Valparaiso (3-8, 0-0 Horizon)
UIC (2-8-1, 0-0 Horizon)
Fri. Mar. 13 - Lundeen (L) (0-2, 3.31) vs. Lewandowski (R) (0-2, 3.86) 4:00 pm
Sat. Mar. 14 - Fritze (R) (1-1, 5.68) vs. Dahlberg (L) (1-1, 4.61) 2:00 pm
Sun. Mar. 15 - Losi (R) (0-1, 8.79) vs. Lane (L) (0-1, 11.57) 1:00 pm
This Week in Crusader Baseball: Horizon League play commences this weekend as Valparaiso travels to Curtis Granderson Stadium in Chicago for a three-game series versus the Flames. UIC enters this weekend with the hopes of snapping an early-season cool streak. The Flames’ last win came on Valentine’s Day in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Meanwhile, the Crusaders aim to move closer to the .500 mark behind an offense that has supplied plenty of potency through 11 games.
Last Time Out: The Valpo offense continued to throw up crooked number after crooked number at Harley Park in Spartanburg, South Carolina last weekend. Overall, the Brown and Gold smacked 15 extra-base hits during the three-game set, but they were unable hold a late lead in the finale en route to a series loss to USC Upstate. The Crusaders dropped the series opener 8-7, a game that ended with the tying run standing on third base. Valpo responded the next day with one of the best offensive efforts in school history en route to a 17-5 victory. Nate Palace cranked two home runs, a double, and racked up seven runs batted in while Nolan Lodden and Spencer Mahoney both scored four times and combined to draw five walks. Armed with an 11-3 lead and needing just 12 outs to secure the series, the Crusader pitching staff surrendered 14 runs over their final three innings of work in a devestating 17-13 loss. The Crusaders were scheduled to play James Madison in a single game Tuesday, but rain forced the cancellation of that tilt.
On the Air: Audio - Valpo Sports Radio Network (WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso) - Brandon Vickrey (PxP), Parker Gatewood (Color), Brad Collignon (Color). Video - ESPN3.com. Links for the audio, video, and live stats are available at ValpoAthletics.com. In addition, ValpoGameday.com is a one-stop shop for live video, stats and social media interaction, all on the same page.
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 (0-2, 3.31) will open the series on the hill for the Crusaders in search of his first victory of the season. RHP Ryan Fritze (1-1, 5.68) will take the ball on Saturday. Sophomore righty Mario Losi (0-1, 8.79) will close out the set versus the Flames on Sunday.
Series Notes: UIC leads the all-time series by a 64-54 margin. The 118 meetings are the most versus any team aside from Butler (133). In fact, the Crusaders and Flames have hooked up 23 times since the beginning of the 2012 season, including four postseason victories for the Brown and Gold. Despite a 10-13 record versus UIC during that stretch, Valparaiso has ended the Flames’ season twice in the last three years (‘12, ‘14).
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: Mike Dee, the longest-tenured head baseball coach in the Horizon League, is in his 17th season at the helm of UIC. The Flames have won ten regular-season crowns under Dee, who is the owner of eight Horizon League Coach of the Year awards (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005-08). He possesses a career overall record of 508-390-1 and a 248-123 mark in Horizon League play. MLB All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson, whose name is attached to UIC’s home stadium, excelled under Dee’s tutelage from 2000-2002.
As good as Nate Palace has been for Valpo, senior Jeff Boehm has been just a hair better for the Flames. The University of Kentucky transfer is slashing .375/.519/.850 with five homers and 20 RBI to his name. Boehm’s bat was an anchor on a UIC club that hit a collective, league-leading .304 in 2014. His seven home runs, 16 doubles, and .543 slugging percentage all led the Flames a season ago. Seniors Alex Lee (.311 BA, four doubles, nine RBI), and Tyler Detmer (.310 BA, 11 R, eight BBs) both represent some of the tougher outs throughout a veteran-laced UIC batting order.
Junior Ian Lewandowski graduated to the Friday spot of the UIC rotation following Tomas Michelson’s departure to the MLB draft last June. Lewandowski has logged 190 career innings, amassing a 9-11 record and a 3.69 earned run average. His stats through three starts this season (3.86 ERA) mirror similar results with an improved strikeout-to-walk ratio of 15:5. A mainstay in the rotation each of the past two seasons, the right-hander will be making his sixth start against Valpo on Friday. Lewandowski sports a 3-1 record with a 2.97 ERA in his five career appearances versus the Brown and Gold, but he’s been dominant in his last two - allowing two runs in 17 1/3 IP. His 94 innings pitched in 2014 were the most of any Horizon League hurler. LHP Jake Dahlberg and LHP Trevor Lane, the Saturday and Sunday starters, are both in their first seasons with the Flames. Dee showed a great deal of confidence in Mitchell Schulewitz last season. As a rookie, the sidewinder registered 56 innings in 31 apperances, posting 59 strikeouts and a 3.54 ERA.
Driftless Drivel: Palace (1.90) and Boehm (1.73) are #1 and #2 in the country in RBI/game, respectively...relief pitcher Ben Mahar’s next appearence will be the 64th of his career...with 107, Spencer Mahoney is second in school history in career walks, needing 30 to tie Marc Waite’s record of 137 set in 1992.