Valparaiso (9-13, 1-5 Horizon)
at Wichita State (11-13, 9-4 MVC)
Eck Stadium | Wichita, Kan.
Friday, March 31, 6 p.m. CT – Losi (R) vs. Lewis (R)
Saturday, April 1, 2 p.m. CT – Gordon (R) vs. Barnhouse (R)
Sunday, April 2, 1 p.m. CT – Mommersteeg (L) vs. Tyler (L)
Next Up in Crusader Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team steps outside of league play this weekend as the Crusaders visit Missouri Valley Conference foe Wichita State for a three-game series. This is the final weekend nonleague set for Valpo this year.
Last Time Out: Wednesday night was a memorable one for the Valparaiso University baseball team as the Crusaders picked up their first win at Purdue since 1977, snapping a 27-game road losing streak to the Boilermakers. Valpo went to West Lafayette and came away with a 5-1 win. Grant Inman picked up the win by limiting the Boilermakers to one run on six hits in 5 2/3 innings. Nate Palace, Patrick Donohue, Chad Jacob and Jake Hanson drove in runs for the Crusaders. The Boilermakers loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but the Crusaders turned their third double play of the game to end it.
On the Air: All three of this weekend’s games will be available on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Links to live video and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Game 1 Starters: Senior Mario Losi is set to make his seventh start of the season on Friday evening. He is 0-3 with a 5.76 ERA. He has issued 15 walks and notched 14 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. Losi will attempt to rebound from the shortest start of his Valpo career last weekend, when he lasted just 1 1/3 innings and allowed seven earned runs on six hits and two walks against UIC. Senior RHP Zach Lewis will get the Friday nod for Wichita State. The Palos Heights, Ill. native and St. Laurence High School grad is in his second season at Wichita State after starting his collegiate career at Wabash Valley. Lewis is 1-2 with a 4.15 ERA entering Friday, his seventh game and sixth start of the season.
Game 2 Starters: Wes Gordon will attempt to build on a strong start last week against UIC. He helped the Crusaders beat the Flames 4-2 in the nightcap of last Friday’s doubleheader with six innings of one-run, nine-hit ball. Gordon, a junior college transfer, picked up his first victory in a Crusader uniform. He is 1-3 with a 4.80 ERA in his first six starts. He’s struck out a team-high 19 and walked just five in 30 innings. Tommy Barnhouse is the starting pitcher for Wichita State on Saturday. He is 1-2 with a 4.34 ERA in eight games, three starts. Barnhouse has worked 18 2/3 innings and issued four walks while striking out 13. The rookie righty graduated from Leavenworth High School and hails from Lansing, Kan.
Game 3 Starters: It’s a battle of left-handed hurlers in the series finale as Valpo freshman Michael Mommersteeg opposes Wichita State redshirt junior Cody Tyler. Mommersteeg made his first weekend start on Sunday against UIC and took the defeat, allowing two runs on three hits and four walks in 2 1/3 innings. Those were the first earned runs allowed by Mommersteeg this season, as he stands at 0-1 with a 1.08 ERA in six games, three starts. He has walked nine and struck out 11 in 16 2/3 innings. Tyler is 2-3 with a 4.76 ERA in six games, five starts. He has racked up 18 strikeouts and issued six walks in 22 2/3 innings. Tyler returned last year after missing the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery. He earned second team all-MVC accolades a year ago.
Series Notes: Friday’s game will mark the first time ever that the Crusaders and Shockers have hooked up on the baseball diamond.
Inside the Crusaders: Valpo is hitting .258 as a team and holds a 3.88 team ERA. Chad Jacob owns a 10-game hitting streak and has reached base in 11 consecutive contests. He had his first three-hit game since his freshman year on Wednesday against Purdue. Nate Palace had his 10th multi-hit game of the season on Wednesday and leads the team in that department. Palace also has a nine-game hitting streak. Palace leads the team with six home runs and 18 RBIs. Jacob is hitting .362 in 11 games. Sam Shaikin and Palace are tied for the team lead in doubles with six apiece, while Palace has two of the team’s four triples. James Stea owns over half of the team’s stolen bases with 12 of the squad’s 22. Stea is tied for 25th nationally in stolen bases.
In the Other Dugout: Wichita State was picked to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll. They have seven position players and 10 pitchers back from last year’s team, which finished 21-37. Jacob Katzfew is hitting .333 in 14 games, while reigning MVC co-Freshman of the Year Greyson Jenista is hitting .286 with one home run and 16 RBIs in 24 games. The Shockers are under the direction of head coach Todd Butler, who is in his fourth season as head coach. Wichita State has the worst team batting average in its seven-team conference at .235, but ranks third in ERA at 4.34.
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: The two walks issued by Jon Tieman in the ninth inning on Wednesday were the first he’s allowed all season… Only 22 games into the season, Palace already has six home runs, matching his 52-game total from a year ago. He’s one long ball away from matching his career high of seven set during his sophomore campaign… Montana Quigley has been a much-improved Crusader, as he holds an 0.68 ERA in eight games spanning 13 1/3 innings. In almost identical time (eight games spanning 13 2/3 innings) last season, Quigley’s ERA was 7.24… Palace enters the weekend with 104 career RBIs. He needs nine more to crack Valpo’s career Top 10 in RBIs… Christian Barczi batted cleanup on Wednesday, becoming the first player other than Palace and Jake Hanson to do so this season.