Valparaiso (5-16, 0-0 MVC)
at DBU (18-6, 0-0 MVC)
Horner Ballpark | Dallas, Texas
Friday, March 29, 6:30 p.m. CT – Jon Tieman (R)
Saturday, March 30, 2 p.m. CT – Colin Fields (R)
Sunday, March 31, 1 p.m. CT – Zach Fricke (R)
Next Up in Valpo Baseball: The Missouri Valley Conference season will begin where the last one ended for the Valparaiso University baseball team. It’s a site that evokes positive memories for the program after Valpo exceeded expectations in its first Missouri Valley Conference Tournament a year ago, knocking off host DBU in the conference tournament opener before dropping two close games. Now, Valpo is headed back to the Lone Star State to kick off conference action against the Patriots, a perennial baseball powerhouse.
Last Time Out: Valpo dropped a pair of midweek games against instate competition, falling 14-8 to Ball State on Wednesday after a 5-1 loss to Purdue on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Valpo scored twice in the opening inning, but the Cardinals put together 11 unanswered before Valpo’s five-run eighth that was highlighted by a Sam Shaikin home run. Blake Billinger had his team-leading eighth multi-hit game, while Riley Dent extended his hitting streak to eight. Valpo’s eight runs against the Cardinals were the team’s most in a game since March 12 at Tennessee Tech (also eight) and the team drew a season-high seven walks.
On the Air: All three games will have a free video stream available courtesy of Dallas Baptist Athletics. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes: Valpo went 2-3 in five meetings with DBU last season with two of the team’s signature wins coming against the Patriots, an NCAA at-large selection. Valpo picked up a 9-2 home win over DBU on April 29 before recording a memorable 13-10 win in the first round of the MVC Tournament on DBU’s home field. The Patriots did edge out Valpo 7-5 on May 25 in the double-elimination tournament, bringing Valpo’s season to a close. The two teams met for a nonconference series in Dallas in 2016 prior to Valpo’s addition to The Valley. Valpo also won a game in that series, beating DBU 6-1 on its home field. In total, DBU owns a 6-3 edge in the all-time set.
Valpo in Conference Openers: Valpo will look to improve to 3-3 in conference openers during the Brian Schmack head coaching era on Friday. Four of the team’s last five league openers have been one-run affairs.
2019 at DBU ???
2018 vs. Bradley L 5-4
2017 at Wright St L 2-1
2016 at NKU W 5-4(10)
2015 at UIC L 8-2
2014 at UIC W 4-3
Fields Still Firing: Valpo freshman Colin Fields moved into the No. 2 spot in the pitching rotation this past weekend and continued to thrive, racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts while picking up his second straight victory in a 5-2 win over Butler. Over his last two starts, Fields has a 2.57 ERA and 2-0 record with 20 strikeouts against just three walks.
Denting The Hit Column: Valpo junior Riley Dent has climbed into the team lead in batting average at .333. He has ripped two triples in the last four games to become the second Valpo player with multiple triples this year. Dent owns an eight-game hitting streak and a 12-game on-base streak to continue a breakout offensive season after he batted .209 a year ago and .206 as a freshman.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his sixth season in charge of the program. 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 in 2016. In 2017, Schmack continued his success despite managing a youthful roster that featured 11 freshmen and 15 total newcomers. He led his team to 24 wins, including a strong finish to the regular season that saw them win eight of their last 11. The 2018 season saw Valpo transition to the Missouri Valley Conference. The Brown & Gold made an immediate splash in the highly-respected baseball league, putting together a strong showing in the MVC Tournament, including a 13-10 victory over host Dallas Baptist, a team that went on to receive an at-large NCAA Regional berth. Schmack, a member of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, served as pitching coach/associate head coach at Valpo for seven seasons prior to his promotion.
In The Other Dugout: DBU
- Coming off a 9-0 loss at UT Arlington, but had won the previous five games including a sweep of Air Force and victories over Oklahoma State and Houston.
- Received an at-large NCAA Regional berth last season and had Regional wins over Oral Roberts and No. 8 Southern Mississippi before seeing the season end with a 4-3 loss to No. 4 Arkansas.
- Have made eight NCAA Regional appearances in the last 11 years.
- Received 23 votes in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll. Also receiving votes in the NCBWA poll.
- One of three Valley teams in the Top 30 in the latest RPI.
- Picked to finish second in the MVC preseason poll, one point behind Missouri State in the survey of Valley head coaches.
- Horner Ballpark is the 20th-best college baseball venue in the nation, according to D1Baseball.com.
- Head coach Dan Heefner, in his 12th season, is just two wins away from 450 for his career.
- Three players were on the Preseason All-MVC Team: Reigning MVC Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year Jimmy Glowenke and 2018 Second Team All-MVC pitchers Luke Eldred and Jarod Bayless.
- Led in batting average by Jackson Glenn at .330, while Bryce Ball leads the team in the power categories with seven home runs and 24 RBIs.
Pitching Profiles – Weekend Rotation
- RHP Jon Tieman: Named a 2018 All-MVC Honorable Mention selection, 2018 MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team honoree and 2017 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Freshman All-American… Was Valpo’s Friday starting pitcher throughout his sophomore season, garnering five wins while making 15 starts and one relief appearance… Compiled 98 2/3 innings, the most on the team and the third-most in the MVC… Led the team with 56 strikeouts, a total that ranked 15th in the conference… Became Valpo’s first underclassman pitcher to start on Opening Day since 2009… Threw his first career complete game in a 7-2 win over Evansville on April 20, 2018… Had his second CG on May 11, 2018 at Illinois State, yielding just one run on eight hits and two walks to lift Valpo to a 2-1 victory… Started his freshman year as Valpo’s closer before moving into the weekend rotation by season’s end. Is tied for eighth in program history in career saves with seven despite spending less than a full season as the team’s closer… Is majoring in finance with a minor in business analytics… Has lived in Missouri, Georgia and Illinois… Picked up the win in his season debut on Feb. 16 at Lipscomb, a game his team won 8-6. Allowed three runs on six hits and two walks over five frames… Struck out six but also walked six and allowed five earned runs on four hits in 4 2/3 innings on Feb. 24 at Arkansas State, taking the defeat… Turned in a quality start on March 2 at UNCW and got no decision in a game Valpo eventually lost 4-3. He allowed three runs on five hits in six frames while striking out eight… Enjoyed a dazzling outing on March 9 at South Carolina, when he left in position to earn a win against the nationally-ranked Gamecocks but eventually settled for no decision. He permitted just one run, and it was unearned, on six hits and no walks in eight innings while striking out five. That marked the first time in his collegiate career that Tieman started and did not allow an earned run… Had a tough-luck loss on March 16 vs. Northern Illinois at Chicago State, allowing four runs but just two earned on four hits in six innings. One of the two earned runs scored in an inning that did not feature a hit… Allowed three runs on six hits while walking two and striking out six in six innings and took the defeat on March 23 in the first game of a doubleheader vs. Butler.
- RHP Colin Fields – Helped his high school team to two regional championships… Was a two-time all-conference and all-area selection…Three-year baseball letter winner and won one varsity letter in basketball… Father Timm is a 1990 Valpo graduate and played baseball for Valpo… Can do the splits… Favorite MLB team is the Cubs and favorite current player is Kyle Hendricks…. Made his collegiate debut on Feb. 25 at Arkansas State. Took the loss despite allowing just two runs on three hits while striking out five and walking four in 4 1/3 innings…. Allowed only two hits in three innings, but seven walks contributed to four runs (three earned) that were scored against him on March 3 at UNCW, a game Valpo eventually came from behind to win 10-8… Allowed five runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings while walking one and striking out six against No. 24 South Carolina on March 10… Had his best start to date on March 17 vs. Northern Illinois at Chicago State, pitching Valpo to a 5-2 win in a rubber match of a three-game series. He went eight innings and allowed two runs on just four hits while striking out nine and walking none. In the middle of the game, he sent down 13 straight and 17 of 18… Garnered his second straight win in the second game of a doubleheader on March 23, racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts in a 5-2 win over Butler. Over his last two starts, Fields has a 2.57 ERA and 2-0 record with 20 strikeouts against just three walks.
- RHP Zach Fricke – Was an all-conference and all-area performer as a junior and senior in high school… Named the MSL East Player of the Year as a senior… Honored as the Daily Herald Player of the Year following his senior season… Was an all-area captain and first-team all-state selection as a senior… Also played basketball and golf… Favorite MLB player is Dansby Swanson…. Slated to make his first career start on Tuesday… Worked 2/3 of an inning on Saturday vs. Butler and did not allow a run in his most recent appearance… Made his first collegiate start on March 26 at Purdue, allowing three runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks in four innings in a tough-luck loss.
Player-by-Player Profiles – Position Players
- Riley Dent, LF – Played in 31 games and made 27 starts as a sophomore last season… Robbed Milwaukee’s John Boidanis of a home run with a leaping catch on May 13, 2017… Played a key role in a dramatic 3-2 win over Chicago State on May 15, 2018 that saw Valpo score twice in the bottom of the ninth to win it. Had a 2-2 count as a pinch hitter with two outs and nobody on base with Valpo down 2-1, then ripped the seventh pitch he saw into center for a base hit, starting a two-out rally… Has moved to the leadoff spot this season and transitioned to center field… Set the tone atop the lineup with three hits, three RBIs, a walk and two runs scored in Valpo’s first victory of the season, which came 8-6 over Lipscomb on Feb. 16… Had his fourth multi-hit game of the season on March 9 vs. South Carolina… Had two doubles in a March 17 win over Northern Illinois, becoming the first Valpo player with a two-double game this season… Had hits in all three games of a weekend series against Butler March 23-24, extending his hitting streak to seven. Ripped a run-scoring triple in the middle game of the series to help Valpo to a 5-2 win… Moved his hitting streak to eight with his second triple of the season on March 27 at Ball State.
- Sam Shaikin, 3B – Started all 106 games over the 2017 and 2018 seasons… Ranked third in The Valley in runs scored with 54 while batting .288 and getting on base at a .406 clip in 2018… Tied for fifth in program history with 54 runs scored in 2018 and ranked third in walks (43), one behind Spencer Mahoney (2015) for the most since 1991… Also in 2018, slugged the most home runs by a Valpo player since 2008 (Josh Wallace, 11) and the second-most by a Valpo player since 2002 with nine… Named to the Brooks Wallace Award Watch List by College Baseball Foundation for an award that goes out to the top shortstop in the nation… Was the only Valpo player to earn MVC Player of the Week honors in the program’s first season in the conference. Did so after hitting .700 in three games against Oklahoma and Holy Cross the second week of the season… 2016 Horizon League All-Freshman Team honoree… Member of Valpo’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee… Named to the 2018 California Collegiate League All-Star Game… nephew of Bill, who works as a baseball writer for the Los Angeles Times… Belted a two-out, go-ahead, eighth-inning grand slam on March 3 at UNCW to lift Valpo to a 10-8 victory over the Seahawks. That was his first home run of the season and the 14th of his collegiate career… Belted career home run No. 15 and his second of the season on March 23 vs. Butler, a two-run blow in the eighth inning of a game the Bulldogs won 6-4… Hit his 16th career home run and third of the season on March 27 at Ball State, a three-run blow as part of a five-run eighth.
- Chase Dawson, 2B – Led off and started at second base for all 53 games in 2018 while compiling a .265 batting average and .341 on-base percentage… Led the team with 10 stolen bases in 12 chances, had five of the team’s seven triples and drove in a career-high 28 runs… Had three home runs last season after having none in his first two years… Became Valpo’s first player with five triples in a season since Kyle Gaedele in 2010… Led The Valley in triples… Was cut down on each of his first two stolen-base attempts of the year, but went 10-for-10 the rest of the season…. After launching his first career home run on Feb. 24 at Oklahoma, ripped a two-run blast in the top of the ninth inning on March 2 against CSUN, capping a miraculous nine-run ninth that tied the game at 13… Became the first Valpo player since 2016 to rack up five hits in a single game by doing so on March 2 against CSUN… Hit a grand slam against Arkansas Pine Bluff on March 16… Named to the 2016 Horizon League All-Freshman Team and All-Tournament Team… Is a local to Northwest Indiana as an Andrean High School alum and Chesterton native… Played for the Martinsville Mustangs of the Coastal Plains League during the 2018 summer season. He led the league in batting average at .395 and was named to the All-CPL First Team and the CPL Select Team that competed against the USA Collegiate National Team in a midseason All-Star Game. The Mustangs coaching staff featured former Valpo player Dustin Beasley… Is up to 10 career triples, making him the 10th player in program history to reach that milestone. Is tied for eighth in program history with Jeff Snyder (1989-1992) and Chris Manning (2011-2014)… Has moved to the third spot in the batting order this season after hitting first, second and ninth over his first three seasons… Had his first four-hit game of the year on March 2 at UNCW. In fact, he had as many hits in that game as he did over the first five games of the season prior to that contest… Started at first base in all three games of a series against Northern Illinois March 16-17, playing out of position while battling an injury. Had five hits over a doubleheader on March 16 including a go-ahead, eighth-inning home run in a 7-6 victory in Game 1… Returned to his normal position at second base for all three games of a series vs. Butler March 23-24… Contributed two hits and two RBIs on March 27 at Ball State.
- Blake Billinger, OF/DH – Named to the 2018 MVC All-Conference First Team, the lone Valpo player to receive first-team honors, after starting all 53 games and batting .323 in his first season at Valpo… Tied a program record for doubles in a single season with 23 (Kyle Muhlsteff 2010), finishing second in The Valley in 2018… Led the team in league-only batting average at .342, sixth in the MVC… Hit a home run against Alabama in the first at-bat of his Valpo career… Had a three-double game on March 2, 2018 vs. CSUN, becoming the first Valpo player with three doubles in a game since Andrew Quinnette in 2008… Hit .769 (10-for-13) in a three-game series at Southern Illinois (April 6-8), becoming the first Valpo player since 2010 to go 5-for-5 in a game… Became the first Valpo player since Quinnette in 2008 with a three-homer game as he put together the first three home run performance in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2018 in an 18-13 win over Western Michigan on May 8… Delivered a walk-off single to drive in two with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a 3-2 win over Chicago State on May 15… Named to the 2019 MVC Preseason All-Conference Team… Turned in his second career multi-homer game on Feb. 24 at Arkansas State, launching a two-run bomb and a three-run blow to account for five of the team’s six runs in a 7-6 defeat. He drove in six of the team’s eight runs in the series in Jonesboro… Lifted his team-leading RBI total to nine by belting his third home run of the season on March 5 at North Carolina A&T… Drilled his fourth big fly of the year on March 10 at No. 25 South Carolina, part of a three-hit performance… Had his team-leading eighth multi-hit game of the season on March 27 at Ball State.
- Brent Jones, 1B – Has been plagued by injuries throughout his Valpo career… Limited to 14 games in 2018 after being sidelined by an injury in 2017… Started his career with two junior college seasons and posted a .344 batting average as a sophomore at Iowa Central… Was Valpo’s offensive standout during an early-March series at UNCW, racking up seven RBIs after entering that series with four for his career… Had his first three-hit day of the season and launched his first home run in a Valpo uniform on March 10 at No. 25 South Carolina… Saw his 10-game hitting streak snapped on March 17 vs. Northern Illinois at Chicago State.
- Christian Barczi, C – Was limited to DH duties early in the season due to an injury but has taken over behind the plate…. Member of the 2017 Horizon League All-Freshman Team…. Three different catchers have seen time in an effort to replace Scott Kapers, who started each of the last three seasons before leaving a year early to sign with the Texas Rangers after being selected in the 17th round of the 2018 MLB Draft… Scott’s younger brother Jake, a freshman, is also in the catching mix at Valpo.
- Patrick Donohue, RF – One of five Valpo players in his fourth year in the program… Has been used mostly off the bench but saw eight starts as a junior as part of a designated hitter platoon... Had a two-run double in the eighth inning on March 27 at Ball State, his first extra-base hit of the season and the second of his career.
- Damon Jorgensen, SS – Native of Nebraska… Junior college transfer who started his career at Coffeyville… Described as an athletic player who moves well… Injured most of the fall season but has returned to health… Hobbies include hunting, snowboarding and wakeboarding… Went 2-for-4 on March 3 at UNCW, his first multi-hit game in a Valpo uniform… Hit his first home run of the year and his first extra-base knock in a Valpo uniform on March 12 at Tennessee Tech… Had his fourth multi-hit outoput of the year on March 26 at Purdue.
- Steven Fitzsimmons, CF – Played in 16 games and made three starts as a sophomore… Two of his three starts came against Big Ten competition – at Michigan State and at No. 25 Illinois… Valpo was victorious all three times he was in the starting lineup… Ripped a double on March 5 at North Carolina A&T, his first extra-base hit of the season, the second double of his career and his first double since the 2017 campaign… Went 4-for-4 in Game 2 of a doubleheader on March 23 vs. Butler, helping Valpo to a 5-2 victory. Accounted for four of the team’s nine hits while enjoying a career day at the dish.
- Ryan Wickman, OF – Father Bob pitched in the big leagues from 1992-2007, led the American League in saves in 2005 and was a two-time big league All-Star... Majoring in business analytics... Talents/hobbies are hunting, fishing and video games… Had an RBI double on March 2 vs. UNCW, the first extra-base hit and RBI of his collegiate career. That was part of a two-hit day in his first career start.
- Jeremy Drudge, OF – Two-time all-conference selection who won three varsity letters in high school… The Valpo freshman helped his high school team to two conference titles… Saw limited action as a senior in high school due to a torn ACL… Won three varsity letters in football… Was an Indiana Junior All-State selection and first-team all-conference selection… Raced go-karts during his youth… Favorite MLB player is Aaron Judge.
- LHP Michael Mommersteeg – Worked 32 1/3 innings, making five starts and seven relief appearances for Valpo in 2018… Did not allow a run and permitted only one hit in three innings out of the bullpen on May 13 at Illinois State… Won 15 high school letters, four in baseball, four in volleyball, four in golf and three in badminton… Played junior hockey until his junior year of high school, playing against the likes of NHL players Clayton Keller, Travis Konecny and Connor McDavid… Has played with Indiana State catcher Max Wright and was in the same program as Indiana State pitcher Ty Whitbread, Bradley outfielder JF Garon and trains in the offseason with Illinois State pitcher Dalton Harvey, who also played in the same program as Mommersteeg… Has one sister, Maureen, who played college hockey for Laurier (Waterloo, Ontario) from 2009-2012… Father Richard played collegiate and semi-professional soccer. He played at the University of Western Ontario. He won a Western bronze medal during his junior year for displaying exceptional athletic abilities. He then signed with the London Lasers of the Canadian Soccer League and played against teams like the Vancouver WhiteCaps and Toronto FC before they were promoted to MLS.
- LHP Jarrett Hammel – Transferred to Valpo for the 2018 season (his sophomore year) after Division II Saint Joseph’s College closed its doors… Led the team in ERA in 2018 at 3.20 while going 3-2 with 18 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings of work… Made 24 appearances (two starts) during his first season on campus… After a slow start that saw him hold a 13.50 ERA over his first four appearances, had a 1.35 ERA in 33 1/3 innings over his final 20 appearances of the season… Did not allow an earned run over 13 innings from March 4 – April 17, then did not allow any runs in 15 innings from April 28 to May 23… Had a heroic effort out of the Valpo bullpen in a 13-10 win over DBU on May 23 in the first round of the MVC Tournament, sending down the first 10 batters he faced and allowing just one run on two hits in 3 2/3 innings of relief. Achieved the win in an upset over the host Patriots… Loves singing, particularly in the shower or while driving… Brother Jay is a freshman RHP at Quincy University… Majoring in elementary education with a minor in mathematics… Has a three-legged dog… Both of his parents are teachers… Went to a school that housed K-12 in one building with a graduating class of 68… Hometown of Brook, Ind. has a population of about 800 people… Broke his leg in seventh grade and his right leg is now three centimeters shorter than his left… Did not allow a run in 1 1/3 innings of relief on March 23 vs. Butler, helping Valpo to a 5-2 win…. Turned in two scoreless innings in a road game against Big Ten foe Purdue on March 26, walking none and yielding just two hits.
- RHP Montana Quigley – Missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery… Has three younger sisters… Is majoring in marketing with a minor in psychology… Was dominant out of the bullpen in 2017 before having his season cut short by an injury on April 21. Finished with a team-best 1.61 ERA, the best ERA by a Valpo player (minimum 25 innings) since 1987 (Tim Holmes, 1.59)... Strong season came after holding a 7.24 ERA his freshman year… Nailed down his second career save and first of the season on March 3 at UNCW by retiring all six men he faced including three strikeouts… Came on and nailed down his second save of the season by retiring the side in order on March 17 vs. Northern Illinois at Chicago State, preserving a 5-2 victory.
- RHP Easton Rhodehouse – Named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team in 2017. Did not allow an earned run in any of his five conference outings in 2018 with opponents hitting just .211 against him in conference play… Majoring in political science with a minor in business administration... Spent the 2018 summer doing grassroots volunteer work for a political campaign… Hobbies include skateboarding and mountain biking…. Worked one inning and did not allow a run on March 10 at No. 25 South Carolina… Pitched three perfect innings and struck out four to garner his first decision of the season, a well-earned win in a 7-6 triumph over Northern Illinois on March 16 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Chicago State… Pitched a scoreless inning in both games of a doubleheader against Butler on March 23 and nailed down his first save of the year in the nightcap.
- LHP Josh Currier – Was the only freshman who saw action for Valpo in 2018… Made two starts and three relief appearances… Sister Kayla was a member of the Valpo volleyball team from 2015-2017 and served as a student assistant coach in 2018… Majoring in nursing with a minor in psychology…. Worked a scoreless inning and struck out two on March 24 vs. Butler
- RHP Jim Jarecki – Was an NJCAA All-Academic first team honoree and a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at Heartland last season… Started his collegiate career in The Valley at Bradley in 2017… Dislocated his elbow 10 days before the start of his junior season in high school, but returned to the diamond in six weeks (rather than the projected six months) to help the team down the stretch… Has two uncles and a grandfather who were collegiate student-athletes, including one uncle, Jim Kovach, who went on to play linebacker for seven years in the NFL with New Orleans (1979-85) and San Francisco (1985)… Was the winning pitcher in Valpo’s dramatic victory over UNCW on March 3, the first decision of his Valpo career… Worked a scoreless inning on March 22 vs. Butler… Allowed one run but it was unearned in his inning on March 26 at Purdue.
- LHP Keegan Bates – Led his team to an Illinois High School Class 4A state championship in 2018… Was the starting pitcher in the state championship game, helping Plainfield North to a 4-3 victory over Huntley. That marked the school’s first state title in any sport… Favorite MLB player is Michael Kopech and team is the White Sox… Worked around two walks to put a zero on the board in his outing on March 5 at North Carolina A&T… Worked a scoreless inning on March 22 vs. Butler.
- RHP Tanner Skidmore – Started his career at Potomac State, where he was an NJCAA Academic All-American… Two-time all-conference performer in baseball and basketball in high school… Double majoring in kinesiology and education… Pitched a 1-2-3 inning with one strikeout on March 5 at North Carolina A&T… Did not allow a run over 1 2/3 innings on March 22 vs. Butler.
Looking Back: Despite a 19-34 overall record and 6-15 MVC mark, Valpo’s first season in The Valley was filled with numerous accomplishments, unforgettable games and noteworthy achievements.
- Valpo had four wins against teams that finished the season in the Top 50 nationally in RPI in 2018. The team beat DBU twice including a 13-10 victory on the Patriots’ home field in Valpo’s first-ever MVC Tournament game. The other Top 50 wins came against Oklahoma and Illinois. Valpo beat the No. 25 Fighting Illini 11-7, tying with Nebraska for the most runs scored all season against Illinois, a Big Ten team that went 33-20.
- Valpo will look to sustain its offensive success in 2019 after ranking in the Top 5 in program history in doubles, home runs and walks last season. The home run total was Valpo’s highest since 2002, while the team had a .404 slugging percentage, its best since 2010.
- After besting a single-season fielding percentage mark that had stood since 1998 in 2017, Valpo again rewrote that record by posting a fielding percentage of .973 in 2018.
- Valpo had a pair of 20+ run outputs in single games in 2018 after the team hadn’t scored 20 or more runs in a game since 2010. The first time was against defending Patriot League champion Holy Cross on Feb. 24 (20-6), the second against Milwaukee on April 11 (23-5).
- DBU, an at-large NCAA Regional team, played 63 games in 2018. Two teams scored 13 or more runs against them – Oklahoma (15, March 6) and Valpo (13, May 23).
- Valpo’s first ever MVC win won’t soon be forgotten, as Zack Leone launched a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th to lift his team over Bradley 5-2 on March 30 at Emory G. Bauer Field. That was Valpo’s first walk-off blast in over 15 years.
- Blake Billinger had the program’s first three-homer game in 10 years on May 8, helping Valpo to an 18-13 win over Western Michigan.
- Following the season, junior catcher Scott Kapers was selected in the 17th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Texas Rangers. He became the eighth Valpo player in the last nine years to be drafted and was the program’s highest selection since 2011.
The Grandest of Slams: A grand slam is even more grand when it comes with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning down by two runs. An inning that started modestly – with two outs and nobody on base – finished with Sam Shaikin hitting a go-ahead grand slam to lift Valpo over UNCW 10-8 on March 3. The grand slam was Valpo’s first of the season, but the second time in the last three years that the team used a go-ahead, eighth-inning grand slam to win a game in dramatic fashion. The first came on April 13, 2017, when James Stea’s slam helped Valpo beat Oakland 7-6 at Emory G. Bauer Field.
A Challenging Slate: Under Brian Schmack, the Valpo baseball team has not shied away from scheduling high-level nonconference opponents. With the move to the Missouri Valley Conference, the overall schedule has gotten even more challenging. Here are a few notes on the quality of Valpo’s schedule this year:
- Seven opponents played in an NCAA Regional in 2018 – UNC Wilmington, South Carolina, Tennessee Tech, Purdue, DBU, North Carolina A&T and Missouri State.
- Six of those teams all had 37 wins or more last season and averaged 41.5 wins, while the other had 32 wins.
- Those teams combined for 13 NCAA Regional wins last season and Tennessee Tech and South Carolina both advanced to Super Regionals.
- The Gamecocks have reached the College World Series 11 times and won national championships in 2010 and 2011. They finished last season ranked 16th
- Tennessee Tech finished second in the nation in wins with 53 behind only Oregon and finished the season ranked 15th in RPI.
- Six of those teams finished in the Top 60 in RPI last season and five in the Top 40.
- In addition to South Carolina (SEC) and Purdue (Big Ten), Valpo has two other Power 5 opponents – Notre Dame (ACC) and Michigan State (Big Ten). Big East foe Butler is also on the slate after the team finished 34-20 last season.
Inside the Assistants: Although Brian Schmack has become a veteran of the head coaching role, Valpo’s staff has a new look in 2018.
- After spending the last three seasons as a volunteer assistant, Kory Winter has been hired as Schmack’s top assistant and hitting coach for the 2019 campaign. Winter played collegiately at Wittenberg and has completed coaching stints at Muskingum University and Shippensburg University. He is also Valpo’s outfield instructor.
- Casey Fletcher has joined the staff as an assistant coach. He spent the last two seasons at Illinois, where he was a volunteer assistant. Prior to joining the Fighting Illini staff, Fletcher played professionally for two seasons with the Joliet Slammers of the Frontier League. He enjoyed a prosperous collegiate playing career that featured two seasons as an All-Big Ten honoree at Illinois (2014-2015) and helped Illinois to the NCAA Super Regional for the first time in program history by hitting .326 with 48 runs, three homers and 33 RBIs as a senior. Fletcher was an outfielder in college before moving to catcher in the professional ranks. His father Darrin played in the big leagues from 1989-2002 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. His grandfather Tom also reached the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers in 1962 and his great grandfather Glenn spent 10 seasons in the minor leagues.
- Valpo has also welcomed first-year volunteer assistant Dylan DeBrouwer to the coaching staff. DeBrouwer serves as the team’s infield instructor and oversees strength and conditioning. He spent the last two seasons as a graduate assistant at Greenville University, where he served as the recruiting coordinator, hitting coach, infield coach and strength and conditioning coach. He also served as the head coach of the Chesterfield Vipers in the Mid Atlantic Collegiate League, recruiting and building a summer league team that won a championship in 2018. He received his undergraduate degree from Whittier College, where he was a captain on the baseball team.
Preseason Poll: Valpo was picked to finish seventh of eight in the MVC Preseason Poll. Blake Billinger represented Valpo on the Preseason All-MVC squad.
Who’s Next: The Valpo baseball program announced seven newcomers for the 2020 season in November.
- DJ Calvert – an infielder who is transferring from Northern Oklahoma College (JUCO). Was an all-conference shortstop at the junior college level in 2018. During his prep tenure at Edmond Memorial in Oklahoma, Calvert was a 2016 6A state champion and a second-team all-conference performer.
- Ryan Klainos – A senior pitcher at Libertyville High School in Illinois. Is part of a prep team that has won conference and regional championships during his time with the program. Joined forces with two other Division I commits to form the conference pitching rotation during his junior season.
- Jake Miller – A left-handed pitcher from Don Bosco Prep. The Monroe, N.Y. native was a 2018 Rawlings-Perfect Game Preseason All-American. He will become just the second Valpo player to hail from New York since 2005, joining Zack Leone.
- Jacob Rosenkranz – A senior right-handed pitcher from Stevenson High School in Illinois who boasts a no-hitter among his prep accomplishments.
- Kyle Schmack – A local infielder who is currently a senior at South Central High School, where he was an all-area performer last season and was named the area’s hitter of the year. He is the son of Valpo head coach Brian Schmack.
- Nolan Tucker – A local signee who is an infielder at Hanover Central. Batted .517 as a sophomore, is a two-time all-conference performer and gained 30 pounds in the offseason between his sophomore and junior year.
- Trent Turzenski – A RHP from Burlington, Wis. who has twice earned Perfect Game All-American Honorable Mention (2016, 2018) in addition to being named Southern Lakes All-Conference honorable mention (2018), Racine All-County Second Team (2018) and to the Perfect Game Kernels Foundation All-Tournament Team (2018). He was ranked No. 14 in the state of Wisconsin for the 2019 recruiting class.