Valparaiso (8-13, 1-5 Horizon)
at Purdue (13-10, 1-2 Big Ten)
Alexander Field | West Lafayette, Ind.
Wednesday, March 29, 5 p.m. CT – Inman (R) vs. Schumacher (R)
Next Up in Crusader Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team will step outside of Horizon League activity for each of the next six games, a stretch that begins on Wednesday night at Alexander Field in West Lafayette. The Crusaders will attempt to repeat the success they enjoyed a year ago against their in-state Big 10 foe Purdue.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders dropped the rubber match of a three-game series at UIC 8-1 on Sunday. The Crusaders and Flames split a doubleheader on Friday, with UIC winning Game 1 10-7 before Valpo bounced back to claim Game 2 4-2. Nate Palace hit .300 for the week while launching three home runs and driving in seven.
On the Air: The game will be broadcast on BTN Plus on BTN2GO. Links for live video, audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Pitching Probables: The Crusaders will go with sophomore right-hander Grant Inman on Wednesday night. Inman worked out of the bullpen for the first time this season on Sunday at UIC. He tossed a perfect inning, sending down the side in order with a pair of strikeouts. Wednesday will mark his sixth start of the season and his first in a midweek contest. Inman holds a 2-2 record and 6.00 ERA in 21 innings. He has struck out 13 and issued nine bases on balls. The Boilermakers will go with senior right-handed pitcher Tanner Schumacher, who is 0-2 with an 8.56 ERA in four games this season.
Series Notes: The all-time series is slanted heavily in favor of Purdue, as the Boilermakers hold a 66-19 edge. Purdue has won 38 of the 46 meetings that have occurred in West Lafayette. The two teams were slated to go at it at Alexander Field last season, but that showdown was washed out. The last time Purdue hosted Valpo, the Boilermakers prevailed 2-0 in May 2015. The two teams did meet at Emory G. Bauer Field a year ago, with Valpo nailing down a 13-10 victory. Dan Delaney delivered a pair of three-run home runs in that game. James Stea had a two-hit day. Wednesday’s game is the first of a home-and-home between the two squads this season. They will also meet in Valpo on May 9 at 3 p.m.
Series Highlight: The most memorable meeting between Valpo and Purdue came on June 1, 2012, when the Crusaders fell 7-2 in an NCAA Regional Game played at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary. The Crusaders made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1968. The game was slated to start at 7 p.m., but did not get underway until after 10:30 and lasted until nearly 1 a.m. The reason for the late start was the previous game, as Kent State and Kentucky went to 21 innings with Kent State pulling out at 7-6 win.
Inside the Crusaders: Valpo currently ranks third in the league in batting average at .255 and third in ERA at 4.02. Valpo leads the league in hit by pitches at 31, eight ahead of the team ranking second. Nate Palace is the league leader in total bases with 55, while James Stea paces all Horizon League players with eight hit by pitches. Palace is Valpo’s top hitter at .329 (seventh in HL), while his slugging percentage of .659 ranks second in the league. Palace has launched six home runs, second in the league. Stea has 11 stolen bases, second in the Horizon. Freshman Jon Tieman nailed down his fifth save on Saturday to extend his league lead in that department.
In the Other Dugout: Purdue ushers in a new era of baseball in West Lafayette as they welcome first-year head coach Mark Wasikowski to the program. Wasikowski’s coaching career includes stops at Oregon, Arizona, Florida and Southeast Missouri State as an assistant. LaPorte native Doug Schreiber stepped down as Purdue head coach following the 2016 season, his 18th in charge of the program. The Boilermakers opened their 2017 home slate on Tuesday against Kent State. Purdue is 13-10 and has already exceeded its win total from last year’s 10-44 campaign. Skyler Hunter is hitting .385 to lead the team (tied for third in the conference), followed closely by Nick Dalesandro at .353. Jacson McGowan leads the way in the power categories with three home runs and 24 RBIs. As a team, the Boilermakers rank fourth in the Big 10 in batting average at .277 and 10th in ERA at 5.72.
Connection Corner: The most noteworthy connection between the two teams is Valpo assistant coach Ben Wolgamot, who played collegiately at Purdue. He graduated in 2010 after batting .311 in 88 career games with the Boilermakers. Wolgamot was named a First Team All-Big Ten second baseman following the 2008 season… Purdue freshman utility player Drew Bertram and Valpo freshman pitcher James Meyer were teammates at Zionsville Community High School a year ago. The pair contributed to a team that went 31-5, won its conference and finished as the state runner-up… Purdue junior outfielder Alec Olund is a Northwest Indiana native and graduated from Lake Central High School.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his fourth 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, then guided the team to its first winning record since 2013 a year ago. Schmack, a member of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, served as pitching coach/associate head coach at Valpo for seven seasons prior to his promotion.
Looking Back: Valpo finished 2016 with a 30-28 record, its first winning season since 2013 and just the seventh 30-victory campaign in program history. Valpo scored 377 runs, fourth-most in a season in school history. The team also ranked fourth in program history in hits (586) and fifth in total bases (809). The Crusaders graduated 12 seniors a year ago including their top two starting pitchers, closer and 3-4-5 hitters.
Youthful Crusaders: The Crusaders have 11 freshmen and 15 total newcomers on this year’s roster. They have just five seniors after having 12 a year ago. This marks the fewest seniors Valpo has featured since having just four on the 2010 roster. The Crusaders haven’t had this many true freshmen on the roster since 2008. The Crusaders have the most true freshmen in the Horizon League, with UIC’s eight second most. Valpo and Wright State have the fewest seniors in the league with five apiece.
Preseason Poll: The Crusaders were picked to finish fourth in the seven-team Horizon League based on voting by the league’s head coaches. Wright State hauled in five of the six first-place votes and is picked to repeat as the league champion, with UIC projected to finish second. Milwaukee is picked third, followed by Valparaiso, Northern Kentucky, Oakland and Youngstown State.
Driftless Drivel: Christian Barczi returned from an injury this weekend against UIC and notched his first career three-hit game on Sunday… Chad Jacob has five multi-hit games and 10 RBIs in just 10 games this year. He too returned from an injury this weekend… Palace currently owns an eight-game hitting streak. He already compiled a nine-game hitting streak to start the season… Jacob has reached base in 10 consecutive games… Valpo is 8-5 when scoring three runs or more, but 0-8 when scoring two or fewer… The opposing team has scored in the first innings on eight occasions this year, with Valpo going on to drop all eight of those games.