#1 Valparaiso (32-22, 22-8 Horizon)
Horizon League Championship
Thursday, May 24, 8 p.m. CDT
Friday, May 25, TBA
Saturday, May 26, TBA
Sunday, May 27, 12 p.m. (if necessary)
Les Miller Field - Chicago, Ill.
This Week in Crusader Baseball: After capturing its first conference regular season baseball title since 1977, Valparaiso now seeks its first Horizon League Tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships this week in Chicago. The Crusaders will open play in the Horizon League Tournament on Thursday evening at 8 p.m. at UIC’s Les Miller Field.
On the Air: The entire Horizon League Tournament can be seen live online through the Horizon League Network with links available on valpoathletics.com. Live stats will be available through valpoathletics.com for each game this weekend as well. A live interactive blog will take place on valpoathletics.com as well for each game of the tournament that Valpo takes part in.
Head Coach Tracy Woodson: Tracy Woodson, the 16th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his sixth season at the helm of the Crusaders and has a 152-179 (.459) record both for his career as well as at Valpo. Woodson ranks third in school history for career wins by a head coach. A member of the Los Angeles Dodgers 1988 World Champion team, he has also managed in the minor leagues through the AAA level.
Probable Starters: Tyler Deetjen (LHP, 6-2, 3.40) will be handed the baseball on Thursday night in Valpo’s tournament opener against Butler, UIC, or Youngstown State. In six starts against that trio of teams, he was 4-0 with a 2.54 ERA during the regular season, walking just four and striking out 23 in 46.0 innings. The rest of Valpo’s tournament rotation will be determined on a game-by-game basis.
Tournament History: Valpo is 9-8 all-time in the double elimination Horizon League Tournament over its first four years in the conference. The Crusaders have won at least one game each season, advancing to the tournament championship for the first time in 2011. Valpo won three games in both 2008 and 2011, two games in 2010, and went 1-2 in 2009. The Crusaders have defeated every team in the tournament field at least once in the postseason, with the exception of Milwaukee. Valpo has never lost to Butler or Youngstown State in the Horizon League Tournament.
Wrapping Up Recent Action: Valpo captured the Horizon League regular season title last weekend with a three-game sweep of Youngstown State at home. The Crusaders downed the Penguins 8-3 in Thursday’s series opener before needing 11 innings for an 8-7 triumph on Friday. In Saturday’s clincher, Valpo scored seven times in the fifth inning on the way to a 13-2 victory.
Wild Pitcher of the Year: Senior right-hander Kevin Wild was named the Horizon League Pitcher of the Year after winning five conference games while league foes batted just .214 against him. For the year Wild had a 2.87 ERA and opponents hit .244 against him.
Wormington Top Newcomer: Kyle Wormington was named co-Newcomer of the Year in the Horizon League after posting a 6-5 record with a 3.24 ERA. All six victories came in conference play. The junior right-handed pitcher struck out 55 and walked just 16 on the year.
Woodson Named League’s Top Coach: Tracy Woodson garnered Horizon League Coach of the Year accolades after guiding the Crusaders to a 32-22 record overall and a 22-8 mark in conference play. Valpo won its first Horizon League title ever, and its first conference regular season crown since 1977. The Brown and Gold enter the tournament winners of 24 of their last 28.
More Award Winners: Kevin Wild was named First Team All-Horizon League this season along with second baseman Tanner Vavra and shortstop Spencer Mahoney. Pitcher Tyler Deetjen, third baseman Elliott Martin, outfielders Chris Manning and Will Hagel, along with utility player Andrew Bain all earned Second Team All-Horizon League honors. Vavra, Mahoney, Martin, and Kyle Wormington also garnered All-Newcomer Team accolades as well.
It’s Been Awhile: Valpo had not won a regular season conference title since 1977 in the Indiana Collegiate Conference prior to winning the crown this year. The Crusaders did win the AMCU-8 Blue Division championship in 1987 and 1988. The Crusaders shared the ICC tournament title with Indiana Central in 1982, it’s last postseason tournament title.
Looking to End a Long Drought: The Crusaders are looking for the Horizon League Tournament title to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championships. Valpo has not been to an NCAA Tournament in baseball since 1976 in the college division (Division II). The Crusaders made appearances in the college division tournament in 1969, 1972, 1974, and 1976. Valpo has not been in the NCAA Tournament in Division I (then known as the university division) since 1968. The Crusaders also had university division tournament appearances in 1958, 1963, 1966, and 1967.
Mahoney Earns Final Batter of the Week Honor: Spencer Mahoney was named the final Horizon League Batter of the Week for the regular season after hitting .692 (9-for-13) in the three-game sweep of Youngstown State last weekend. He had three doubles, scored three times, and drove home four runs while posting a .923 slugging percentage. The freshman shortstop had at least two hits in each game over the weekend, including a four-hit effort in Friday’s contest.
Mahoney Also Recognized by College Sports Madness: In addition to Horizon League Honors, Spencer Mahoney was also named the College Sports Madness Conference Player of the Week by the website.
Playing Solid Baseball: Valpo enters the Horizon League Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. The Crusaders have won 24 of their last 28 games overall, including 16 of their last 18 conference contests. The Crusaders had fallen 10 games under the .500 mark on April 3 after a loss at Western Michigan, but battled back to move 10 games over the .500 mark entering the tournament at 32-22. Prior to this season, the last time Valpo was 10 games over .500 was when the Crusaders were 31-19-2 on April 29, 1987.
More on the Streak: During Valpo’s 24-4 stretch, the Crusaders have batted .310 as a team, averaging 6.4 runs per contest offensively. Six different individuals are hitting over .300 during the stretch. The pitching staff has posted a 2.58 earned run average during the span, limiting opponents to just a .250 batting average over the last 28 games. Every hurler with more than two appearances has an ERA of 3.55 or below during the stretch.
Nearing a School Record for Victories: Valpo’s 31 wins in 2012 are tied for the second most victories in a season in school history. The Crusaders are four wins shy of the school mark of 35 set in 1985 when Valpo finished 35-21-1. The Brown and Gold also tallied 31 victories in 1987 and 1998.
Hagel Streaking in May: Will Hagel has hit safely in all 12 games for the Crusaders during the month of May, batting .417 (20-for-48) during the stretch that began with the Notre Dame contest. Hagel has driven home 16 runs and scored 14 times, tallying six doubles, a triple, and a home run during the span. He has also drawn seven walks for a .500 on base percentage and has a .646 slugging percentage in the month.
Martin Feasting on League Pitching: Elliott Martin batted .385 with 38 runs batted in over 30 conference games this season. The Crusader third baseman posted a .444 on base percentage and scored 20 times against Horizon League foes.
Quite a Pitching Staff: All three of Valpo’s weekend starters garnered Horizon League honors for their efforts this season. Each weekend pitcher has an ERA under 3.50 this season led by Kevin Wild’s 2.87 mark. Kyle Wormington enters the tournament at 3.24 while Tyler Deetjen has a 3.40 ERA. As a pitching staff, Valpo leads the conference with a 3.42 ERA.
Pitching Numbers Even Better in League Play: Valpo’s hurlers have moved their ERA as a staff under three during Horizon League play, posting a 2.98 mark over the 20 league games. Closer Jarad Miller leads the way with a 1.37 ERA in 12 appearances during conference action, recording six saves.
Racking Up the Hits in May: Valpo has tallied double figure hit totals in 10 of its 12 games during the month of May. The Brown and Gold is batting .347 during the month heading into the Horizon League Tournament. The Crusaders have registered 10 or more hits in 18 of their last 25 games overall as well. Valpo matched a season high for hits in a game with 20 last Friday against Youngstown State.
Bullpen Protects Crusader Leads: Valpo is a perfect 25-0 this season when taking a lead into the ninth inning in 2012. In fact, when the Crusaders have a lead after six frames, the Brown and Gold are nearly as good with a 24-1 on the year.
Playing Small Ball: The Crusaders ranked third in the country entering the tournament with 79 sacrifice bunts on the season. Tanner Vavra ranks third individually with 20 sacrifice bunts on the year.
Bain Closing in on Hits List: Andrew Bain enters the tournament with 73 hits on the season, just five safeties shy of moving into the top-five all-time in Valpo single season history. Michael Arensdorff had 78 hits for the Crusaders in 2005 to rank fifth on the charts.
Ouch: Tanner Vavra has been hit by a pitch 18 times already this season, most in the Horizon League. The 18 beanings rank him second on Valpo’s single season list, trailing just Eric Snyder who was hit by a pitch 21 times in 2003.
Deetjen on Career Charts: Tyler Deetjen ranks third in Valparaiso history having logged 293.1 innings of work on the mound this season. The southpaw just passed Tim Holmes (1984-1987) for a spot in the top three all-time. Harvey Yergin (2004-2007) ranks second on the Crusaders’ innings pitched chart with 314.2, 21.1 ahead of Deetjen.
No Free Passes Here: Valpo’s pitching staff ranks fifth in all of NCAA Division I through May 20 allowing just 2.26 walks per nine innings of work this year. Individually, Tyler Deetjen ranks second in the country with a 0.70 walk per nine inning rate, having issued just eight free passes in 103.1 innings of work. Deetjen also ranks seventh in the country with a 7.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a category in which the Valparaiso pitching staff is second nationally at 2.47.
Quick Games: Valpo has played 21 games in 2:15 or less this season and 39 in 2:30 or under. The Crusaders are averaging just 2:18 for their nine-inning games this year, and 2:28 overall, including two four-hour plus games of 15 and 16 innings. Four times this year the Crusaders have played under two hours.
Closing Time: Jarad Miller has picked back up where he left off after missing the last year and a half with an injury, adding to his school record-setting career save total. Miller has recorded seven saves in 2012 and his 35 career saves are 21 more than any other player in program history. Miller set the school’s single season record with 17 during his All-American season in 2009. His 35 saves are one behind Wright State’s Michael Schum for most career saves in Horizon League.
Knocking Off Ranked Foes: Valpo’s 10-9, 10-inning victory over #4 Arkansas on Feb. 26 marked the highest ranked team the Crusaders have beaten since defeating #1 Notre Dame on April 25, 2001.
Valpo Earns Honorable Mention Team of the Week Honors: The Crusaders were one of four teams nationally recognized by College Baseball Insider for their play April 30-May 6, picking up Central Region Team of the Week honors from the website.
Hurlers Earn National Honor: Valpo’s pitching staff was named the National Pitching Staff of the Week on April 24 by insidepitching.com for their efforts against Indiana State and Butler. In four games the pitchers completed 43 innings of work. They allowed just four earned runs and 26 hits while striking out 29 opposing hitters.
Vavra Named Conference Hitter of the Week: Tanner Vavra was named the Horizon League’s Batter of the Week on Feb. 27 after hitting .583 (7-for-12) in the three-game series against #4 Arkansas. Spencer Mahoney joined Vavra as a Hitter of the Week, garnering the accolade May 21 for the final week of the regular season.
Horizon League Pitchers of the Week: Tyler Deetjen was named the Horizon League’s Pitcher of the Week for the first weekend of play after his opening day performance and then picked up his second weekly accolade on March 6. Kevin Wild earned the award three times himself after being named Pitcher of the Week on March 26, April 9, and April 23. Kyle Wormington was the latest Crusader hurler to pick up the accolade, doing so on May 7.
This and That: John Loeffler has reached base safely in 29 consecutive games ... Valpo has scored 46 runs in the first inning this season ... the Crusaders played 11 extra inning games during the regular season, posting a 7-4 record ... Elliott Martin (third base) and Chris Manning (centerfield) are the only two Crusaders to start every game at the same position this season ... Jarad Miller batted for the first time in his Crusader career on Saturday against Youngstown State, lacing a RBI double to the gap in right-center ... Steven Scoby has not made an error in 126 chances in the outfield this season ... Tanner Vavra has 160 assists this year, which second third on the Crusaders’ single season list, seven behind Jeff Rickert’s 2007 school record of 167 ... Tyler Deetjen’s 103.1 innings pitched this year are third most for a single season ... Andrew Bain needs 10 at bats to set the single season school record ... Ryan Kennedy has not allowed a run in nine appearances (14.0 innings) this year.