Valparaiso (0-3, 0-0 Horizon)
Belmont (1-1, 0-0 Ohio Valley)
Sat. Feb. 21st - Lundeen (L) (0-0, 1.50) vs. Quillen (R) (0-0, 0.00) 10:30 am
Sat. Feb. 21st - Fritze (R) (0-0, 11.57) vs. Vaughn (R) (1-0, 9.00) 2:00 pm
Sun. Feb. 22nd - Losi (R) (0-1, 2.84) vs. McGrath (L) (0-0, 9.00) 11:00 am
This Week in Crusader Baseball: Uncanny weather in the lower Midwest caused the cancellation of the Mule Mix Classic. Instead of a round-robin versus Middle Tennessee State, Lipscomb, and Belmont, the Crusaders will face the Bruins three times this weekend in Nashville. Times are, of course, weather permitting, but the plan as of Friday afternoon is to play a double-header Saturday and a single game on Sunday morning. @ValpoBaseball1 will have up-to-the-minute news on this weekend’s action.
Last Time Out: Despite possessing leads on three separate occasions, the Crusaders dropped all three games in their series versus San Diego State. Dalton Lundeen provided Valpo with the opportunity to win in his first start of the 2015 campaign as he allowed just one earned run in six innings of work in the series opener. The Aztecs prevailed 22-12 in Saturday’s slugfest, before claiming the sweep with a 3-0 victory on Sunday. Daniel Delaney (6-for-11, 2B, HR, 3 RBIs) and Dustin Beasley both homered for Valpo in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
On the Air: Audio and live stats of this weekend’s games will be available free, courtesy of Belmont University Athletics. Links to both are up at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his second season at the helm of the Crusaders. He led Valparaiso to 25 wins in his inaugural campaign, a school record for victories by a first-year skipper. 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, seven pitchers have gone on to play professional baseball including Bryce Shafer, Dallas Cawiezell, and Karch Kowalczyk who were selected in the MLB Draft.
Probable Starters: Junior LHP Dalton Lundeen (0-0, 1.50) will take the ball in the first of the three-game series for the Crusaders. Junior RHP Ryan Fritze (0-0, 11.57) will make his second start in a Valpo uniform in the second game of the scheduled twinbill. Sophomore right-hander Mario Losi (0-1, 2.84) will close out the set versus the Bruins on Sunday.
Series Notes: Belmont leads the all-time series 4-0. The Crusaders opened the 2013 season in Nashville, dropping a pair of tight contests to the Bruins.
Looking Back:Valpo finished 2014 with a 25-28 record overall and a 12-12 mark in the Horizon League. Sophomore Dalton Lundeen compiled one of the best seasons on the mound of any lefthander in college baseball, registering HL-lows in earned run average (1.94), walks-plus-hits per inning pitched (1.02), and walks per nine innings (1.30). Offensively, Chris Manning racked up 61 hits as he boosted his career total to 264, good for second place all-time in school history.
In the Other Dugout: Head coach Dave Jarvis enters this weekend two wins shy of 500 for his tenure at Belmont. The Bruins are coming off a 2014 campaign that produced a 24-30-1 record, but saw three players selected in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft (Austin Coley, Greg Brody, Jamie Ritchie).
Belmont has split its first two contests at E.S. Rose Park this season. The Horizon League preseason favorite Wright State Raiders defeated Belmont 14-7 in a tilt that was a 7-6 ballgame entering the 9th inning. The Bruins broke into the win column the following day with an 18-5 slaughter of visiting Toledo. Belmont threw up five crooked numbers thanks in part to third baseman Matt Beaty’s six-RBI afternoon. Beaty finished a double shy of the cycle.
The Bruins’ offense appears to be one built on power more than average necessarily. Beaty ripped 44 hits (16 XBH) in just 36 games a season ago. Despite playing in just 65% of his team’s tilts, the senior drew the most walks (28) of any Bruin in 2014. Outfielder Drew Ferguson jacked 10 home runs as a junior last season. His .589 slugging percentage ranked 33rd in all of Division I baseball. Alec Diamond did a nice job atop the Belmont order last spring. Diamond accrued 23 walks opposite 17 punch outs in 188 at-bats. Early projections are calling for Tyler Fullerton, a newcomer, to mash in the middle of the order. All four of his hits thus far have gone for extra bases, including a two-run triple and a two-run bomb. Fullerton, a Murfreesboro native, was named the Tennessee Junior College Player of the Year while at Columbia State Community College.
Belmont’s first two scheduled starting pitchers in the series are in their first years with the Bruins. Righthander Aaron Quillen posted a 9-1 record while at Walters State CC. Freshman Tyler Vaughn is expected to take the ball in the second game of the series. Vaughn struck out four batters in his two innings pitched thus far, but he’s allowed a pair of runs as well. Sunday’s starter, southpaw Patrick McGrath, endured a 2-9 record accompanied by a 5.59 earned run average last season despite a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 3:1.
Transferring You to Valpo: The Crusaders welcome 11 newcomers into the mix in 2015, seven of which are junior-college transfers.
Small Sample Size Warning: Mark Johnson was 2-for-4 in his only appearance versus Belmont on Feb. 17th, 2013...San Diego State batted .357 (20-for-56) with runners in scoring position last weekend...Johnson opened the season by reaching base in his first eight plate appearances...Aztec leadoff batters reached base 16 times in 24 plate appearances versus the Crusaders...only three players in the nation are averaging more doubles per game than Spencer Mahoney (1.00)...ETSU’s Trey York (2.000) is the only player in the country with a higher OPS than Belmont’s Tyler Fullerton (1.571)...Valpo stranded 30 runners in 27 frames last weekend.