This Week in Crusader Baseball: The 2010 regular season comes to a close for Valparaiso this week as the Crusaders head to the Windy City for a three-game series against UIC at Les Miller Field.  The two schools will battle in a single game on Thursday evening before wrapping up the campaign on Friday with an afternoon doubleheader.

On the Air:  All three games against UIC will be carried online through via UIC’s website.  Live stats will be available for every game this week through as well.

Pitching Rotation: In Thursday evening’s series opener Valpo will send Bryce Shafer (RHP, 6-4, 3.79) to the mound while the Flames will counter with Michael Heesch (LHP, 6-5, 5.01).  Game one on Friday is scheduled to feature a pair of southpaws.  Jon Gulbransen (LHP, 4-5, 4.70) will toe the rubber for the Brown and Gold while UIC answers with freshman Tim Suminski (LHP, 3-5, 7.86).  In the final game of the series, Valpo is slated to throw Damon McCormick (RHP, 5-1, 5.15) while UIC has yet to determine its game three hurler.

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 92-121 record both at Valpo and for his career. 

Wrapping Up Recent Action:
The Crusaders split a doubleheader against Youngstown State last Friday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field on Senior Day.  The Penguins jumped on top in the opener with eight runs in the first two innings on the way to a 15-5 win over Valpo.  The Brown and Gold answered in the night cap as Bryce Shafer allowed just two earned runs over eight innings and Valpo scored 13 times in the third through sixth innings on the way to a 14-3 victory.  Valpo had its scheduled doubleheader at Butler on Monday rained out, and the games will not be made up.

Scouting UIC: The Flames have won three of their last four games following a doubleheader sweep against Cleveland State on Sunday afternoon.  Matt Serna leads the UIC offense hitting .390 with 43 runs batted in.  Chris Rutta is batting at a .366 clip with 13 homers and 59 RBIs for a team that is hitting .311.  UIC’s pitching staff has a 7.73 ERA this year while opponents are hitting .336 against the Flames.

Recently vs. UIC: The first scheduled meeting between the Crusaders and Flames this season was cancelled due to rain in Valparaiso on April 25.  Last year UIC won the only two games played between the two schools.  In fact, the Flames have won the last 16 games between the two teams, with Valpo’s last winning coming on April 6, 1999, a 13-10 triumph at Emory G. Bauer Field.

Record Setter: Kyle Muhlsteff set Valpo’s single season doubles record last Friday against Youngstown State.  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.

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.

Battling for the Single Season Runs Records: Kyle Gaedele and Kyle Muhlsteff are both chasing the single season runs record.  Gaedele enters the weekend with 55, matching Mark Pedersen’s 2001 school record for a single season. Whether Gaedele will be the final record holder remains to be seen though, as Muhlsteff enters this weekend just one run behind Gaedele in the race for the record.

Gaedele Looking for RBI Record as Well: Kyle Gaedele’s 56 runs batted in this season are just two behind Steve Schank’s 1985 school single season record of 58.

Welcome Back OG: Ryan O’Gara returned to the Crusader lineup on Friday against Youngstown State after missing 27 games with a broken arm from being hit by a pitch against Southeast Missouri on March 20.  He broke back into the lineup in a solid way, going 5-for-8 with five runs batted in.  The junior also homered in his second at bat of the first game of the twinbill.  O’Gara, the team’s leading hitter at the time of his injury, raised his average to .398 on the year.

Robinson Likes Horizon League Pitching: Robbie Robinson is hitting a team-leading .450 against the Horizon League this season.  His average ranks second among all league hitters in conference action.  Robinson is batting .324 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 three 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, Kyle Muhlsteff has the team’s longest hitting streak heading into the weekend at 10 straight games, after having an 11-game hitting streak earlier this season.

Quite a Thief: Kyle Gaedele is a perfect 13-for-13 on the base paths this season.  His 13 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 21-of-23 swiping bases.

Picking the Right Spots to Run: Valparaiso’s 52 stolen base attempts this season rank last in the Horizon League, but the Crusaders are tied for fourth overall in total steals with 46.  The Brown and Gold’s 88.5% 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 13-for-13, Damon McCormick has swiped all eight 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 weekend second in the league at 3.79 while Gulbransen is fourth at 4.70.  McCormick has a 5.15 ERA as well.

Among the Nation’s Best: Kyle Gaedele entered the week ranked ninth in the country with seven triples this season.  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 235.  He is 18 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 248.2 career innings pitched.  He needs just 25.0 more innings to move up into the sixth spot and 26.0 more innings to move up into fifth position.

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.

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. 

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.

Valpo Tabbed Fourth: 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.