Valparaiso (0-3, 0-0 Horizon)
Gardner-Webb (6-1, 0-0 Big South)
Fri. Feb. 27 - Lundeen (L) (0-0, 1.50) vs. Heiligenstadt (L) (1-0, 3.09) 4:00 pm
Sat. Feb. 28 - Fritze (R) (0-0, 11.57) vs. Fraudin (R) (2-0, 0.00) 1:00 pm
Sun. Mar. 1 - Losi (R) (0-1, 2.84) vs. Walker (R) (0-0, 0.00) 12:00 pm
This Week in Crusader Baseball: After inclement weather wiped out all three scheduled games last weekend in Nashville, Valpo hits the road for its Spring trip with the hopes of playing nine games in the span of twelve days. Early forecast models hint that the Crusaders may be in for more of the same as the Carolinas have received uncharacteristic winter precipitation already this week.
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: Live stats will be available for all three games with the Big South Network streaming video of the final two contests. 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. RHP Ryan Fritze (0-0, 11.57) will make his second start in a Valpo uniform on Saturday. Sophomore righty Mario Losi (0-1, 2.84) will close out the set versus the Runnin’ Bulldogs on Sunday.
Series Notes: The all-time series is knotted up, 2-2. The Crusaders won two of three in Boiling Springs in 2010, but Gardner-Webb prevailed 2-1 in a tight contest on March 3rd, 2012 at John Henry Moss Stadium.
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 Rusty Stroupe is in his 13th season as head coach of the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Stroupe earned his 700th career coaching win on February 15th, 2015 in a 6-3 victory over visiting Buffalo. Gardner-Webb has experienced only one losing season since 2011 - last year’s 24-31 finish, a spring that concluded in a two-and-through in the Big South Tournament.
Gardner-Webb has raced out to a 6-1 mark to open the year. The Runnin’ Bulldogs dropped a 9-6 season opener to James Madison, but have won six consecutive since. They’ve allowed just eight runs in those six victories, a testament to their experienced pitching staff. All four of Gardner-Webb’s last four tilts have been decided by three runs or fewer.
Speed appears to be an asset throughout the Gardner-Webb lineup. The Runnin’ Bulldogs have already swiped 11 bases in their first seven games, and eight different players have contributed toward that team tally. Junior Tyler Best is a perfect 3-for-3 this season, and has already eclipsed his 2014 total of two. Best’s three doubles leads the team. Senior Ryan Hodge is one of the more experienced members of this year’s club. The shortstop played in 52 of the team’s 55 games a season ago and finished second on the team in batting average at .305. Like Valpo’s Spencer Mahoney, Hodge was a 2012 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American selection at shortstop. Henry Rundio is one of the few players that appeared in the 2012 contest between these two teams. Rundio went 0-for-3 in that game, but the North Carolina native is off to a fine start in 2015. He’s 8 for his first 25, with four of those eight hits going for extra bases.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs’ pitching results resemble a donut shop with two of their three scheduled starters still holding on to perfect 0.00 earned run averages after two starts. Matt Fraudin has whiffed batters at a robust rate of nearly 1.4 per inning (19 Ks in 14 IP). Opponents are hitting just .163 versus the righty. Jeremy Walker has racked up 13 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings of work, but has yet to be rewarded with a win. Erik Heiligenstadt, Gardner-Webb’s Friday starter is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA. He owns 10 Ks opposite zero walks. RHP Andrew Massey is handling the 9th inning for the Runnin’ Bulldogs. He has two saves through 2 1/3 perfect innings.
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: San Diego State batted .357 (20-for-56) with runners in scoring position two weekends ago...CF Mark 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 one player in the nation is averaging more doubles per game than Spencer Mahoney (1.00)...former Crusader starting pitcher Tyler Deetjen threw a 71-pitch, complete-game loss at Gardner-Webb in 2012...Valpo stranded 30 runners in 27 frames vs. SDSU...51 of the Runnin’ Bulldogs 54 games are scheduled to be played in either North or South Carolina.