#8 Notre Dame (25-10, 22-10 ACC)
at Valparaiso (13-25, 8-12 MVC)
Emory G. Bauer Field | Valparaiso, Ind.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021, 4 p.m. CT – RHP Griffin McCluskey
Next Up in Valpo Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team will host a nationally-ranked opponent at Emory G. Bauer Field on Tuesday as Notre Dame comes to town for Valpo’s lone home nonconference contest of the 2021 campaign. Valpo will look to continue its home success and build upon its 6-2 mark over its first eight outings on the new turf.
Last Time Out: Valpo garnered a road split at Missouri Valley Conference foe Bradley over Mother’s Day weekend as the two teams split doubleheaders on both Friday and Saturday, cramming the entire four-game series into 26 hours as Mother Nature wreaked havoc on the initial schedule. Valpo pitched its way to a 2-1 win in the nightcap of Friday’s twinbill before bouncing back from a narrow 3-2 defeat in Game 3 of the series by blitzing the Braves 10-3 in Saturday’s series finale. Steven Fitzsimmons hit a team-high .438 during the four-game set.
On the Air: The game will be broadcast on the Valpo Sports Network, 95.1 FM Valparaiso. Garrett Willis will have the call. Links to live audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes: Notre Dame leads 78-21 in the all-time series, which dates all the way back to 1958. Each of the last four matchups have been tight with Notre Dame winning 8-7 on April 27 of this season, 6-3 on March 23 of this season, 4-3 on April 23, 2019 and 6-5 on April 25, 2018. Valpo has lost 10 straight head-to-head meetings since a 7-4 triumph on May 2, 2012. Valpo will host Notre Dame for the first time since May 7, 1988. The last 35 matchups between the two teams have all taken place at Notre Dame.
Schmack in the Record Book: Valpo head coach Brian Schmack moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Valpo record book for career wins by a skipper with the May 7 victory at Bradley. He surpassed Rick Ferchen (1982-1987), who is now fifth with 147 career wins. Entering Tuesday’s game vs. Notre Dame, Schmack needs one more win to join Paul Twenge (1988-2006), Emory G. Bauer (1954-1981) and Tracy Woodson (2007-2013) as the only head coaches in Valpo history to reach the 150-win milestone.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head baseball coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his eighth season in charge of the program. Entering the 2021 season, he has served as the head coach for 336 games at Valpo, the fourth-most in program history with Tracy Woodson third at 397. This year, he moves into a tie for third in program history for number of seasons coached with eight, matching Donald Warnke (1946-1953). Schmack has now been at Valpo longer than his predecessor Woodson, whose seven-year run lasted from 2007-2013. Entering the season, Schmack’s win total of 136 ranks fifth in program history, with Rick Ferchen fourth at 147. The former big-league pitcher led Valparaiso to 25 wins in his inaugural campaign in 2014, a school record for victories by a first-year skipper. He 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 2018 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.
- Valpo has played its fair share of close games in Missouri Valley Conference play, as the team has competed in seven one-run affairs in MVC action this season and holds a 5-2 mark in those contests.
- Valpo has played as many one-run games in conference play this season as it did over its first two MVC seasons (2018 and 2019) combined. Valpo had two one-run wins in its MVC tenure entering this season and owns five such victories in conference play this year.
- Overall, eight of the team’s last 13 games have been decided by two runs or fewer.
- The series finale on May 8 at Bradley was an exception to that rule, as Valpo’s 10-3 triumph matched its largest margin of victory in league play since joining The Valley. The squad’s previous seven-run triumph in MVC action came on April 29, 2018 vs. Dallas Baptist. The one-sided win at Bradley was Valpo’s most lopsided victory in any game since beating SIUE 8-0 on April 19, 2019.
On The Rise
- Valpo has secured its highest Missouri Valley Conference win total since joining the league. The team has played 20 MVC contests so far this season – one game fewer than the 21 that it played in each of its first two Valley voyages in 2018 and 2019. The squad won six league games apiece in 2018 and 2019 and already owns eight conference victories this year.
- After starting MVC play 0-8 while facing the top two teams in the league, Valpo has posted an 8-4 mark over its last 12 contests.
- After being picked eighth in the MVC Preseason Poll, Valpo is in position to exceed those expectations. With eight Valley contests remaining, Valpo is tied for fifth in the standings and plays the seventh- and eighth-place teams over the final two weekends.
Home Sweet Home
- When Valpo lifted the lid on its home slate on April 23, it became the final team in the nation to open the home portion of its schedule.
- The team snapped a stretch of 45 consecutive games away from home dating back to May 14, 2019, a 4-3 victory over Chicago State.
- Playing home games is always important in terms of results as Valpo has finished with a winning record at home in four of the last five seasons and 11 of the last 13 campaigns.
- With a 6-2 home record and five home dates remaining, the team is one win away from extending that stretch of home success.
Slamming the Door
- Senior Easton Rhodehouse picked up a pair of saves in the weekend series vs. Illinois State, nailing down Valpo victories on April 30 and May 2.
- The May 2 save was the 11th of Rhodehouse’s career, moving him into sole possession of fifth place in program history.
- Rhodehouse needs two more saves to advance another spot and move into a tie for fourth all-time with Justin Cracker (1998-2001).
- Jon Tieman worked the final three innings of a 2-1 victory at Bradley on May 7, registering his second save of the season and the ninth of his collegiate career. The save allowed him to move into a tie for seventh on Valpo’s career list, drawing even with Adam Paetznick.
- After starting the season with a .200 average through his first 11 games, Hannahs is hitting .365 over his last 27 contests, posting a .460 on-base percentage in that time.
- Over the last 10 games, Hannahs is slashing .459/.556/.541 to lead the team in all three areas.
- Angel DiFederico has also been hot at the plate, posting a .360 average over his last seven appearances.
- Steven Fitzimmons had a big weekend at Bradley on May 7-8, posting a team-high batting average of .438 during the four-game set. He drove in five, scored six times and compiled a .500 on-base percentage while slugging .625 in the series.
- After starting the season with a .155 batting average through 15 games, Riley Dent is hitting .326 over his last 23 outings.
Probable Pitcher: Griffin McCluskey, Fr., RHP
- Has made six appearances spanning 11 2/3 innings this season.
- Will make his second start of the year on Tuesday. The first also came against Notre Dame, when he allowed five earned runs on six hits and two walks in four innings on April 27, his most recent outing.
- Enjoys playing the guitar.
- Qualified for state in golf in high school and finished in the top 10 in school history for 3-point field goals in basketball.
A Look Back at the First Matchup: Notre Dame 6, Valpo 3 (March 23)
- Valpo showed well against the Fighting Irish, who were ranked No. 14 nationally at that time. The Brown & Gold held a 3-2 lead through five, but the hosts scored two in the sixth and two in the seventh in a game where each team had seven hits.
- Jeremy Drudge had his first triple of the season.
- Zach Fricke made his first start of the season, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk in four innings. He received no decision.
A Look Back at the Second Matchup: Notre Dame 8, Valpo 7 (April 27)
- Three of the last four matchups between these two teams have been one-run games, including Valpo’s 8-7 setback to a team that was ranked eighth nationally at the time on April 27.
- Valpo outhit Notre Dame 9-7, led by a three-hit output by Kaleb Hannahs and a two-hit day for Alex Thurston.
- Valpo had the nationally-ranked Fighting Irish on the ropes for the second time this season, leading as late as the sixth inning.
Valpo vs. Ranked Foes: Valpo will take on a nationally-ranked opponent for the seventh time this season on Tuesday. The Brown & Gold previously matched up with the Fighting Irish on March 23 and April 27 at Frank Eck Stadium on Notre Dame’s campus. In addition, Valpo visited No. 23 Indiana State for a four-game conference series April 16-18, dropping all four. Prior to this year, Valpo last faced nationally-ranked competition on Feb. 21-23, 2020 at No. 3 Louisville. 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).
In The Other Dugout: Notre Dame
- The Fighting Irish incurred their first series loss of the season this past weekend, dropping two of three vs. No. 13 Florida State including a 7-1 defeat in the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader.
- Prior to the series-opening loss to No. 13 Florida State, Notre Dame owned a six-game winning streak.
- Carter Putz owns a .333 batting average to lead the team, while Niko Kavadas owns team highs in home runs (15) and RBIs (45).
Hannahs Honored as MVC Player of the Week
- Freshman infielder Kaleb Hannahs was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week on Monday, May 3 after helping Valpo to its best offensive weekend of the season and a series victory over Illinois State.
- Hannahs posted a slash line of .556/.636/.667 over five games during the week, leading the team in both batting average and on-base percentage in that stretch. He upped his season average to a team-best .306 and also leads the squad in OBP at .396.
- Hannahs started his week with a 3-for-4 performance in a near upset of a top-10 foe as Valpo fell 8-7 at No. 8 Notre Dame. He became the second Valpo player with a four-hit game this season by putting together a 4-for-4 effort in Game 1 of the May 1 doubleheader vs. Illinois State. He added two more hits and three runs scored in the second game of the twin bill. Hannahs helped Valpo finish out the series victory with a go-ahead single in the third inning of the May 2 series finale, then walked and scored in the seventh to help the Brown & Gold prevail 7-6.
- The rookie also played flawless defense at the hot corner during the week, recording 13 assists and four putouts without committing an error. He made several dandy plays at key moments in the set against the Redbirds.
- Hannahs garnered Valpo’s third MVC weekly award this season, joining two-time MVC Pitcher of the Week Colin Fields. The third baseman became the first Valpo position player to win MVC Player of the Week honors since Sam Shaikin on Feb. 26, 2018.
- For the third time this season, a pair of Valpo players launched consecutive home runs in the 17-13 win over Illinois State on May 1. After Riley Dent led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run, Jonathan Temple followed suit.
- The relatively rare occurrence of back-to-back jacks has become somewhat commonplace for the Brown & Gold this season. Brady Renfro and Parker Johnson went back-to-back on April 3 at DBU, and prior to that Damon Jorgensen and Jeremy Drudge turned the trick on March 19 at Western Kentucky.
- The most recent set of consecutive long balls was even more unique as both Dent and Temple launched their second home run of the game. Valpo hadn’t had a multi-homer game in three years, then had players achieve that feat in consecutive plate appearances.
A Hitters’ Day
- Valpo batters took full advantage of the wind that was blowing out at up to 25 miles per hour on Saturday, May 1 at Emory G. Bauer Field, pounding out 17 runs on 18 hits to beat Illinois State 17-13 in Game 2 of a doubleheader.
- Those marked Valpo’s highest single-game run and hit totals since the 2018 campaign. Valpo hadn’t scored 17 runs in a game since posting 18 on May 8, 2018 at Western Michigan and hadn’t accrued 18 hits in a game since pounding out that same number on May 23, 2018 at DBU.
- Valpo had 42 total bases, the team’s highest total-base output since April 4, 2006. In addition, Valpo drilled five home runs in a game for the first time since 2006 and racked up seven doubles, the most by a Missouri Valley Conference team in a game this season.
- Brady Renfro, Jonathan Temple and Riley Dent had three hits apiece as the heart of the lineup (3-5) combined to go 9-for-12 with five home runs, three doubles and 11 RBIs.
- Between the two games in the May 1 doubleheader, there were a total of 45 runs and 59 hits in one day at Emory G. Bauer Field. Game 2 featured the most runs (30), hits (25), doubles (9), total bases (73) and strikeouts (25) of any MVC game this season.
We Are Young
- Based on the 2020 season not counting as a year of eligibility due to COVID-19, Valpo has a young roster of six seniors, one junior, seven sophomores and 20 freshmen.
- 1 percent of the team’s hits this season have come from freshmen, while 66.5 percent have come from freshmen or sophomores. Four of the team’s top six players in terms of total hits are freshmen.
- On the mound, Valpo has received 112 1/3 innings pitched from freshmen, 106 1/3 from sophomores, no innings from juniors and 58 1/3 innings from seniors. In total, 40.5 percent of the team’s innings are coming from freshmen and 78.9 percent are coming from freshmen or sophomores. Only three out of 15 pitchers who have seen action are juniors or seniors.
- A commendable on-base streak by freshman Brady Renfro came to an end on Sunday, May 2. Renfro had reached base in 21 consecutive games.
- His streak marked the longest by a Valpo player this season, surpassing senior Steven Fitzsimmons’ 18-game on-base streak.
- Renfro assembled Valpo’s longest on-base streak since current volunteer assistant coach Sam Shaikin reached safely in 23 straight in 2017.
A Grand Opening
- Valpo debuted its new infield turf at Emory G. Bauer Field in style by sweeping a doubleheader from Southern Illinois on Friday, April 23. Valpo won both games in walk-off fashion, winning 7-6 behind a ninth-inning homer by Jonathan Temple in Game 1 before enjoying a 4-3 triumph on a Riley Dent walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh of Game 2.
- The Temple walk-off home run was Valpo’s first since Zack Leone drilled one on March 30, 2018 vs. Bradley. Both came on special occasions as Leone’s provided Valpo’s first-ever Missouri Valley Conference win, while Temple’s came in the first game on the new turf.
- Valpo swept a doubleheader for the second time this season after previously taking both from Middle Tennessee State on March 13.
- The field renovation project was made possible by lead gifts from Valpo alumni Lynn Scheutzow ’74 Young and Carl Young ’73 and the Deetjen family. The Young and Deetjen families both had sons who played baseball at Valpo.
- Thoughts from Head Coach Brian Schmack on the New Turf: “In the time that we’ve been able to use the turf, it has given our players an opportunity to take ground balls and work to hone their skills whenever they choose. We’ve had fewer disruptions to our game and practice schedules due to rain and field conditions. As soon as the rain stops, we’re out there playing or practicing. Another tremendous benefit is freeing up our players to not have to stay after to do field work or arrive early in the morning to pull the tarp. Instead, they are able to focus on the game. The turf creates a cleaner game with fewer bad hops, and that’s been awesome to see. Our players can’t get enough of it.”
Tieman Strikeout Tracker
- Senior Jon Tieman became just the 11th pitcher in program history to reach 200 career strikeouts earlier this year.
- The right-handed hurler became the second Valpo player to reach that milestone in the last decade, joining Dalton Lundeen (2013-2016).
- Tieman ranks 23rd nationally among active players with 233 career strikeouts. He has climbed to seventh in program history, most recently surpassing Tom Starck (2001-2004, 222).
- Tieman led the team in strikeouts three straight years from 2017-2019.
Valpo’s All-Time Strikeout Leaders
Name Years Strikeouts
Tim Juran 1969-1972 371
Jon Robisch 1961-1964 294
Dalton Lundeen 2013-2016 275
Jon Gulbransen 2008-2011 264
Shawn Barker 1987-1990 253
Bryce Shafer 2008-2010 250
Jon Tieman 2017-pres. 233
Tom Starck 2001-2004 222
Richard Beumer 1959-1962 217
Chuck Donley 1991-1995 212
Jim Pomeroy 1996-1999 202
Valpo accomplished the rare feat of achieving two walk-off wins in the same day during the April 23 doubleheader sweep of Southern Illinois. Here is the full list of walk-off wins during the Brian Schmack Era at Valpo. The Dent walk-off single in Game 2 on April 23 was Valpo’s 10th walk-off victory under Schmack.
Date Opponent Score Walk-Off
4-23-21 SIU W 4-3 Riley Dent single
4-23-21 SIU W 7-6 Jonathan Temple homer
5-10-19 SIU W 5-4 (14) Kevin Barry single
5-15-18 Chicago St W 3-2 Blake Billinger two-run single
5-30-18 Bradley W 5-2 (10) Zack Leone three-run homer
5-18-17 Milwaukee W 5-4 Christian Barczi walk
4-29-16 UIC W 2-1 James Stea scores on wild pitch
3-26-16 Wright St W 3-2 Josh Clark two-run single
5-5-15 Western Mich W 8-7 (13) Jeff Edwards single
4-28-15 Chicago St W 2-1 (11) Spencer Mahoney single
Twice is Nice
- Valpo pitcher Colin Fields was named the Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week for the second time in a three-week span on March 29.
- Fields became the first Valpo player to win two MVC weekly honors in the same season since the program joined The Valley. In addition, he became the first MVC player to win two weekly honors this season.
- The most recent accolade came after the sophomore yielded just two hits over seven shutout innings to propel Valpo to a 7-1 victory over Butler in Game 1 of a doubleheader on March 27. Fields scattered three walks and racked up 11 strikeouts, a total that set a season high and tied a career high. Coincidentally, his previous career high of 11 also came in a game against Butler during the 2019 season.
- Fields struck out the side in both the first and fifth innings and retired the first 10 men he faced.
- The righty is up to 36 strikeouts this season, fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference. He crossed the 100-career strikeout mark in the win at Butler as he has fanned 105 in 92 1/3 career innings. Opponents are hitting just .141 this season against Fields, who has reached double figures in strikeouts in two of his last three starts.
- Fields has allowed two hits or fewer in three of his five starts this season. He leads the MVC and ranks 25th in the nation in hits allowed per nine innings at 4.50.
- His previous MVC Pitcher of the Week nod came on March 15 following his March 13 no-hitter at Middle Tennessee. Fields also earned Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Pitcher of the Week following the no-no.
- Colin Fields threw the eighth no-hitter in Valpo baseball history and first since 1992 in a 5-0, seven-inning victory at Middle Tennessee State in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Saturday, March 13. The previous Valpo no-no came courtesy of Eric Spillers in a 7-0 victory at Eastern Illinois on March 28, 1992. While it was the eighth no-hitter in program history, it was just the sixth no-no as two of the previous no-hitters were not shutouts.
- The right-hander became just the second pitcher in the nation to throw a no-hitter this season, joining Ohio’s Joe Rock, who tossed seven no-hit frames as part of a doubleheader vs. Morehead State on Feb. 26. Fields’ no-hitter is the third overall in the nation this season as Mississippi State had a combined effort in a nine-inning no-no vs. Kent State on March 7.
- Fields notched the first complete game of his collegiate career and the first by a Valpo pitcher since Zach Fricke on May 11, 2019 vs. Southern Illinois. It was the first shutout by a Valpo pitcher since Ellis Foreman on April 23, 2017 vs. Wright State, and the team’s first shutout since an 8-0 win at SIUE on April 19, 2019.
- Fields racked up 10 strikeouts on his way to Valpo history, his highest single-game strikeout total since his career high of 11 on March 23, 2019 vs. Butler.
- After walking the leadoff batter in the bottom of the first, Fields sent down 19 straight Blue Raiders until the bottom of the seventh. He walked three in the final frame but worked out of the bases-loaded jam to cement the slice of Valpo history.
- Fields accomplished two rare baseball feats in the same game as the third inning of the no-hitter was an “immaculate inning” with all three batters going down on three straight strikes.
- Fields is a Valpo baseball legacy student-athlete as his father Timm played for Valpo in the late 1980s.
All-Time Valpo Baseball No-Hitters
Player Date Opponent Score
Colin Fields March 13, 2013 at Middle Tennessee W 5-0
Eric Spillers March 28, 1992 at Eastern Illinois W 7-0
Eric Spillers March 6, 1992 vs. Bluffton (perfect game) W 11-0
John Grippi March 24, 1986 at IPFW W 4-0
Jamie Macahon April 25, 1981 Illinois Chicago Circle W 6-1
Matt Rhode March 30, 1976 at Illinois State W 1-0
Tim Juran April 18, 1970 Indiana W 5-0
Tom Winebrenner May 16, 1931 Concordia (Fort Wayne) W 13-1
Pitching Profiles – Projected Starters
- RHP Ryan Mintz (Fr., Lombard, Ill. / Willowbrook) – 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… Made five appearances and two starts during the COVID-19 shortened season… Notched a season-high five strikeouts in just three innings on March 10 at Alabama State, his final outing of the year… Equaled a career high with five strikeouts over six innings of relief in Valpo’s season-opening win at UAB on Feb. 19… Logged 4 1/3 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on two hits in 4 1/3 innings on Feb. 26 at Jacksonville State… Took the defeat on March 12 at Middle Tennessee but issued just one walk against five strikeouts… Took the defeat after striking out five in 4 2/3 innings on March 19 at Western Kentucky… Allowed just one run on five hits over 3 2/3 innings of relief on April 1 at DBU… Is projected to make his first start of the season and the third of his career on Friday, April 23 against Southern Illinois… He pitched 3 2/3 innings or more in all seven long relief appearances including a pair of six-inning outings, usually following opener Easton Rhodehouse in the first game of each weekend series… Worked five innings and allowed three earned runs while scattering seven hits and issuing no walks in Valpo’s eventual series-opening victory vs. Southern Illinois on April 23… Earned his first victory of the season with seven innings of two-run, six-hit ball, a quality start to pitch Valpo past Illinois State 3-2 on April 30.
- RHP Colin Fields (So. / Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) – 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… Finished 2019 second on the team in strikeouts with 52… Made four starts during the 2020 season and ranked second on the team with 17 strikeouts, including a season-high six on Feb. 29 vs. Southern Miss… Carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before taking a tough-luck loss in his first outing of the year on Feb. 21 at UAB. He permitted one hit and was charged with one unearned run that crossed the dish following his departure over his 4 1/3 inning start that featured eight strikeouts. That marked the third game in his career with eight strikeouts or more… Took the defeat in Game 2 of a doubleheader on Feb. 27 at Jacksonville State… Threw the eighth no-hitter in Valpo history and first since 1992 on March 13 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Middle Tennessee, a seven-inning contest. His no-hit bid featured an immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three outs) in the third. He struck out 10 in his no-no, an effort that earned him Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Week recognition. He earned the victory as Valpo topped Middle Tennessee 5-0… Allowed just two runs on six hits and one walk while striking out five in his five-inning start on March 20 at Western Kentucky… Named MVC Pitcher of the Week for the second time in three weeks after tying a career high with 11 strikeouts while yielding just two hits in seven shutout innings of a victory at Butler on March 27… Reached double figures in strikeouts with 10 while yielding four runs on six hits in five innings in his first home start of the year on April 24 vs. Southern Illinois… Struck out nine in 4 2/3 innings in Game 2 of a doubleheader on May 1 vs. Illinois State.
- RHP Zach Fricke (Jr., Arlington Heights, Ill.) – The right hander made his way into the weekend rotation as a freshman in 2019. He put together a string of three straight wins late in the season in starts against Evansville, Bradley and Southern Illinois, going 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA and opponents hitting .214 against him… That stretch late in the 2019 campaign was highlighted by a complete game victory on May 11 vs. Southern Illinois… Fricke played four years of baseball at Buffalo Grove High School while also playing basketball (three letters) and golf (two letters)… His younger brother Tyler is a freshman walk-on for the Valpo men’s basketball program… Limited the Fighting Irish to two runs on four hits in four innings in his first start of the season on March 23 at No. 12 Notre Dame… Made his first weekend start of the season on April 3 at DBU… Racked up a career-high nine strikeouts while permitting no earned runs (just one unearned tally), four hits and only one walk on April 25 vs. Southern Illinois, earning his first win of the season… Started and allowed three runs on five hits in four frames in an eventual Valpo victory on May 2 vs. Illinois State.
Position Player Profiles – Projected Lineup Based on Recent Games
- Steven Fitzsimmons, OF, Sr. (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) – Was a member of the 2019 and 2020 MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team… 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… … Graduated in May 2020 with a 3.96 GPA in political science… Pursuing a master’s in sports administration… Played in 13 games and made 12 starts during the 2020 season… Batted a team-best .308 over the opening series at UAB including a three-hit performance in the Feb. 19 victory. He posted his first game with three or more hits since mid-May 2019 while also scoring a career-high three runs and accounting for half of the team’s hits in the season-opening triumph… Hit a team-best .444 in a three-game series at Alabama State on Feb. 26-27, going 4-for-9 with a .583 on-base percentage… Reached safely in all four games at DBU (April 1-3) to extend his on-base streak to 18, becoming the first Valpo player with such a streak since 2018. The on-base streak ended at 18… Hit the second home run of his career during the four-game series at Bradley May 7-8 while posting a .438 average and .500 OBP during the four-game series. He scored six runs and drove in five against the Braves.
- Kaleb Hannahs, 3B, Fr. (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) – In a very unusual and possibly even unprecedented occurrence, both of Valpo’s starting corner infielders are the sons of Missouri Valley Conference head baseball coaches… Hannahs’ father Mitch is the head coach at Indiana State… Civil engineering major… Fan of Luke Combs, the St. Louis Cardinals and Fernando Tatis Jr… Three-sport athlete in high school, where he earned four letters apiece in football, basketball and baseball… Had a two-hit day in the Saturday game at UAB on Feb. 20, his first two collegiate knocks on a day where freshmen accounted for four of the team’s eight hits… Ripped his first collegiate home run in the second game of a doubleheader at Middle Tennessee on March 13… Led the team with two hits on March 23 at No. 14 Notre Dame… Had a career-high five RBIs in the first game of a doubleheader at Butler on March 27 and finished the day with five hits, three runs scored, three RBIs and three walks over the two games… Had his ninth multi-hit game of the season and third three-hit performance of the year on April 27 at No. 8 Notre Dame… Earned MVC Player of the Week on May 3 after posting a slash line .556/.636/.667 over five games during the week.
- Riley Dent, OF, Sr. (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) – 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… Led the team in batting average at .311 while starting all 16 games in 2020 in addition to ranking second on the team with 11 bases on balls and leading the team in both slugging percentage (.410) and on-base percentage (.417)… Graduated in May 2020 with a degree in marketing and is now enrolled in Valpo’s graduate school… Launched his first home run of the season in a March 20, 2021 victory at Western Kentucky, the second dinger of his career. Ironically, both of his career long balls have come at WKU in separate seasons as he launched the first of his career in a 2020 game in Bowling Green, Ky… Had two hits in each game of the March 27 doubleheader at Butler… Had the first four-hit game by a Valpo player this season, establishing a new career high in that area on April 2 at DBU in Game 2 of a doubleheader. Three of the four hits went for extra bases as he doubled twice and launched a home run… Posted a .308 batting average during Valpo’s four-game series at No. 23 Indiana State (April 16-18)…. Had a walk-off single to help Valpo beat SIU 4-3 in Game 2 of an April 23 doubleheader… Had two home runs, a double and six RBIs in Game 2 of a May 1 doubleheader vs. Illinois State. He became the first Valpo player with a two-homer game since April 2019 and the first with six or more RBIs in a game since April 2018… Followed that up with his third long ball of the series on May 2 vs. Illinois State.
- Jonathan Temple, OF, Sr. (Turlock, Calif. / Turlock [Modesto JC]) – The junior college transfer joined the program for the 2020 season… Attended Oregon State as a freshman…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… Started all 16 games last year during the COVID-19 shortened season and tied for the team lead with three doubles… Broke up a no-hit bid from Indiana State’s Connor Cline in the seventh and final inning of Game 1 of the April 17 doubleheader in Terre Haute. He ended the no-hit bid and shutout in one fell swoop with a pinch-hit, RBI double in the top of the seventh… Hit a walk-off home run to lift Valpo to a 7-6 victory in the April 23 home opener vs. SIU… Enjoyed a two-homer game in Game 2 of a May 1 doubleheader vs. Illinois State.
- Brady Renfro, 1B/DH, Fr. (Antigo, Wis. / Antigo) – Exercise science major… Is an only child… Hobbies include hunting and fishing… Favorite MLB player is Clayton Kershaw and team is the Milwaukee Brewers… Played with STiKS Baseball Academy and the Chicago Scouts Association… Hit his first career home runs on March 26 at Butler… Joined forces with Parker Johnson to hit back-to-back home runs on April 3 at DBU… Posted a 21-game on-base streak that was snapped on May 2 vs. Illinois State, Valpo’s longest on-base streak since 2017.
- Kyle Schmack, 1B, Fr. (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) – After graduating from nearby South Central High School in 2019, Kyle 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… Appeared in 20 games and made nine starts during the shortened 2020 season… Reached base three times via a hit and two walks in the Feb. 21 series finale at UAB… Went 5-for-12 (.417) in the three-game series at Alabama State on Feb. 26-27… Hit safely in all four games at DBU (April 1-3) to bolster his hitting streak to 12, the program’s longest since 2017. The hitting streak ended at a dozen games… Had a career-high three RBIs on April 27 at No. 8 Notre Dame, becoming the third Valpo player this season with a three-RBI game. All came on one swing – a go-ahead, bases-clearing double in the fifth.
- Parker Johnson, 2B, Fr. (Golden Valley, Minn.) – Also played varsity ice hockey in high school… Played for the Seattle Mariners Midwest Scout Team (Summer and Fall 2019)… Would rather spend a weekend camping than at a resort… Favorite MLB team is the Twins and favorite TV show is Outer Banks… Had a clutch, two-out hit in the top of the ninth on Feb. 26 at Jacksonville State that tied the game. He picked up the first two hits and RBIs of his young Valpo career in that contest… Had a career-high three hits on March 19 at Western Kentucky… Picked up his second double and fifth RBI of the season on March 23 at No. 14 Notre Dame… Hit back-to-back home runs on April 3 at DBU along with Renfro. That marked his first career home run… Hit a team-best .333 and moved into a tie for the team lead with his third home run of the season during the series at Indiana State (April 16-18)… Drove in four and posted a .462 batting average during Valpo’s series win over SIU (April 23-25).
- Angel DiFederico, C, Fr. (New Haven, Ind. / New Haven) – Projected to share starting catching duties with Kapers… Earned a spot in the 2019 North/South All-Star Game after his senior year at New Haven in Indiana… Had the highest batting average on the team in a limited sample size in 2020, hitting .348 in seven games (six starts)… Drove in four and posted a .455 batting average during Valpo’s series win over SIU (April 23-25).
- Alex Thurston, SS, Fr. (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) – Expected to serve as the team’s utility infielder… Finished as the Valedictorian of his high school senior class… Won the 2019 Nanoline Automation National Championship with three classmates after creating an automated paint brush cleaner… Three-year all-conference honoree on the diamond while also playing four years of tennis and one year of basketball in high school… Started two games during Valpo’s opening weekend at UAB, filling in for the injured Nolan Tucker.
Other Key Position Players
- Jeremy Drudge, OF/DH, Jr. (Plymouth, Ind. / Plymouth) – 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…Appeared in 12 games and made 10 starts in 2020, collecting six hits including a triple and a home run… Launched his third career home run (one in each of his three seasons) on Opening Day at UAB, a three-run blow that helped Valpo beat the Blazers 6-2 on Feb. 19… Notched a triple on Feb. 27 at Jacksonville State, his second career three-bagger and the first by a Valpo player this season… Combined with Damon Jorgensen to hit back-to-back home runs on March 19 at Western Kentucky, his third home run of the year and the fifth of his Valpo career… Had a two-run triple on March 23 at No. 14 Notre Dame, becoming the first Valpo player to reach a double-figure RBI total this season. In addition, he notched his second triple and team-leading seventh extra-base knock.
- Matt Olive, Fr., OF (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School) – Majoring in mechanical engineering with minors in Spanish and mathematics… Went 5-for-9 in Valpo’s series win vs. SIU (April 23-25).
- Damon Jorgensen, SS, R-Sr. (Blair, Neb. / Blair [Coffeyville]) – Junior college transfer who started his career at Coffeyville before coming to Valpo for the 2019 season… 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, 2020. That completed the first three-hit day of his Valpo tenure… Started all 14 games in 2020 and ranked second on the team in batting average at .264… Had two hits in the Saturday game at UAB on Feb. 20, his 10th career multi-hit output… Returned to the lineup and didn’t miss a beat March 12-14 at Middle Tennessee after missing the previous series with an injury. He hit a team-high .375 in the four-game set to go along with a .563 slugging percentage. Launched his first home run of the season and the third of his Valpo career in Game 1 of the doubleheader on March 13… Combined with Jeremy Drudge to hit back-to-back home runs on March 19 at Western Kentucky, his second of the season and the fourth of his collegiate career… Had multiple hits in all three games at Western Kentucky on March 19-21, posting a team-best .500 batting average for the series.
- Nolan Tucker, 2B, So. (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central) – Forms an all-local right side of the infield alongside Kyle Schmack… Earned all-conference honors in three high school seasons in baseball and was a two-time conference champion in wrestling… Was 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… Spanked a home run and drove in four in a Feb. 23, 2020 game at No. 3 Louisville. He had three hits while becoming the first Valpo freshman with a four-RBI game since Grant Yoder on April 24, 2012 at Purdue Fort Wayne (then IPFW)… Collected 10 hits and drove in six runs during the 2020 campaign… Played in the Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational on June 4, 2020 on ESPN2 in the first live baseball event since the pandemic.
- Jake Kapers, C, Jr. (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) – One of three 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… Played in 11 games and made 10 starts in 2020… Caught the Colin Fields no-hitter in Game 1 of a doubleheader on March 13 at Middle Tennessee.
- Alex Ryan, OF/DH, Fr. (Lake Mills, Wis. / Lakeside Lutheran) – Made his first career start at DH in the series finale at UAB… Three-time all-conference pick in high school… Milwaukee Brewers fans… Has a twin sister, Olivia… Hobbies include hiking and playing card games.
- RHP Easton Rhodehouse (Sr., Gilbert, Ariz. / Gilbert) – Named 2019 All-MVC Honorable Mention and to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team in 2017. Also received 2020 MVC Scholar-Athlete Honorable Mention… 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… 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 in 2019… Was one of four players in the nation to start six games during the 2020 season, tying for the NCAA Division-I lead in that category. Ranked third on the team with a 3.45 ERA and struck out a team-high 20 while issuing just four bases on balls over 15 2/3 innings… 2020 Valparaiso University graduate with a degree in political science… Currently pursuing an MBA... Spent the 2018 summer doing grassroots volunteer work for a political campaign… Hobbies include skateboarding and mountain biking… Picked up the win by allowing one run on two hits over two innings in the Feb. 19 season opener at UAB, when he became the first Valpo pitcher since Dalton Lundeen (2014, 2015) to start consecutive Opening Days… Went two innings and gave up one run on two hits while striking out four in his Feb. 26 start at Jacksonville State… Pitched two shutout innings of hitless ball in his start on March 12 at Middle Tennessee, striking out four and issuing no walks… allowed one run on three hits in two innings on March 19 at Western Kentucky, then absorbed the loss on March 23 at No. 14 Notre Dame after allowing two runs on just one hit in 1 2/3 innings… Struck out seven and allowed one hit over 4 1/3 shutout innings in two appearances during the three-game series at Butler March 26-27…. Started as an “opener” in the Friday, April 16 game at Indiana State and went two scoreless frames while yielding three hits… Pitched in three of the four games vs. Southern Illinois (April 23-25), earning the win with 2/3 of an inning scoreless in Game 1 and nailing down his first save of the season with three innings of one-run, three-hit ball in Game 4. He also pitched in Game 2 and did not allow an earned run in 1 1/3 innings… Nailed down the save with two flawless innings to preserve a 3-2 win on April 30 vs. Illinois State, and later garnered his second save of the weekend to help the team beat the Redbirds 7-6 on May 2… Earned the win with four innings of one-run, two-hit ball on May 7 at Bradley, combining with Jon Tieman on a two-hitter against the Braves.
- RHP Jon Tieman, R-Sr. (Crystal, Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) – Three-time MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team, 2018 All-MVC Honorable Mention selection, 2017 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Freshman All-American… Racked up 78 strikeouts to lead the team in 2019, the most by a Valpo pitcher since 2015… 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… Has lived in Missouri, Georgia and Illinois… Logged three innings over two appearances during the opening weekend of the season at UAB … Took the defeat on Feb. 26 at Jacksonville State, allowing a run on one hit in 2/3 of an inning… Nailed down the eighth save of his collegiate career and first since his freshman year of 2017 in Game 2 of the March 13 doubleheader at Middle Tennessee. The strikeout that secured a 3-2, extra-inning victory for the Brown & Gold was the 200th of his career, making him the 11th member of the program’s 200-strikeout club… Earned the victory with 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and struck out five to move into the Top 10 in program history in career strikeouts on March 20 at Western Kentucky… Struck out two in a scoreless bottom of the eighth on March 23 at No. 14 Notre Dame… Climbed to eighth in program history when he struck out five in 2 1/3 innings during the series finale at Indiana State on April 18… Struck out nine over five shutout innings in his first start of the season on April 23 vs. SIU… Made his second start of the season in Game 1 of a May 1 doubleheader vs. Illinois State… Did not allow a hit over three scoreless innings on May 7 at Bradley, nailing down his second save of the season.
- RHP Trent Turzenski (So., Burlington, Wis. / Burlington) – Started the season as Valpo’s Saturday starter… Ranked seventh in the MVC in ERA and 11th in opponents’ batting average (.236) as a freshman in 2020… Ranked No. 18 on D1Baseball.com’s 2020 list of the Top 50 freshmen pitchers in the nation based on analytics… Had a team-best 2.48 ERA in 2020 over four games out of the bullpen… Struck out 16 against just six walks over 19 innings, sharing the team’s heaviest workload… Struck out 11 while walking just one in six innings on Feb. 28, 2020 at McNeese… Played in the Little League World Series Regional Tournament on ESPN twice, when he was 11 and 12 years old… Took the defeat after allowing two runs on just three hits in four innings in his first outing of the season on Feb. 20 at UAB… Allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits while striking out six over five innings in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Feb. 27 at Jacksonville State… Followed the Fields no-hitter with a strong pitching performance of his own in Game 2 of a the March 13 doubleheader at Middle Tennessee, going seven innings to pick up the victory while allowing two runs on three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts… Took the defeat on March 21 at Western Kentucky… Is projected to come out of the bullpen for the first time this season during the April 23-25 series against Southern Illinois…
- LHP Jake Miller, R-Fr. (Chester, N.Y. / Don Bosco Prep) – 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… Redshirted last season in his first year on campus.
- RHP Nathan Chasey, Jr. (Ames, Iowa / Gilbert [Indian Hills CC]) – Joined the program for the 2021 season after two years of JUCO baseball… NJCAA Region 11 Honorable Mention in 2019… Enjoys fishing… Favorite MLB team is the Atlanta Braves and player is Chipper Jones… Worked three scoreless innings in relief in the series finale on March 14 at Middle Tennessee, extending his scoreless innings streak to six over his first four appearances of the season… Worked 2 1/3 innings of relief without allowing an earned run in the April 17 game at No. 23 Indiana State… Earned the win on May 2 vs. Illinois State by scattering seven hits and walking none over four innings of one-run relief.
- RHP Nolan Lebamoff, Jr. (Fort Wayne, Ind. / Carroll [Kankakee CC]) – Joined the program for the 2021 season as a JUCO transfer… Majoring in political science… 2019 Second Team All-Region Four NJCAA… 2019 Kankakee CC Pitcher of the Year… Tied for third in the nation in NJCAA D-II in saves in 2019… Finished third on Kankakee’s all-time saves list… Allowed no earned runs on two hits and no walks while striking out three over 3 2/3 innings in two relief appearances at DBU (April 1-3)… Worked two scoreless innings of one-hit ball in relief on April 17 at Indiana State… Earned the win with 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief on May 1 in Game 2 of a doubleheader vs. Illinois State.
Inside the Assistants: Brian Schmack’s staff will have a familiar feel in 2021 as all four coaches return from the 2020 campaign.
- 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 third 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 took over as the volunteer assistant coach prior to the 2020 season. Sam Shaikin spent the previous 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 all-time with 104 bases on balls. Shaikin, who ranks fifth in program history with 392 assists, is the team’s infield coach.