Valparaiso (14-17, 7-4 Horizon)
at UIC (15-19, 7-4 Horizon)
vs. Milwaukee (16-16, 6-4 Horizon)
Curtis Granderson Stadium - Chicago, Ill.
Fri. Apr. 22nd - Lundeen (L) (4-3, 4.00) vs. Ryan (R) (2-1, 2.35) 12:05 pm CT
Fri. Apr. 22nd - Losi (R) (2-4, 6.12) vs. Dahlberg (L) (4-6, 5.96) 3:05 pm CT
Emory G. Bauer Field - Valparaiso, Ind.
Sat. Apr. 23rd - Haas (R) (2-1, 2.40) vs. TBA (R) (0-0, 0.00) 12 pm CT
Sat. Apr. 23rd - Foreman (R) (0-1, 3.92) vs. TBA (R) (0-0, 0.00) 3 pm CT
This Week in Crusader Baseball: The Crusaders enter a kooky corridor of their Horizon League schedule as four games await them in a 27-hour span. The owners of 7-4 league records, UIC and Valpo will square off Friday in a doubleheader at Curtis Granderson Stadium. The Crusaders will then have to turn around and host Milwaukee in another twinbill Saturday in Valparaiso.
Last Time Out: Nolan Lodden racked up five RBIs while three relievers combined for four innings of one-hit ball in a 10-6 win at Chicago State on Wednesday.
Following the Crusaders: Audio (WVUR 95.1 FM, Valparaiso) and live stats will be available for all four games this weekend. ESPN3 will carry live coverage of Friday’s doubleheader in Chicago. The links to those are posted at ValpoAthletics.com. In addition, follow @ValpoBaseball on Twitter for in-game updates and a behind-the-scenes look at the Crusaders throughout the season.
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 Dalton Lundeen (4-3, 4.00) will shoot for career win No. 20 in Friday’s opener at UIC. A victory would give the left-hander his fourth consecutive five-win season. Mario Losi (2-4, 6.12) will oppose the Flames in the second game of the twinbill. Trevor Haas (2-1, 2.40) and Ellis Foreman (0-1, 3.92) will start in Saturday’s DH.
Series Notes: UIC leads the all-time series 69-56 over Valpo. The 125 meetings with the Flames are the second-most in school history behind Butler (133). Milwaukee owns a 38-26 edge in a matchup that began in 1990. Dating back to 2012, the Crusaders are 7-2 versus the Panthers at Emory G. Bauer Field.
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 Dugouts: UIC, which was picked to finish second in the Horizon League Preseason Poll, is tied with the Crusaders at 7-4, a game back of first-place Wright State. And while Valpo leads the HL in batting average (.284), the Flames possess the most hits (319) and doubles (69) in addition to owning the highest on-base percentage (.468) and slugging percentage (.412) of any team in the league. It’s quite a feat considering Mike Dee lost Alex Lee, Tyler Detmer, and Jeff Boehm to graduation. The trio combined for 22 of UIC’s 25 homers in 2015, and accrued 149 RBIs while batting .347. In their absence, junior Ricardo Ramirez, senior Conor Philbin, and redshirt sophomore David Cronin have done an admirable job of picking up the slack. All three tout an OPS north of .900, including Philbin, who is slashing .345/.472/.540. Ramirez’s five dingers lead a unit that has amassed 23 round-trippers already through 34 games.
The reigning HL Pitcher of the Year Jake Dahlberg will face the Crusaders in the second game after RHP Connor Ryan opposes Valpo in the opener. Ryan, like Trevor Haas, worked out of the Flames’ bullpen last season, but is flourishing in the rotation. Even Ryan’s numbers (2-1, 2.35) mirror Haas’s thus far (2-1, 2.40). Dahlberg has regressed since a 2015 campaign that landed the lefty eight wins and a 3.31 ERA. He leads the UIC staff in both hits (54) and walks allowed (26), home runs surrendered (7), wild pitches (7), and balks (3).
Milwaukee and Valpo split a doubleheader three weeks ago at Kapco Park in Mequon. The Panthers feature one of the best all-around players in the Horizon League in center fielder Luke Meeteer. Meeteer holds the HL’s highest batting average (.392), slugging percentage (.585), and highest runs total (33). Scott Doffek has assembled a brilliant lineup with Billy Quirke and Eric Solberg setting the table for Meeteer, Daulton Varsho (.380/424/.584), and Cole Heili (6 HR, 23 RBIs). As of Thursday, Milwaukee had not announced its starters for Saturday. This weekend’s unbalanced schedule affords Doffek the opportunity to hold tight until Valpo and UIC conclude their doubleheader Friday.
The Dalton Lundeen File: Lefty Dalton Lundeen has continued his ascent up the Valpo record books in his final season in a Crusader uniform. He enters this weekend with 19 wins (4th in program history), 303 1/3 innings pitched (4th-most), and 246 strikeouts (6th-most). If he can punch out five UIC batters Friday, he’ll leapfrog Bryce Shafer for No. 5 on the strikeout list. Lundeen is on pace to finish No. 1 in innings pitched and No. 2 in career Ks behind Tim Juran (371).
Driftless Drivel: With six more hits, Josh Clark will join Dan Delaney and Nolan Lodden as 2014-15 transfers that have reached 100 hits...Lodden has reached base in 21 consecutive games entering this weekend...Valpo’s 4.40 team ERA is at a season low...Trevor Haas accumulated 32 strikeouts between 2013-2015; his next K will be his 32nd of 2016...Shea Molitor has reached base in 22 of his last 23 games...the Crusaders managed just two hits in 33 (.066) pinch-hit opportunities last spring; Luke Syens is 3-for-8 (.375) in that role this season...Valpo pitchers issued just one walk to Milwaukee batters in its doubleheader earlier this month in Mequon...Chase Dawson has led off an inning 35 times this season; he has reached base in 17 of those plate appearances...after allowing double-digit runs three times in their first 12 games, the Crusader pitching staff has not allowed 10 or more runs in 19 straight tilts...Valpo’s starting pitcher has factored into the decision in ten of the team’s eleven HL contests...13 of the Brown and Gold’s 15 home runs on the season have come on the road.