Valparaiso (1-2, 0-0 MVC)
at #3 Louisville (1-2*, 0-0 ACC)
Jim Patterson Stadium (4,000) | Louisville, Ky.
*Entering Wednesday vs. Wright State
Friday, Feb. 21, 2 p.m. CT – RHP Easton Rhodehouse
Saturday, Feb. 22, Noon CT – RHP Colin Fields
Sunday, Feb. 23, Noon CT – RHP Zach Fricke
Next Up in Valpo Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team will continue its challenging nonconference schedule with perhaps its biggest test of the season this weekend at Louisville. The Brown & Gold will take on a Cardinals team that is ranked as high as third nationally in various polls and entered the season as the nation’s No. 1 team. Valpo will head to the state of Kentucky for the second straight weekend.
Last Time Out: Valpo is coming off an extra-inning victory over Western Kentucky in Monday’s series finale, winning 5-3 in 10. Riley Dent cracked a two-run homer for his first career long-ball, Damon Jorgensen achieved his first three-hit game in a Valpo uniform and Easton Rhodehouse was the bullpen hero with three perfect frames to earn the win. Jorgensen bunted home the go-ahead run on a squeeze play in the top of the 10th. Valpo had dropped the season opener 9-3 on Saturday and the middle game 6-2 on Sunday.
On the Air: All three games this weekend will be streamed on ACC Network Extra. Links to live video, audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes: This will mark the first meeting between Valpo and Louisville since 1996. Valpo grabbed a 12-3 victory in the most recent meeting on March 10, 1996. The Brown & Gold have won two of the three all-time meetings, also winning 6-2 on March 12, 1994 after a 12-7 setback in the first meeting on March 6, 1983.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his seventh season in charge of the program. Entering the 2020 season, he has served as the head coach for 320 games at Valpo, the fourth-most in program history with Tracy Woodson third at 397. His win total of 134 ranks fifth in program history, with Rick Ferchen fourth at 147. 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. During the 2019 season, Schmack’s squad equaled its win total from the year prior despite playing in a conference that was ranked sixth nationally in RPI and sent three teams to NCAA Regionals. Schmack, a member of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, served as pitching coach/associate head coach at Valpo for seven seasons prior to his promotion.
Battling the Best: Valpo is getting set for a three-game weekend series at No. 3 Louisville that starts on Friday. The Cardinals entered the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and are currently ranked as high as third nationally. Valpo does have a victory over the No. 1 team in the nation in its history, as the program topped No. 1 Notre Dame 7-3 on April 25, 2001 to snap a 16-game winning streak for the Fighting Irish. In recent years, the program has Top 25 wins over No. 25 Illinois (April 17, 2018), No. 25 DBU (March 11, 2016), No. 9 Arizona State (April 21, 2013) and No. 4 Arkansas (Feb. 26, 2012).
Going Extras: It didn’t take long for Valpo to play its first extra-inning game of the season, as Valpo topped Western Kentucky 5-3 in 10 innings on Feb. 17. This was Valpo’s first extra-inning game since winning a 14-inning marathon on May 10 of last season 5-4 vs. Southern Illinois. Each of the last two Valpo extra-inning games have seen Easton Rhodehouse earn the victory with bullpen heroics. It was the second straight season that Valpo’s third game of the year went to extra innings, as Valpo fell 7-6 in 11 at Arkansas State on Feb. 24, 2019.
For Openers: Valpo pitcher Easton Rhodehouse had an unusual weekend during the season-opening series from Feb. 15-17 at Western Kentucky. He started the first game of the season and took the defeat after allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. He rebounded to pick up the victory in the series finale, working three perfect innings over the eighth, ninth and 10th frames to help Vaalpo to the 5-3, 10-inning win over the Hilltoppers. Rhodehouse is scheduled to take the ball to start the Feb. 21 game at Louisville. The senior right hander became Valpo’s fifth opening day starter in as many years, joining Mike Kornacker, Tieman, Mario Losi and Dalton Lundeen.
In the Other Dugout: Louisville
- Ranked No. 3 by D1Baseball.com, No. 6 by Baseball America and No. 4 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
- Enjoyed their first 50-win season since 2010 a year ago, finishing as one of the final four teams remaining in the College World Series. They went 51-18 including a 21-9 mark in ACC play.
- Dropped two of three at No. 18 Ole Miss on the first weekend of the season.
- Under the direction of head coach Dan McDonnell, who is in his 14th season and closed 2019 ranked third nationally among active coaches in winning percentage (minimum five years). He is a two-time national coach of the year.
- LHP Reid Detmers won the ACC pitching triple crown in 2019, leading the league in wins, ERA, strikeouts and opponents’ batting average. He was the 2019 ACC Pitcher of the Year and was named a 2020 preseason All-American.
- Alex Binelas led the team in home runs and slugging percentage as a freshman last season, earning freshmen All-America honors. He was also named a preseason All-American, as was left-handed reliever Michael Kirian.
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 in recent years. Here are a few notes on the quality of Valpo’s schedule this year:
- After opening the season with three at Western Kentucky, Valpo begins a stretch of seven straight games against teams that played in NCAA Regionals last season.
- That stretch starts at Louisville (Feb. 21-23) against a team that went 51-18 (21-9 ACC) in 2019, enjoying its first 50-win season since 2010. The Cardinals were one of the last four teams standing nationally, winning two games in the College World Series while enjoying the deepest postseason run in program history.
- Louisville was ranked No. 1 in the nation by D1Baseball.com, No. 2 by Baseball America, No. 2 by NCBWA, No. 1 by CollegiateBaseball.com and No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll prior to the start of the season.
- Defending Southland Conference champion McNeese State (35 wins) and defending Conference USA champ Southern Mississippi (40-21, 20-10 C-USA) are also on the Valpo slate after appearing in NCAA Regionals last year.
- Georgia Southern (March 6-8) won 35 games and reached the Sun Belt final last season.
- Southeastern Louisiana (March 13-15) is coming off a 33-win season and finished 19-11 in the Southland.
- Kent State (March 20-22) is also combing off a 30-win season and 17-8 MAC mark.
- Ball State (March 24) went 38-19 last season and finished 20-5 in the MAC.
- DBU (March 27-29), Illinois State (April 10-12) and Indiana State (April 17-19) will all battle Valpo after winning two games apiece in NCAA Regional play last year. The Sycamores went 43-18, Illinois State won 36 games and DBU went 43-20.
- Milwaukee (April 7) is coming off a 35-win season.
- Louisville is the preseason favorite to win the ACC, Southern Miss was picked to win Conference USA and both McNeese and Southeastern Louisiana were picked in the top four in the Southland. In addition, Alabama State was picked to repeat as SWAC East champions after going 18-5 in conference play last year.
What’s Back?: Valpo returns the bulk of its pitching staff from last season, with 388 1/3 out of 421 2/3 innings pitched back this season, 92.1 percent of the workload from 2019. The team’s top seven pitchers in terms of ERA all return for the 2020 campaign. However, four of the team’s top six batting averages are gone due to graduation.
Pitching Profiles – Projected Starters
- RHP Easton Rhodehouse – Named 2019 All-MVC Honorable Mention and 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… Finished the 2019 season with a team-best 3.82 ERA over 22 appearances out of the bullpen, grabbing two wins to go along with four saves… Secured 44 strikeouts while walking 13 in 35 1/3 innings… Enjoyed a bounce-back season after finishing the 2018 campaign with a 9.68 ERA… Entering his senior season, he is already tied for seventh in program history in career saves… Set career highs in innings pitched (six), strikeouts (eight) and pitches thrown (85) in a dominant relief outing to pick up the win in a 4-3, 14-inning victory over Southern Illinois on May 10, 2019. He did not allow a hit and walked two while pitching the ninth through 14th That effort allowed him to become the first Valpo player to earn an MVC Pitcher of the Week Award since the program joined the conference. That same day, he was also named one of six national Players of the Week by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. His outing against Southern Illinois was the seventh-best pitching performance in the nation that night according to D1Baseball.com’s “game score” as he had a 78, a particularly impressive feat for a reliever… Took the loss as the starting pitcher in the 2020 season opener on Feb. 15 at Western Kentucky before rebounding to earn the win in the series finale on Feb. 17 out of the bullpen. He worked the eighth, ninth and 10th in the final game against the Hilltoppers, sending down all nine men he faced in his team’s 5-3, extra-inning victory.
- RHP Colin Fields – Father Timm is a 1990 Valpo graduate and played baseball for the Brown & Gold… Favorite MLB team is the Cubs and favorite current player is Kyle Hendricks… Had a strong start on March 17, 2019 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, 2019, racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts in a 5-2 win over Butler… Left his start with an injury after two innings on April 20, 2019 at SIU Edwardsville and did not return to the mound until May 12 vs. Southern Illinois. In his return to the diamond, he earned his first career save with two scoreless innings in a 4-1 win over Southern Illinois… Finished 2019 second on the team in strikeouts with 52… Took the loss despite allowing just two runs on four hits in five innings in his first start of the season on Feb. 16 at Western Kentucky.
- RHP Zach Fricke – Owned the team lead in victories as only a freshman in 2020… Recorded his first career win on April 28, 2020 vs. Evansville, pitching Valpo to a 6-2 victory thanks to 6 2/3 innings of four-hit, two-run ball in which he walked five and struck out three… Made it back-to-back victories by earning the win on May 4 at Bradley, allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings… Earned his third straight win on May 11, 2019 in a 7-1 rout of Southern Illinois, becoming the only Valpo pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game in 2019… During his starts against Evansville, Bradley and Southern Illinois, he went 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA and opponents hitting .214 against him… Did not allow a hit over the first three innings of his season debut on Feb. 17 at Western Kentucky before allowing two runs in his fourth and final inning. He received no decision in an eventual Valpo victory.
Position Player Profiles – Projected Lineup
- Riley Dent, RF – Was a 2019 All-MVC Honorable Mention recipient… Entered the 2019 season with a .207 career batting average, but had a breakout year that saw him hit .290 as a junior. Moved to the leadoff spot and transitioned to center field for his junior campaign… Tied for the 2019 team lead with 15 multi-hit outputs… Belted his first career home run on Feb. 17, 2020 at Western Kentucky, a two-run blast in the team’s eventual 5-3 victory. He entered the season with 365 career at-bats without a home run.
- Damon Jorgensen, SS – Native of Nebraska… Junior college transfer who started his career at Coffeyville before coming to Valpo for the 2019 season… Described as an athletic player who moves well… Hobbies include hunting, snowboarding and wakeboarding… Hit his first home run (and extra-base knock) in a Valpo uniform on March 12, 2019 at Tennessee Tech… Drove in the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded squeeze bunt in the top of the 10th of Valpo’s 5-3 victory at Western Kentucky on Feb. 17. That completed his first three-hit day in a Valpo uniform.
- Steven Fitzsimmons, CF – Had a breakout junior season in 2019, playing in 49 of the team’s 50 games and making 45 starts after playing in 16 games and making three starts as a sophomore… Went from a career .195 hitter with one double over his first two seasons to batting .268 with nine doubles as a junior… Went 4-for-4 in Game 2 of a doubleheader on March 23, 2019 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… Belted his first career home run in an 8-0 win over SIUE on April 19, 2019 in Edwardsville… Majoring in political science and holds a 3.96 cumulative grade point average.
- Jonathan Temple, LF – The junior college transfer from Modesto JC is a native of Turlock, Calif… Was named the MVP of the Central California Conference in 2016 after earning first-team all-conference honors in 2015 and second-team all-conference as a sophomore on varsity in 2014… Is from the most agriculturally diverse area in the nation with over 400 commodities grown in the region… Enjoys golfing and snowboarding.
- Troy Jones, 3B – Was the Region IV Player of the Year at Triton… Went to Carl Sandburg High School in Illinois before two junior college seasons… Is in his first year at Valpo… Favorite MLB Player is Alex Bregman.
- Christian Barczi, DH –The now-senior was a member of the 2017 Horizon League All-Freshman Team… Was limited to pinch-hitting duties for much of the 2019 season due to an injury that prevented him from playing the field.
- Jake Kapers, C – One of three different catchers who saw time behind the dish in 2019 in an effort to replace his older brother Scott, who started each of the previous 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… Hit .357 over the final four games of the 2019 regular season to lead the team during that stretch.
- Kyle Schmack, 1B – After graduating from South Central High School in 2019, the freshman has joined his father Brian’s program at Valpo… Is the first Valpo student-athlete to play for his or her parent as a head coach since Bryce Drew in 1998… Was the MVP of the Indiana North/South All-Star Game in June 2019 following his senior year of high school… Also played football during his prep days.
- Nolan Tucker, 2B – A local from Cedar Lake, Ind. who attended Hanover Central High School… Earned all-conference honors in three seasons in baseball and was a two-time conference champion in wrestling… Is the 2019-20 President of Brandt Hall (dorm)… Hobbies include kayaking… Can juggle and walk on his hands… Can drink a bottle of water in 1.5 seconds… Was a three-year class president in high school.
- 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 most of his sophomore and junior seasons… Led Valpo in innings pitched for a second consecutive year in 2019, logging 88 2/3 during his junior season… Racked up 78 strikeouts to lead the team in 2019, the most by a Valpo pitcher since 2015… Has led the team in strikeouts for three consecutive seasons (2017-2019), becoming the second consecutive Valpo pitcher to do so as Dalton Lundeen led the team in that area from 2014-2016. Before Lundeen, the last pitcher to lead Valpo in strikeouts in three straight years was Shawn Barker from 1988-1990… Enters his senior season with 185 career strikeouts, needing to get to 202 to crack the Top 10 in program history… Has lived in Missouri, Georgia and Illinois… Racked up a career-high 12 strikeouts on April 19, 2019, yielding just two hits in six shutout innings while picking up the win at SIU Edwardsville. Those 12 punch outs were the most by a Valpo hurler since 2011… Pitched his third career complete game and his first of the 2019 season on May 3 at Bradley, but it came in a tough-luck 2-1 defeat. He scattered six hits and struck out seven while walking two in the eight-inning CG.
- 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… After a slow start that saw him hold a 13.50 ERA over his first four appearances as a sophomore, 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, 2018 – April 17, 2018 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, 2018 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 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… Garnered the win with seven innings of one-run ball on May 12, 2019 vs. Southern Illinois, permitting five hits and three walks while striking out five in the quality start. His effort helped Valpo prevail 4-1 to secure its first-ever sweep in Missouri Valley Conference play… Finished 2019 third on the team in ERA at 5.21.
- RHP Montana Quigley – Missed the 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but returned to give the Valpo bullpen a lift in 2019… 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). That strong season came after holding a 7.24 ERA his freshman year… Saw action in 18 games out of the bullpen in 2019 while logging 26 1/3 innings… Finished second on the team in ERA while nailing down three saves… Put together a stretch of 9 2/3 scoreless innings over six straight scoreless outings in late April and early May… Had a team-best 2.31 ERA in league-only games in 2019.
- 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… Picked up the win with six innings of one-run ball in a midweek start vs. Western Michigan on April 17, 2019, his first career start. He permitted just three hits and the lone run came on a first-inning dinger… Had a no-hitter through four innings on April 23, 2019 at Notre Dame. Ended up with no decision after allowing three runs on four hits and three walks in 4 1/3 frames in a game Valpo lost 4-3.
- LHP Josh Currier – Is the team’s representative on Valpo’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee… Pitched in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League during the 2019 summer and was a second-team all-league starting pitcher… Was the only freshman who saw action for Valpo in 2018… 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.
- RHP Jim Jarecki – Spent the 2019 summer training at Driveline Baseball in Seattle for a month before playing for the Lakeshore Chinooks of the Northwoods League in Mequon, Wis… Was an NJCAA All-Academic first team honoree and a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at Heartland in 2018… 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, 2019, the first decision of his Valpo career.
- 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… Appeared in 15 games out of the Valpo bullpen in 2019.
- LHP Michael Mommersteeg –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 current Indiana State catcher Max Wright and was in the same program as former Indiana State pitcher Ty Whitbread, former Bradley outfielder JF Garon and trains in the offseason with former 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… Suffered an injury in late March 2019 and missed the remainder of the season.
- RHP Michael Hardtke – Enters this season having played in two career games, both during the 2017 campaign… His next outing will be his first since April 15, 2017 vs. Oakland… Has battled injury issues.
- RHP Jacob Rosenkranz – Freshman who earned three prep letters in baseball while also achieving two in swimming… Was a Perfect Game All-American Honorable Mention… Lived in Texas for 13 years but went to Stevenson High School and calls Lincolnshire, Ill. home… Favorite MLB team is the St. Louis Cardinals.
- RHP Ryan Klainos – High school teammates with Colin Fields at Libertyville, where he was the No. 3 starter behind Fields and a University of Illinois commit during his junior season… Also played soccer in high school, helping his team to state runner-up finishes two years in a row… Hobbies include binge-watching Netflix shows, watching YouTube and playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch… First car was a 2001 H2 Hummer.
- LHP Jake Miller – Was a 2018 Rawlings Perfect Game Preseason All-American… Is just the second Valpo player to hail from the state of New York since 2005, joining Zack Leone.
- RHP Grant Jablonski – Was a 2019 Indiana All-Star while earning second-team all-conference at Mishawaka… Set his high school’s record for wins with 20 and career stolen bases with 63… Was also an all-conference choice in basketball and football… Hobbies include golfing and dog walking.
- RHP Trent Turzenski – Was a four-time baseball state qualifier in high school… Also played prep basketball… Was the winning pitcher of the ABC Championship at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. in 2019… Played in the Little League World Series Regional Tournament on ESPN twice when he was 11 and 12… Majoring in actuarial science… Worked three innings of one-run ball on Feb. 17 at Western Kentucky in his Valpo debut, helping the team to an eventual extra-inning victory.
- RHP Ryan Mintz – Set his high school’s record for wins by a pitcher in the program’s 60-year history… Was named West Suburban Gold Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2019 for his work at Willowbrook… The Lombard, Ill. native is majoring in computer engineering… Hobbies include snowboarding and other extreme sports.
Position Player Profiles – Off the Bench
- Jeremy Drudge, OF – Spent the 2019 summer playing for the Normal CornBelters of the Prospect League… Came to Valpo as a rookie in 2019 after seeing limited action as a senior in high school due to a torn ACL… Raced go-karts during his youth…Launched the first home run of his collegiate career on April 16, 2019 vs. Western Michigan, a solo blast for one of three Valpo homers in that game… Accounted for three of the team’s four hits in the series opener vs. Evansville on April 26, 2019 and went on to bat .455 (5-for-11) during the series. He had six hits in four games that week after entering the week with six total hits in his first 20 games… Broke up Missouri State’s perfect game with a sixth-inning walk in Valpo’s MVC Tournament game on May 21, 2019 in Normal, Ill.
- Kevin Barry, 1B – Saw action in 17 games and made seven starts in 2019… Launched his first career home run in the ninth inning on March 24, 2019 vs. Butler… Was the hero of a 4-3 win over Southern Illinois on May 10, 2019, delivering a walk-off single in the bottom of the 14th after having also scored the tying run in the bottom of the ninth to help force extras… Graduated high school with a perfect GPA of 4.0.
- Tyler Struck, C – Freshman who is majoring in exercise science… Was an Illinois state scholar during his time at Providence Catholic in Illinois… Favorite MLB player is Willson Contreras.
- Angel DiFederico, C – Earned a spot in the 2019 North/South All-Star Game after his senior year at New Haven in Indiana… Freshman is majoring in history education.
- Louie Baker, C/1B – Spent the 2019 summer training at Driveline in Seattle… Was recently accepted into Clemson University’s MBA program and will be starting in the fall of 2020… Played two seasons of junior college baseball in 2017 and 2018 before joining Valpo’s program for the 2019 campaign… Suffered a season-ending injury on April 19 at SIU Edwardsville and missed the remainder of the season… Native of Gold Coast, Australia who came to America in the fall of 2016 and spent one semester at the University of Central Florida before transferring to Scottsdale Community College… Started playing baseball at age 7 when he signed up to play at a barbecue and quickly fell in love with it. Played cricket also, but his mother said cricket was too slow and encouraged him to play baseball.
Inside the Assistants: Brian Schmack’s staff will have a familiar feel in 2020 as all four coaches were a part of the program in some capacity in 2019.
- After spending three seasons as a volunteer assistant, Kory Winter was hired as Schmack’s top assistant and hitting coach beginning with 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 is in his second year as an assistant coach. He spent the previous 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.
- A familiar name to Valpo fans has taken over as the volunteer assistant coach for the 2020 season. Sam Shaikin spent the last four years on the left side of Valpo’s infield while earning a degree in business management from the University in 2019. He clubbed 21 home runs and drove in 106 over 187 career games. Shaikin finished ninth in program history in runs scored with 133, while his home run total ranks tied for ninth. He had a propensity for drawing walks during his playing days, ranking third with 104 bases on balls. Shaikin, who ranks fifth in program history with 392 assists, is the team’s infield coach.
Preseason Poll: Valpo was picked eighth of eight in the 2020 MVC Preseason Poll.