Valparaiso (2-6, 0-0 Horizon)
Louisiana Tech (6-2, 0-0 C-USA)
J. C. Love Field at Patterson Park - Ruston, La.
Fri. Mar. 4th - Lundeen (L) (0-2, 8.44) vs. Diehl (L) (2-0, 0.84) 6:00 pm
Sat. Mar. 5th - Fritze (R) (0-1, 9.00) vs. Bristo (R) (1-1, 6.52) 2:00 pm
Sun. Mar. 6th - Losi (R) (1-1, 9.64) vs. Linck (R) (0-0, 2.25) 1:00 pm
This Week in Crusader Baseball: After splitting a two-game set with ULM this past week, Valpo hopscotches over to Ruston to take on an accomplished Louisiana Tech squad. The Bulldogs, who are averaging 7.6 runs/game through their first eight contests, return home after defeating #12 Arkansas, 3-2, Wednesday in Fayetteville.
Last Time Out: Nolan Lodden’s two-out single in the top of the 10th provided Valpo with its second win of the season. The senior’s go-ahead knock masked a seven-spot in the visitor’s error column as the Crusaders prevailed for a courageous 9-6 victory in extra innings, salvaging a series split with ULM. The leadoff-through-cleanup spots in the Valpo batting order combined for a 9-for-19 night with six runs scored and six runs batted in.
On the Air: Live audio streaming of all three games will be available free of charge courtesy of LA Tech All-Access. Video will also be available for purchase. Links to both as well as live stats are available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head baseball coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his third 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. The former big-leaguer followed that up with a 22-win season in 2015. 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: Senior left-hander Dalton Lundeen (0-2, 8.44) will take the ball in the first of the three-game set for the Crusaders. Senior RHP Ryan Fritze (0-1, 9.00) will toe the slab in Saturday afternoon’s tilt. Junior right-hander Mario Losi (1-1, 9.64) seeks to get back on track in Sunday’s matchup against the Bulldogs.
Series Notes: This weekend marks the first-ever meeting between Valpo and Louisiana Tech.
Looking Back: Valpo finished 2015 with a 22-31 record overall, but a 15-14 mark in the Horizon League. The offense experienced a 53-point uptick in batting average and a 67-point increase in slugging percentage from the season prior. Senior Spencer Mahoney obtained the school record for career walks with 138 while moving into 8th-place all-time for career hits (216). Junior starting pitcher Dalton Lundeen amassed 94 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings pitched while winning five games for the third straight year. The southpaw enters 2016 needing 78 1/3 innings pitched to become Valpo’s career leader in that category.
In the Other Dugout: Louisiana Tech enters this weekend with a couple of bold feathers in its cap. The Bulldogs are 6-2 and have already taken down #6 UL-Lafayette and #12 Arkansas. They rank 46th in the Nolan Power Index and 43rd in RPI. The Bulldogs may be due for some love in next week’s polls if early trends continue.
Raphael Gladu, a transfer from Galveston College, is leading the offense with a .440 batting average. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that he has yet to strike out in his first 35 plate appearances with LA Tech. Senior Taylor Love paced the Bulldog bats a season ago with a .288 average, six homers, and 32 RBIs. He’s seven for his first 23 (.304) in 2016. Louisiana Tech has stolen a shade under three bases per game and its total of 23 swiped bags have come from seven players. In the field, the Bulldogs have made just six errors.
LA Tech’s pitching staff has posted two shutouts and assembled a 3.39 ERA. Ace Tyler Clancy was spent in Wednesday’s win over the 12th-ranked Razorbacks, but lefthander Phillip Diehl has been putting up Friday starter-results early on. He’s fanned 17 in 10 2/3 innings while spotting opponents just one run. RHP Braden Bristo will make his 14th career start Saturday. The junior has posted 60 strikeouts opposite 56 walks in 97 1/3 lifetime innings with Louisiana Tech. Junior Cameron Linck will get the nod in Sunday’s series finale. The righty will be making just his second-ever start for the Bulldogs.
Greg Goff is in his second season as head coach of the Bulldogs. Goff arrived in Ruston after puncturing Campbell’s pin on the college baseball map. While at Buies Creek, Goff led the Camels to three consecutive 40-win seasons from 2012-2014, one of just eight programs nationwide to do so. He guided Louisiana Tech to a 25-27 record in his first season, a ten-win improvement over the 2014 club.
Bulldogs in the Pros: Hall of Fame quarterback and two-time Super Bowl MVP Terry Bradshaw played his collegiate career at Louisiana Tech. Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone, the second-leading scorer in NBA history was also a Bulldog. On the diamond, five-time All-Star pitcher Chuck Finley and Seattle Mariner first baseman David Segui also played collegiately for LA Tech.
Gold Rush: The Crusaders tout ten players from the state of California, and each class is represented with at least two players from the Golden State.
Driftless Drivel: Valpo has amassed 21 runs in the third inning of games this season after managing 28 in the same inning over 53 tilts during all of 2015...while the Crusaders have lit up the scoreboard in the third, they are still in search of their first fourth-inning tally...the Brown and Gold have scored first in six of their first eight contests; however, they are 1-5 in those games...Jeff Edwards already has more bases-loaded hits this season (2) than he did all of last year...Josh Clark is mashing to the tune of a .455 average (10-for-22) with runners on base...Daniel Delaney has punished left-handed pitchers for a .714 (5-for-7) average, and seven of his nine runs batted in have come with two outs...the Crusader offense as a whole has tallied 76 fly outs and 76 ground outs entering Friday...the leadoff man has reached base 36 times in 68 innings (.529 OBP) versus Valpo pitching...Crusader leadoff batters, meanwhile, have gotten aboard at a .233 clip...only 29 pitchers in all of Divison I baseball have made more appearances than Valpo left-hander Chet Joslyn (5).