Valparaiso (16-23, 6-10 Horizon)
at Youngstown State (12-27, 6-13 Horizon)
Eastwood Field | Niles, Ohio
Friday, April 28, 1 p.m. CT (Game 1) – Losi (R) v. Floyd (L)
Friday, April 28, To Follow (Game 2) – Tieman (R) v. Quinlan (R)
Saturday, April 29, 2 p.m. CT – Foreman (R) v. TBD
Next Up in Crusader Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team will make the longest Horizon League journey this weekend as it heads to Youngstown State for a three-game set with the Penguins. Note that the series schedule has been altered due to weather, as the two teams are now scheduled to play a doubleheader on Friday beginning at 1 p.m. CT. All five of the meetings between the Crusaders and Penguins will occur in an eight-day span, as Valpo and Youngstown State get together next Friday, May 5 for a doubleheader at Emory G. Bauer Field.
Last Time Out: After splitting a doubleheader with Wright State on Sunday and going 2-2 in league play last weekend, the Crusaders suffered a 10-3 setback at Notre Dame on Wednesday night. Giovanni Garbella doubled twice to provide a bright spot for the Crusaders, who also got strong bullpen work from Hayden Kissee, Chet Joslyn and Easton Rhodehouse.
On the Air: The hometown radio call of all three games will be available on ValpoAthletics.com with Brandon Vickrey describing the play-by-play. Links to live audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Friday Game 1 Starters: Senior Mario Losi will again take the ball to open the series for the Crusaders. He’ll look to right the ship after allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 12 hits in 7 1/3 innings while taking the loss at Northern Kentucky last weekend. Losi stands at 1-4 with a 6.44 ERA and has struck out 32 while walking 20 in 10 starts totaling 58 2/3 innings. The Penguins will go with sophomore southpaw Collin Floyd, who is 1-6 with a 7.56 ERA. He has walked 27 and struck out 34 in 41 2/3 innings over 13 appearances, nine starts. Losi did not face the Penguins at all last season, but he did beat them on May 9, 2015 with eight strong innings (8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO) and March 22, 2015 with a complete-game shutout (4 H, 3 BB, 4 SO). Floyd has never pitched against the Crusaders.
Friday Game 2 Starters: Valpo will go with freshman Jon Tieman in Game 2 of Friday’s twin bill. Tieman, who started the season as the team’s closer but has since moved into the weekend rotation, is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA to go along with seven saves. He’s worked 24 innings in 16 games and issued six walks and notched 24 strikeouts. Tieman made his first start of the season a week ago against Northern Kentucky and picked up a win after allowing three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. Jeremy Quinlan (3-0, 2.91 ERA) will get the nod in Game 2 for Youngstown State. He has issued 10 walks and struck out 21 in 34 innings over six starts this year. Quinlan faced Valpo twice last season, receiving no decision (4 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO) in a 7-6 Youngstown State win on May 13, while taking the defeat (6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 1 SO) in a 4-0 Valpo win on May 19.
Saturday Starters: Ellis Foreman has earned another start after he made the most of his first start of the season last week. The fifth-year senior righty earned the Horizon League Pitcher of the Week award after throwing a complete game shutout against Wright State on Sunday. He scattered seven hits and matched a career high with 11 strikeouts while issuing no walks. Youngstown State has not yet named its Game 3 starter.
Series Notes: The Crusaders have dominated the all-time series, which dates back to 1992. Valpo is 55-18 against Youngstown State. The Crusaders won four of the five meetings last year – sweeping a three-game series at Emory G. Bauer Field after splitting a twin bill in Youngstown.
Inside the Crusaders: Valpo holds a 5.22 ERA (fourth Horizon) and a .271 batting average (third). The Crusaders are led by Chad Jacob, who is hitting .358. Freshman Christian Barczi leads the team in league-only batting average at .373. Nate 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. Palace is the team leader in home runs with seven and RBIs with 25 despite missing four games and six starts due to illness. Sam Shaikin has reached safely in 23 straight games. James Stea ranks second in the league in stolen bases with 18, which is tied for 20th nationally. Stea has been hit by a pitch 20 times, which is tied for second nationally. Giovanni Garbella has had quite the last two weeks – ripping two home runs in a game against Chicago State, racking up six RBIs against Northern Kentucky and banging two doubles against Notre Dame. Jake Hanson hit .238 in the first 19 games of the season, and is now hitting .371 in 17 games since. Sam Shaikin started the season with a .238 average with four RBIs in his first 18 games, but has since heated up to .395 with 17 RBIs in his last 21 games.
In the Other Dugout: The Penguins are coming off a 4-2 midweek win over Canisius. They split a doubleheader with Milwaukee on Sunday, dropping the first game 5-2 before notching a 5-1 victory in the nightcap. Youngstown State is under the direction of first-year head coach Dan Bertolini, who spent the last eight years at Mercyhurst North East. The Penguins are led in batting average by Nico Padovan, who is hitting .289. Andrew Kendrick has cracked 14 home runs and racked up 33 RBIs, leading the league in home runs and ranking eighth in RBIs. The Penguins rank last in the league in batting average at .248, on-base percentage at .318 and team ERA at 7.10.
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.