Valparaiso (8-7, 0-0 Horizon)
UIC (4-11, 0-3 Horizon)
Les Miller Field at Granderson Stadium (TBA) -
Fri. March 21st - Webb (2-2, 4.74) vs. Michelson (1-2, 6.29) 5:00 pm
Sat. March 22nd - Lundeen (1-1, 2.38) vs. Lewandowski (1-3, 4.74) 10:30 am
Sat. March 22nd - Losi (1-1, 3.65) vs. Andersen (0-2, 14.73) 1:30 pm
On Deck for Crusader Baseball: Valpo and UIC will attempt to play three games in under 24 hours this weekend when they meet for the first time in 2014 on Friday inside Granderson Stadium in Chicago. In an effort to take advantage of a warmer forecast on Saturday, Sunday’s game was cancelled in favor of a doubleheader Saturday beginning at 10:30 am. The Crusaders open conference play above .500 for the first time since 1997.
Last Time Out: Weather forced the cancellation of four games scheduled between the Crusaders’ last game in Texas during the Spring trip and their 7-1 win over Chicago State Tuesday afternoon. Ellis Foreman fired six innings of one-run ball to earn his first collegiate win after taking over for Mario Losi in the third inning. Spencer Mahoney and Andy Burns each had a pair of hits and a run scored while Jeff Edwards ripped a double and drove in two.
On the Air: Due to the ongoing construction at Granderson Stadium, neither audio nor video will be available. A link to the live stats will be available at valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his first season at the helm of the Crusaders. Schmack, a member of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, served as pitching coach/associate head coach at Valpo for seven seasons prior to his promotion. Under Schmack’s tutelage, six pitchers went on to play professional baseball including Bryce Shafer and Dallas Cawiezell who were selected in the MLB Draft.
Probable Starters: Senior RHP Cole Webb (2-2, 4.74) will take the ball in the first of the three-game series for the Crusaders. LHP Dalton Lundeen (1-1, 2.38) will look to build off his shutout over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in his last outing when the sophomore takes the hill Saturday morning. Freshman right-hander Mario Losi (1-1, 3.65) will toe the slab in his Horizon League debut in the second half of the doubleheader.
Series Notes: UIC leads the all-time series 59-52 over Valparaiso in a rivalry that started in 1977. The two schools have met 16 times over the past two seasons with both teams going 8-8 in that span; however, the Crusaders are 3-1 versus the Flames in the HL Tournament since 2012. Valpo held on for an 8-7 win in Youngstown last season in the opening game of the tourney, one year after defeating UIC 14-5 at Les Miller Field to advance to its first NCAA Tournament in 44 years.
Looking Back: Valparaiso finished 2013 with a 32-28 record overall and a 13-11 mark in the Horizon League. The Crusaders tied with UIC for second place in the regular season but went 3-0 in the Horizon League Tournament in Youngstown to claim their second straight automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. After losing a 5-4 heartbreaker to #13 Indiana on the Hoosiers’ home turf, Valpo eliminated the Florida Gators 5-4 the following day for its first win in an NCAA Regional game since 1966.
Scouting the Opposition: UIC currently sits at 4-11 overall. The Flames opened the season 3-0 but have lost 11 of their last 12 games. Their schedule hasn’t done them many favors as a weekend series at #9 Vanderbilt in late February resulted in a Commodore sweep that yielded a 28-2 run differential. Upon its return north, UIC was swept by Wright State in a three-game set that saw a combined 57 runs scored. Northern Illinois and Chicago State dealt the Flames one and two-run losses, respectively.
The Flames have put up double digit runs in a game five times including twice in their last three tilts. Three everyday starters (Jacob McNamara, Tyler Detmer, John Coen) are batting .308 or higher. Detmer carries a .959 OPS coming into this weekend. Alex Jurich leads the Flames with 16 RBIs while newcomer Jake Nath is UIC’s stolen base leader with six. All four of outfielder Jon Ryan’s doubles on the year came against Chicago State Wednesday night. On the season, the Flames are batting .286 with a .382 on-base percentage, impressive numbers considering three of their 15 games were against one of the nation’s top pitching staffs.
Pitching has been an adventure early on for UIC. Tomas Michelson has put up good peripherals but the junior has endured a 6.29 ERA to this point. Michelson has issued five walks in 24 1/3 innings but opponents are batting .320 against the right-hander. He also has hit six batters. Ian Lewandowski has surrendered nearly the same number of hits and walks (38) as Michelson (37) in almost exactly the same workload (24 2/3 innings) but his ERA is a run-and-a-half lower than Michelson’s (4.74). Lewandowski is the only weekend starter not to have given up a home run so far in 2014. Game 3 starter Jack Andersen has yielded 28 base runners and struck out one in just 11 innings on the hill. The UIC staff as a whole has compiled a 7.26 earned run average and have dispersed 67 free passes in 131 1/3 innings. They’ve also allowed 195 hits, 44 of which have gone for extra bases. Teams are batting at a .351 clip against UIC.
In the Dugout: Mike Dee is in his 16th season as head coach of the Flames. A UW-La Crosse alum, Dee has been named Horizon League Coach of the Year eight different times. He is 474-375-1 at the helm of UIC.
Et Cetera: Lefties have only one hit in 11 at-bats versus Ben Mahar...Spencer Mahoney boasts a .429 batting average (12-for-28) with runners on base...in his three starts against UIC in 2013, Cole Webb went 1-2 with a 7.41 ERA...Righties are hitting .310 (22-for-71) off Mario Losi, but lefties are just 4-for-26 (.154) when facing the freshman...Manning .is a lifteime .364 batter vs. the Flames including a .481 (13-for-27) mark last season...Closer Karch Kowalczyk has not allowed a run in four career appearances against the Flames.