Valparaiso (14-20, 10-7 Horizon)
Oakland (6-26, 3-14 Horizon)
Fri. Apr. 24 - Lundeen (L) (3-4, 4.76) vs. Hager (L) (2-4, 7.13), 2:00 pm CT
Sat. Apr. 25 - Losi (R) (3-1, 4.73) vs. Dehn (R) (1-2, 4.10) 2:00 pm CT
Sun. Apr. 26 - Fritze (R) (1-4, 4.53) vs. Green (R) (1-5, 6.03) 12:00 pm CT
This Week in Crusader Baseball: With first place still within reach, the Crusaders head to Michigan to improve upon their 10-7 record in Horizon League play. Oakland enters this weekend on a four-game skid, winners in one of its last 11 tilts; however, the Grizz’s last two league affairs have been two of their best. The Golden Grizzlies took first-place Wright State to 11 innings in both Saturday and Sunday’s matchups last weekend at the Oakland Baseball Field.
Last Time Out: UIC collected a series win last weekend at Emory G. Bauer Field. The threat of rain on Sunday forced a Saturday doubleheader, one in which resulted in a frustrating split. The Crusaders were 4-for-26 with runners in scoring position on the day, but a two-run double from Daniel Delaney and a two-run single by Shea Molitor helped the Brown and Gold to a 5-4 win in the opening game. Valpo stranded 14 runners on base in a 4-1 loss in the nightcap.
On the Air: Live video (ESPN3) will be available courtesy of Oakland Golden Grizzlies Athletics. Live stats will also 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: Junior LHP Dalton Lundeen (3-4, 4.76) will go for his first road win of the season in the series opener on Friday. Sophomore righty Mario Losi (3-1, 4.73) will get the ball in Saturday’s 3:00 p.m. ET/2:00 p.m. CT start. Losi has received 63 runs of support in his eight starts. Junior RHP Ryan Fritze (1-4, 4.53) will close out the series for the Brown and Gold. Fritze’s 4.53 earned run average is good for 10th-lowest in the Horizon League.among qualifying pitchers.
Series Notes: Valpo leads the all-time matchip 25-16 over Oakland in a series that began in 1999. The Crusaders swept all three games against the Golden Grizzlies two weeks ago in Valparaiso. This will be the Brown and Gold’s first trip to Rochester since the Grizz joined the Horizon League - last year’s series scheduled to be played at Oakland Baseball Field in late March was cancelled because of snow.
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: John Musachio is in his eighth season at the helm of the Oakland program, but 2015 represents his 10th overall with the Golden Grizzlies. He oversaw Oakland’s transition into the Horizon League in 2014 just two seasons after being named The Summit League Coach of the Year. Musachio became the school’s winningest skipper last season after capturing his 136th victory.
Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year Robby Enslen has been the most consistent bat for the Golden Grizzlies. The outfielder is batting .351 with a team-high 13 multi-hit games. His 46 hits are tied for seventh-most in the Horizon League. Two Oakland players enter this weekend’s series with hitting streaks of 10 games or longer. Zach Sterry is in the midst of a 16-game streak dating back to March 21st. He’s lifted his average to .297 in that time. Meanwhile, catcher Ian Yetsko has carried the Grizz in the slugging department. The redshirt junior is responsible for 16 of Oakland’s 70 extra-base hits and owns the team watermark in runs batted in (19). He’s enjoying a 10-game hitting streak and is tied with Enslen for the most games with multiple RBIs with five.
Only 13 teams in Division I baseball have a higher aggregate earned run average than the Oakland pitching staff (7.22). Furthermore, only five schools have amassed higher walks-plus-hits per inning pitched (WHIP) than the Golden Grizzlies’ 2.03. Jason Hager, who projected as a solid Friday starter following a 2014 campaign that saw him record a 4.12 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio a hair under 2:1, has hashed out a 7.13 earned run average to date while allowing 96 batters to reach against him in 53 innings pitched. He’s yielded 20 extra-base hits in 2015. Saturday starter Aaron Dehn has been the most consistent arm, assembling a 4.10 ERA in 37 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .329 off the sophomore. Nate Green will get the ball for Oakland in the series finale on Sunday. Green has crafted an earned run average just north of 6.00 and has been tagged with five losses. The bullpen has been a challenge for Musachio and Co. Luke McCatty represents the lone relief arm with an ERA below 6.00. Moreover, freshman Nate Schweers (17 K; 1 BB) is the only reliever with five or more IP that owns a K:BB ratio better than 1:1
Driftless Drivel: 15 of Valpo’s 18 home runs this season have come on the road...the Crusaders are still in search of their first pinch-hit of the season (0-25)...in its last seven games, Oakland has played just one tilt under three hours (2:59, vs. Western Michigan, 4/15)...half of Shea Molitor’s hits on the season have come with two outs (11-for-26, .423)...leadoff batters have gotten on base at a .620 clip (31-for-50) against Mario Losi...of the 49 outs reliever Ben Mahar has recorded, 33 have been groundouts...catcher Daniel Delaney is batting .368 (25-for-68) in league play...junior Nolan Lodden is batting .467 (21-for-45) with runners in scoring position...Oakland and Valpo are two of just 11 teams to turn a triple play this season...the Golden Grizzlies (64) and Crusaders (56) are #1 and #2 in the league in errors committed.