Valparaiso (9-14, 5-3 Horizon)
Milwaukee (12-8, 3-5 Horizon)
Thu. Apr. 2 - Losi (R) (2-1, 4.15) vs. Keller (R) (2-3, 2.81), 3:00 pm CT
Fri. Apr. 3 - Lundeen (L) (2-3, 4.17) vs. Reuss (R) (1-0, 2.92) 1:00 pm CT
Sat. Apr. 4 - Fritze (R) (1-3, 4.34) vs. Pavlovich (R) (2-0, 4.65) 1:00 pm CT
This Week in Crusader Baseball: Valparaiso heads to Milwaukee on Thursday for its first Horizon League series away from the pastoral confines of Emory G. Bauer Field. Henry Aaron Field welcomes the Crusaders for the Panthers’ “official” home opener. Milwaukee played three games at its home facility last weekend, but was considered the road team after Oakland’s field was deemed unplayable and the series was moved to Wisconsin. The Crusaders enter this weekend two games ahead of UWM for third place in the HL standings.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso knocked out eleven hits and drew four walks, but batted just 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position in a 13-4 loss to Ball State at Ball Diamond in Muncie on Tuesday. Spencer Mahoney, Nolan Lodden, and Mark Johnson tallied two hits each, but the Cardinals slugged nine extra-base hits. The Crusaders stranded 13 runners on base. Tuesday represented the fifth time in the last seven games that the Brown and Gold have left eleven or more runners on the basepaths. Ball State recorded 11 of the game’s final twelve runs as the Red and Black improved to 19-8 on the season. Ryan Spaulding (3-for-3, 3 RBI) and Elbert Devarie (2-for-4, 2 R, 2 RBI) paced the Cardinal offense.
On the Air: Live stats will be available for all three games this weekend. 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: Sophomore righty Mario Losi (2-1, 4.15) will make his first career series-opening start in Thursday’s 3 pm contest. This will be Losi’s first-ever appearance against the Panthers. Junior LHP Dalton Lundeen (2-3, 4.17) will take his Friday turn in the rotation for the Crusaders in search of his third straight victory. RHP Ryan Fritze (1-2, 4.03) will close out the series for the Brown and Gold.
Series Notes:Milwaukee leads the all-time series 32-23 over Valpo in a matchup that began in 1990. Despite the nine-games-over-.500 mark posted by the Panthers, Valpo is 11-5 versus Milwaukee since the beginning of the 2012 season. UWM took two of three from the Crusaders in the teams’ lone series at Henry Aaron Field a season ago, but the Brown and Gold registered a perfect 6-0 run against the Panthers in 2012.
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: Scott Doffek is in his ninth season at the helm of the Milwaukee program, but 2015 represents his 21st overall at UWM. He’s accumulated 228 wins in his eight-plus seasons with the Panthers, including 118 in Horizon League play. Doffek led Milwaukee to a regular-season title in 2013 as well as an NCAA Regional appearance in 2010. After a highly successful career at Waukesha Community College, Doffek played in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor league system for five years, peaking at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Senior Sam Koenig has emerged as the one of the top power threats in all of the Horizon League. The reigning HL Batter of the Week is in the top 10 in the country in doubles per game (0.50, 6th), on-base percentage (.543, 4th), and slugging percentage (.792, 5th). With Koenig’s power potential, it can be easy to overlook equally-established bats in Mitch Ghelfi (.329 batting average, 20 R), Tell Taylor (.359 BA, .965 OPS), and Mike Porcaro (.271 BA, .419 OBP). Luke Meeteer has struggled in the early stages of 2015 to the tune of a .221 average, but once he gets on base he’s typically off to the races (14-14 SBs). All eight regular starters in the Milwaukee batting order are upperclassmen.
The Panther pitching staff has assembled a stellar 3.68 earned-run average to date. Junior Brian Keller will open the series on the hill. The right-hander made a team-high 13 starts in 2014, posting a 4.26 ERA. Keller entered his last assignment with a 1.83 earned run average, but saw that figure balloon to its current 2.81 mark after surrendering six runs in 7 1/3 innings against Oakland. He owns a win against a Missouri team that is receiving votes in the latest national poll. Adam Reuss will make his second start of the spring on Friday, and his first appearance on the mound in 20 days. He shut Youngstown State out for five innings in his lone start. Reuss possesses a 2.92 ERA, but opponents have batted .340 off the righty. Senior Joe Pavlovich has been a nice addition to the Milwaukee pitching staff. He pitched three seasons at UW-Oshkosh before attaining graduate transfer status. Pavlovich achieved one of the most noteworthy feats in all of baseball earlier this spring: he threw an immaculate inning against the Milwaukee Brewers in their exhibition game on March 4th. The right-hander threw nine pitches - all swinging strikes - to record strikeouts against Adam Lind, Khris Davis, and Gerardo Parra in a memorable 2nd inning.
Driftless Drivel: Valpo was batting .223 as a team with a .285 slugging percentage through 23 games last season...the Crusader defense has committed zero errors in just four games so far...Kyle Schneider is 5-for-11 (.455) lifetime against Milwaukee...the Brown and Gold have opened April with a win in Horizon League play in five of their last seven contests.