April 25, 2017123456789RHE
Notre Dame04300300X10100
Win: R Smoyer (3-2) 5.043332
Loss: Mommersteeg (1-2) 2.034122
Garbella (VALPO) 412100
K Fiala (ND) 513100
Valpo, Notre Dame Face Off in Midweek Affair
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Valpo, Notre Dame Face Off in Midweek Affair
Chet Joslyn pitched two innings in relief in Game 1 of Sunday's doubleheader against Wright State.

Valparaiso (16-22, 6-10 Horizon)
at Notre Dame (18-22, 8-13 Atlantic Coast Conference)
 Frank Eck Stadium | Notre Dame, Ind.

Tuesday, April 25, 5:05 p.m. CT – Mommersteeg (L) v. Smoyer (R)

Next Up in Crusader Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team will make the trip to Notre Dame on Tuesday evening for a midweek meeting with the Fighting Irish. The Crusaders will spend the week away from Emory G. Bauer Field as the Notre Dame game will be followed by a three-game weekend set at Youngstown State.  

Last Time Out: The Crusaders split a doubleheader with perennial Horizon League favorite Wright State on Sunday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field. After Wright State’s Zane Collins outdueled Valpo’s Grant Inman in the first game, a 3-1 Wright State victory, the Crusaders bounced back with a 9-0 win in Game 2. Ellis Foreman threw a complete game shutout, scattering five hits while racking up 11 strikeouts and issuing no walks. The performance allowed him to garner Horizon League Pitcher of the Week recognition when the league announced its weekly awards on Monday. After notching his first career complete game and becoming the first Crusader to go the distance this season, Foreman also became the first Valpo player this year to receive a weekly award from the league office. He picked up his third career Horizon League Pitcher of the Week distinction.

On the Air: Live video of the game will be available on WatchND / ACC Network Extra. Notre Dame will also have radio coverage via 103.1 FM and live stats. Coverage links can be found on ValpoAthletics.com.  

Starting Pitchers: Valpo southpaw Michael Mommersteeg is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA this season in 25 1/3 innings of work while issuing 15 walks and striking out 16. The freshman gained his first career win in his most recent outing, which came a week ago in a 10-3 victory over Chicago State at Emory G. Bauer Field. Mommersteeg hurled six innings and yielded three runs (two earned) on two hits, three walks and five strikeouts. He started the season working midweek, then earned a temporary move to the Sunday slot, but has since returned to his role as Valpo’s go-to midweek arm. Mommersteeg, a native of St. Thomas, Ont., Canada, won 19 high school letters, four in baseball, four in volleyball, four in golf and three in badminton. He was his high school’s Athlete of the Year as a sophomore, junior and senior. The Valpo freshman will oppose senior right-hander Ryan Smoyer, who is 2-2 with a 10.93 ERA this year. He’s issued 17 walks and struck out three in 14 innings of work, three starts and four relief appearances.

Series Notes: Valpo suffered a 3-1 loss in a tightly-contested game between the two teams last year at Frank Eck Stadium. Valpo is 21-73 all-time in a series that goes back to 1958. The Crusaders have lost five straight to the Fighting Irish but did beat them 7-4 on May 2, 2012.  

Inside the Crusaders:  The Valpo bats have been the strength of the team of late, as a variety of Crusaders are enjoying recent hot stretches offensively. Sam Shaikin may very well be at the forefront of that group. He’s reached base safely in 22 consecutive contests and batted .500 (9-for-18) with two doubles, a triple, a home run and nine RBIs in five games this past week. Shaikin is hitting .411 with 17 RBIs over the last 20 games after batting .238 with four RBIs in his first 18 games. He is the only Crusader who has started every game this season. Shaikin isn’t the only Valpo player on the left side of the diamond enjoying offensive success, as third baseman Chad Jacob has been a steady presence. He missed time with an injury early in the season, but is batting a team-best .358 with three home runs and 17 RBIs. Nate Palace is back after missing four games due to illness. He was sidelined for six starts, appearing as a pinch hitter in both games of a doubleheader against Northern Kentucky on April 21 as he eased back in. Palace showed he was healthy when he belted a pinch hit home run against the Norse in the nightcap of the twin bill. Palace has 111 career RBIs, putting him on the verge of cracking Valpo’s career Top 10. Kurt Gessee (1982-86) currently ranks 10th at 113. Junior outfielder Giovanni Garbella found himself on the outside looking in on Valpo’s starting lineup at one point this season, but he received an opportunity when Palace was sidelined and hasn’t left the lineup since. Garbella had three straight multi-hit games last week against Chicago State and Northern Kentucky (2), culminating with a six-RBI performance in the nightcap against the Norse. He also launched two home runs in the midweek win over the Cougars. Freshman Christian Barczi has burst onto the scene and leads the team in league-only batting average at .373. A catcher by trade, the Crusaders have found a way to get Barczi’s bat in the lineup by using him as an outfielder and designated hitter. Fifth-year senior Jake Hanson is another Valpo player whose bat has heated up considerably of late. He batted .238 in his first 19 games and is hitting .382 in 16 games since. Leadoff man James Stea ranks second in the Horizon League in stolen bases with 18, which is tied for 18th nationally. Stea is one of two players in the nation who have been hit by a pitch 20 times or more this season. Stea has 20 HBP, second only to Purdue’s Evan Warden at 26.

In the Other Dugout: The Fighting Irish are led by Matt Vierling, who is hitting .300 in 40 games. They are coming off a series at Virginia that saw Notre Dame drop two of three, including a 9-0 loss in Saturday’s finale. The two teams have two common opponents, as both have notched wins over Illinois State and Chicago State, with Valpo beating the Cougars twice. Notre Dame is coached by Mik Aoki, who took over in 2011 after spending time at Boston College and Columbia.

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.

Connection Corner: Notre Dame sophomore infielder Nick Podkul is a native of Schererville, Ind., also the hometown of Valpo catcher Scott Kapers. In addition, Podkul and Valpo second baseman Chase Dawson both graduated from Andrean High School in 2015. Podkul and Dawson formed the middle infield combination for the state champion 59ers in 2015, as Dawson and Podkul concluded their prep careers with a 2-1 victory over Jasper for the Class 3A Indiana state title.