Valparaiso (3-2, 0-0 MVC)
at Omaha (2-6*, 0-0 Summit)
Tal Anderson Field (1,500) | Omaha, Neb.
*Entering Wednesday’s game at Arkansas
Friday, March 4, 3 p.m. – Trent Turzenski (R)
Saturday, March 5, Noon (Game 1) – Colin Fields (R)
Saturday, March 5, To Follow (Game 2) – TBD
Sunday, March 6, 1 p.m. – Jake Miller (L)
Next Up in Valpo Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team holds a winning record through five games, all against warm-weather competition, and will look to sustain the early-season success with this weekend’s four-game series at Omaha. The Beacons enter the weekend riding a three-game winning streak. This represents the lone scheduled four-game set this year.
Last Time Out: Valpo enjoyed a doubleheader sweep of Alabama A&M on Friday, Feb. 25, overcoming an early deficit to win 9-2 in Game 1 before holding on to an early lead to win 3-2 in Game 2. That proved to be the extent of the series, as Sunday’s scheduled finale was washed away by rain. In Game 1, Angel DiFederico had three hits including two triples, while Alex Thurston also enjoyed a three-hit contest. Their efforts came in support of Trent Turzenski, who fired a seven-inning complete game to earn the victory while allowing two runs on five hits and two walks in a game where he fanned seven. Valpo got another quality pitching performance in the nightcap, as Colin Fields yielded just two runs, both coming on a home run, over five solid innings of four-hit, seven-strikeout ball. Nathan Chasey and Bobby Nowak came on to work scoreless frames in relief. Kyle Schmack had a double and a two-run homer to pace the offense.
Following the Beacons: Links to live coverage will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head baseball coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his ninth season in charge of the program. Entering the 2022 campaign, he has served as the head coach for 387 games at Valpo, the fourth-most in program history with Tracy Woodson third at 397. This year, he moves into sole possession of third in program history for number of seasons coached with nine, surpassing Donald Warnke (1946-1953). Entering the season, Schmack’s win total of 152 ranks fourth in program history after he surpassed Rick Ferchen (1982-1987, 147) during the 2021 campaign. Also in 2021, Schmack joined Paul Twenge (1988-2006), Emory G. Bauer (1954-1981) and Tracy Woodson (2007-2013) as the only head coaches to reach the 150-win threshold. The former big-league pitcher led Valpo to 25 wins in his inaugural campaign in 2014, a school record for victories by a first-year skipper. Schmack, a member of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, served as pitching coach/associate head coach at Valpo for seven seasons prior to his promotion.
Series Notes: Valpo will face a first-time opponent for the second consecutive weekend as these two teams have never squared off on the baseball diamond.
Strong Start: Valpo owns a three-game winning streak, all in road games against warm-weather competition. This marks the team’s longest winning streak since rapping off four straight late in the 2019 season vs. SIU and Chicago State. Valpo boasts a 3-2 mark through five games, the team’s best record at this early stage in the season since 2014. The doubleheader sweep of the Bulldogs marked the program’s first since April 23 of last season vs. SIU. This is the first time Valpo has won three straight with all of them coming on the road since April 13-20, 2018 at Michigan State, No. 25 Illinois and Evansville. If the Beacons take Friday’s series opener at Omaha, they will have four wins in their first six games, which would be their best six-game start since 2009.
Triple the Triples: In Game 1 of the Feb. 25 doubleheader at Alabama A&M, Valpo had three triples in a single game for the first time since May 21, 2016 vs. Youngstown State. Angel DiFederico was responsible for two of them, while Alex Ryan had the other. DiFederico entered the day with one triple in 41 career games, a total that he tripled in a single seven-inning contest. Furthermore, DiFederico became the first Valpo player with a multiple-triple game since Andy Burns on April 6, 2013 vs. UIC. In addition, he became just the fourth player nationally with a two-triple game this season.
Going the Distance: Trent Turzenski delivered a seven-inning complete game in Game 1 of Valpo’s road doubleheader sweep at Alabama A&M on Feb. 25, earning the win in a 9-2 triumph for the Beacons. Turzenski became the first Valpo hurler to toss a complete game since, well, himself on May 22 of last season, an eight-inning effort against Missouri State. He scattered just five hits and two walks while striking out seven and permitting only two earned runs in the game against the Bulldogs. He did not allow any runs over the final five frames. Opponents hit just .208 against Turzenski in the contest.
Close Calls: It didn’t take long for Valpo to play its first one-run game of 2022, a 4-3 setback that came on a walk-off hit in the middle game of the opening weekend series at Memphis on Feb. 19. Valpo garnered its first one-run win of the year on Feb. 25 at Alabama A&M as Bobby Nowak improved to 2-for-2 in save chances to preserve a 3-2 triumph by striking out the side in the ninth. Last season, Valpo competed in 15 one-run games, posting a 7-8 record in such contests. The team played 10 affairs decided by the slimmest of margins in Missouri Valley Conference play alone a year ago.
In the Other Dugout: Omaha
- Own a victory over a nationally-ranked opponent this season thanks to a 9-4 win at No. 21 UCLA on Feb. 23.
- Swept by USC Feb. 25-27, but all three games were decided by three runs or fewer and the series opener required 12 innings.
- Won the 2019 Summit League title and made an NCAA Regional appearance.
- Picked third of seven in the Summit League preseason poll.
- Returning first team all-conference selection Mike Boeve hit a team-best .319 last year. He’s hitting a robust .419 through eight games, once again pacing the squad.
A Look Back at 2021
- For the first time since joining the prestigious Missouri Valley Conference prior to the 2018 season, Valpo won two games in the league tournament last year.
- The two victories helped the Beacons finish as one of the final four teams standing in the event, joining a pair of NCAA Regional qualifiers in Indiana State and DBU plus a Southern Illinois team that enjoyed a 40-win season.
- Valpo finished the 2021 season with its highest league winning percentage since joining The Valley.
- The team enjoyed a quality stretch of baseball from April 23 to May 8, going 8-4 in MVC play and incurring a one-run loss to No. 8 Notre Dame.
- Valpo started the league slate with an 0-8 record after playing the top two teams in the league on the road, but played nearly .500 ball the rest of the way.
- Compared to the most recently-completed season of 2019, the team improved its batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and fielding percentage in addition to increasing its number of home runs, doubles, hits and runs scored.
- The team stole 33 bases, its highest total since 2017.
- Pitchers racked up 410 strikeouts, the team’s highest total since 2010 (421). The staff also issued fewer walks and permitted fewer home runs than the 2019 campaign.
- Valpo posted a .969 fielding percentage, the third-best in program history. The team’s top three fielding percentages have all come since 2017.
- The team played in 15 one-run games including 10 in MVC action. The 15 one-run games were the team’s most in a single season since 2018 and the 10 in league play marked the program’s most since playing 16 one-run games in Horizon League action in 2012.
- On May 1 vs. Illinois State, Valpo had seven doubles in a single game, the most by any MVC team all season. The squad totaled 42 bases in that game, also the most by an MVC team all season. The May 1 game against the Redbirds saw the two teams combine for the most runs scored (30), hits (35), doubles (9), home runs (9) and strikeouts (25) for any MVC game all season. The 17 runs marked the team’s highest run total since 2018, the 18 hits were the program’s highest total since 2018, the 42 total bases were the team’s highest since 2006 and the five home runs were the most by Valpo in a single game since 2006.
- Valpo accomplished the rare feat of two walk-off wins in the same day during the April 23 doubleheader sweep of SIU. Jonathan Temple hit a walk-off homer in the opener and Riley Dent had a walk-off single in Game 2 for Valpo’s 10th walk-off victory of the Brian Schmack Era. Temple’s walk-off home run, which came in the first game on the program’s new field turf, was Valpo’s first since Zack Leone on March 30, 2018 vs. Bradley.
Home Sweet Home
- Although Valpo starts the season with its usual long stretch of road games by playing the first 17 contest of the year away from home, there is plenty of home baseball to look forward to this spring.
- Valpo has 20 Emory G. Bauer Field games on the docket. If all 20 are played, it will mark the first time Valpo has played 20 times on its home field since 2016.
- Furthermore, over the last five seasons, Valpo hasn’t had more than 15 home games completed in a single year.
- The chance to play at home with regularity is good news for Brian Schmack’s squad, as the team went 7-6 at home last season to finish with a winning home record for the fifth time in the last six seasons and the 12th time in the last 14 campaigns.
Emory G. Bauer Field Upgrades
- Valpo debuted its new infield during the 2021 season as the program now has synthetic turf on the infield and down the foul lines.
- 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.
- Upgrades have continued in 2022 as the team will debut a new press box, a new scoreboard and have ESPN3/+ broadcast streaming capabilities for the first time.
- 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.”
Who’s Back, Who’s Gone, Who’s New?
- Valpo features 11 returning position players and 22 total returners who saw action during the 2021 season. A total of 25 players are back counting three who sat out all of last year.
- Three of the top four ERAs on the team have departed, including longtime pitching staff mainstays Jon Tieman and Easton Rhodehouse. Rhodehouse (11, fifth) and Tieman (10, t-sixth) both finished in the top 10 on the program’s all-time saves list, while Tieman also ranked among the program’s career strikeout leaders (244, seventh).
- However, 38 of the 51 games started by Valpo pitchers last season were by hurlers who return this season, while six of the nine position players who started the 2021 finale are back in 2022. The outfield was hit the hardest by graduation with the departure of veterans Steven Fitzsimmons and Riley Dent.
- The 2022 Valpo roster includes seven true freshmen and three transfers for a total of 10 newcomers.
- In an era where transferring has become commonplace in intercollegiate athletics, no players left the program to transfer to other college baseball programs following the 2021 season, attesting the program’s tight-knit culture.
Hannahs Honored for Freshman Feats
- Sophomore Kaleb Hannahs carries a 20-game on-base streak with him into the start of the 2022 season.
- He was named the 2021 MVC Freshman of the Year, an All-MVC Second Team honoree, the Valparaiso University co-Male Newcomer of the Year (ARC Awards) and a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
- Hannahs became the first Valpo player to collect MVC Freshman of the Year honors, and joined Jon Tieman (2017) and Spencer Mahoney (2012) as the three Valpo players who have earned Freshman All-American status from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
- The third baseman led the team in batting average (.296), hits (55) and on-base percentage (.389). He became the first rookie to pace the squad in hitting since Spencer Mahoney in 2012.
Pitching Profiles – Projected Starters
- #36 RHP Trent Turzenski (So., Burlington, Wis. / Burlington) – 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… Played in the Little League World Series Regional Tournament on ESPN twice, when he was 11 and 12 years old… Followed the Colin Fields no-hitter with a strong pitching performance of his own in Game 2 of the March 13, 2021 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… Earned the win on May 2, 2021 vs. Illinois State by scattering seven hits and walking none over four innings of one-run relief… Pitched an eight-inning complete game and allowed just two runs on five hits while striking out six in a tough-luck defeat as Valpo fell 2-1 at Missouri State in the May 22, 2021 regular-season finale... Made an MVC Tournament start and worked four frames on May 28, 2021 vs. host Southern Illinois... Throwing more strikes and has seen an uptick in velocity entering 2022... Rated the No. 30 2022 MLB Draft prospect among Missouri Valley Conference players by D1Baseball.com prior to the 2022 season... Tossed a seven-inning complete game on Feb. 25 at Alabama A&M, allowing two runs that both came over the first two frames. He earned the victory in Valpo’s 9-2 triumph after allowing two runs on five hits while walking two and striking out seven.
- #25 RHP Colin Fields (Jr. / 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 2021 season with 81 strikeouts, the most by a Valpo pitcher since Dalton Lundeen in 2015… Threw the eighth no-hitter in Valpo history and first since 1992 on March 13, 2021 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 strikeouts) 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. That outing earned Valparaiso University Male Performance of the Year at the end-of-season ARC Awards… 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, 2021... Rated the No. 15 2022 draft prospect in the MVC by D1Baseball.com prior to the 2022 season... Struck out eight while permitting four hits over six shutout innings in his first start of the season on Feb. 19 at Memphis, exiting in position for the win... Limited Alabama A&M to two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out seven over five innings to earn the victory in Game 2 of a doubleheader on Feb. 25.
- #29 LHP Jake Miller, So. (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 in 2020 before seeing action in 11 games out of the Valpo bullpen in 2021... Earned a well-deserved win on a hitter-friendly day in his season debut on Feb. 20 at Memphis, bouncing back from a rough first inning to log five innings of three-run ball while scattering seven hits, walking one and striking out six.
Position Player Profiles – Projected Lineup
*Based on last game
- #14 Angel DiFederico, C, So. (New Haven, Ind. / New Haven) – 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, 2021)… Led the team in league-only batting average at .313 in his 19 MVC games (18 starts) in 2021, reaching base at a .387 clip in MVC play... Hit two triples in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Feb. 25 at Alabama A&M, the first two-triple game by a Valpo player since Andy Burns on April 6, 2013 vs. UIC.
- #15 Kaleb Hannahs, 3B, So. (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) – 2021 MVC Freshman of the Year, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Freshman All-American, All-MVC Second Team and Valparaiso University co-Male Newcomer of the Year (ARC Awards)... 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 career-high five RBIs in the first game of a doubleheader at Butler on March 27, 2021 and finished the day with five hits, three runs scored, three RBIs and three walks over the two games… Earned MVC Player of the Week on May 3 after posting a slash line .556/.636/.667 over five games during the week... Led the team in batting average (.296), hits (55) and on-base percentage (.389) in 2021, becoming the first rookie to pace the team in batting average since Spencer Mahoney in 2012... Finished the 2021 season on a 20-game on-base streak... Had a team-high 15 multi-hit games in 2021 including three three-hit outputs and a season-high four hits in Game 1 of a May 1 doubleheader vs. Illinois State... Started his freshman season with a .200 average over the first 11 games before hitting .336 over his last 36 regular-season contests while posting a .434 on-base percentage in that time... Listed by D1Baseball.com as the No. 3 prospect in the Missouri Valley Conference for the 2023 MLB Draft... Has gotten stronger over the offseason leading into his sophomore season... Had three of Valpo’s five hits on Feb. 19 at Memphis... Enjoyed the first two-homer game of his collegiate career on Feb. 20, helping Valpo to a 10-8 victory in the series finale at Memphis. Finished the day with his second straight three-hit game.
- #27 Kyle Schmack, 1B, So. (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… Appeared in all 51 games and made 50 starts in 2021, posting a .264 average that ranked fourth on the team while tying for second on the club with 24 RBIs and ranking second on the squad with nine doubles... Over the final 15 games of the 2021 season, hit a team-high .304 with two home runs, a .464 slugging percentage, a .361 on-base percentage and a team-high 14 RBIs... Has trimmed down during the offseason leading into 2022 to become more mobile... Had a double and a two-run homer to pace the offense in Game 2 of the Feb. 25 doubleheader at Alabama A&M.
- #30 Brady Renfro, DH, So. (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 run on March 26, 2021 at Butler… Part of back-to-back home runs along with Parker Johnson on April 3, 2021 at DBU… Posted a 21-game on-base streak that was snapped on May 2, 2021 vs. Illinois State, Valpo’s longest on-base streak since 2017... Hit a team-best .333 during the series at Indiana State (April 16-18)... Named All-MVC Honorable Mention... Healthier in 2022 after having hip surgery in summer 2021... Spanked his fifth career home run on Feb. 20 at Memphis, a 10-8 Valpo victory... Had three extra-base knocks in a doubleheader sweep of Alabama A&M on Feb. 25 including his second home run of the season and the sixth of his career.
- #9 Matt Olive, LF, So., (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, 2021)... Hit .255 in 21 games and 15 starts in 2021 including a .289 batting average in MVC play... Delivered a go-ahead solo homer with two outs and two strikes to snap a 5-5 tie and give Valpo a 6-5 lead in the May 27, 2021 MVC Tournament elimination game vs. Illinois State in Carbondale. The home run stood as the difference in the game.
- #5 Jeremy Drudge, RF, 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… Combined with Damon Jorgensen to hit back-to-back home runs on March 19, 2021 at Western Kentucky... Was the only player on the team with multiple triples and multiple home runs in 2021 (two triples, three home runs)... Has made a few important tweaks to his swing leading into 2022.
- #4 Spencer Warfield, CF, Fr. (Fullerton, Calif. / Servite) – School treasurer and member of principal’s high honor roll with distinction in high school (above 4.0 GPA with straight A’s)... Favorite food is a cheeseburger.
- #21 Adam Brauch, 2B, R-Fr. (Waukee Iowa / Dowling Catholic) – Missed the 2021 season with an injury... Three-year starting shortstop in high school... Also played football, basketball and bowling during his prep tenure... Played a key role in helping his baseball team reach the state final four in 2019 and helped his football team to its seventh straight 4A state championship... Has bowled a 239 game... Enjoys running, bowling and watching Netflix.
- #6 Alex Thurston, SS, So. (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) – 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… Appeared in 40 games and made 39 starts in 2021... Hit .417 over a four-game series vs. Evansville (May 14-16, 2021)... Has gained weight and strength during the offseason leading into 2022... Enjoyed his second career three-hit game in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Feb. 25 at Alabama A&M.
Beacon Bullpen ‘Bits
- #3 RHP Cooper Avery, Fr. (Naperville, Ill. / Neuqua Valley (Nova Southeastern) – Set his high school’s record for fewest walks in a season... Sport management major... Favorite movie is the Great Gatsby... Native American who was born in Utah... 2021 Midwest Collegiate League All-Star with the Joliet Generals.
- #7 RHP/INF Grant Ross, Fr. (Pewaukee, Wis. / Pewaukee) – Shattered his high school’s single-game strikeout record with 17... Highest single-season strikeout rate in high school’s program history at 2.4 strikeouts per inning in 2021... Hobbies include hiking, boating, traveling, cliff jumping and skiing... Can waterski barefoot.
- #8 RHP Zach Fricke, Jr. (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Buffalo Grove) – Valpo prevailed in each of his final three starts of the season in 2021 before he missed the end of the season with an injury... Led the team in victories as a freshman in 2019 (3)... During a three-game stretch late in the 2019 season, he made starts against Evansville, Bradley and Southern Illinois and posted a combined 3-0 record with a 2.14 ERA and opponents hitting .214 against him.
- #10 LHP Christian Hack, Fr. (Oak Forest, Ill. / Tinley Park) – Helped his team to conference and regional championships in 2019... Also competed in high school basketball... Says he can “do a decent Chewbacca noise”... Favorite TV Show is The Office.
- #11 RHP Connor Lockwood, Fr. (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) – Named conference co-player of the year as a high school senior in 2021 and received all-state accolades... Interested in a career in elementary education... Favorite food is deep dish pizza.
- #12 RHP Jacob Rosenkranz, So. (Lincolnshire, Ill. / Stevenson) – Made 13 appearances and one start in 2021... Had three straight scoreless outings in 2021 on April 1 (at DBU), April 24 (vs. SIU) and April 27 (at No. 8 Notre Dame) and did not allow any hits in three total innings during that stretch... Made five appearances out of the bullpen during the shortened 2020 season... Lived in Texas for 13 years... Favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.
- #16 RHP Josh Cottrill, R-Fr. (Pewaukee, Wis. / Pewaukee) – Redshirted in 2021 during his first season on campus... Two-time all-conference performer in high school... Set his school’s record for highest batting average by a freshman at .531 in 2017... Hobbies include Guitar Hero... Can juggle... Loves to travel.
- #18 RHP Jonathan Hyman, So. (Bellbrook, Ohio / Bellbrook [Paradise Valley CC /IMG]) – Majoring in finance... Hobbies include skiing, hiking and U.S. and world history... Favorite MLB Player is Ken Griffey Jr.
- #26 RHP Ryan Klainos, So. (Green Oaks, Ill. / Libertyville) – Did not see game action in either 2020 or 2021... Psychology major... Hobbies include binge-watching Netflix shows, watching YouTube and playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch.
- #32 RHP Bobby Nowak, So. (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central) – Played summer ball with the Beecher Muskies of the Chicago Suburban League... Hobbies include hunting and fishing... Favorite movie is Indiana Jones... Touted as a pitcher with strength who can spin it well... Nailed down his first save in a Valpo uniform by working the final 1 1/3 innings on Feb. 20 at Memphis... Struck out the side in the ninth in Game 2 of a Feb. 25 doubleheader at Alabama A&M, preserving a 3-2 victory and improving to 2-for-2 this season in save chances.
- #33 LHP Keegan Bates, Jr. (Plainfield, Ill. / Plainfield North) – Worked four innings spanning three relief appearances in 2021 after pitching in two games during the shortened 2020 season and 15 (including four starts) as a freshman in 2019... Hobbies include fishing and football... Favorite move is The Dark Knight.
- #34 RHP Grant Jablonski, So. (Mishawaka, Ind. / Mishawaka) – Appeared in four games in 2021 and two in 2020... 2019 Indiana All-Star while earning all-state honors... Favorite TV show is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia... Was a bright spot in the Feb. 18 season opener at Memphis, retiring the side in order in his first frame of the season.
- #35 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… Appeared in 17 games out of the Valpo bullpen in 2021.
- #38 RHP Griffin McCluskey, So. (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) – Pitched in nine games and made two starts as a freshman in 2021... Made his first career start on April 27 at No. 8 Notre Dame... Also got the starting nod on May 11 vs. the No. 8 Fighting Irish and pitched a gem at Emory G. Bauer Field, holding the guests to no runs on one hit – a seeing-eye single through the left side – while walking just one and striking out four in six innings. He left in position for the win after becoming just the third pitcher to hold Notre Dame scoreless while pitching six or more innings all season, joining Duke’s Jack Carey and Boston College’s Emmett Sheehan... Posted the highest fielding percentage by a starting shortstop in program history in high school... Finished in the top 10 in his high school’s history in career 3-point field goals in basketball... Enjoys playing the guitar.
- #39 RHP Ryan Mintz (So., Lombard, Ill. / Willowbrook) – Set his high school’s record for wins by a pitcher in the program’s 60-year history… Computer engineering major… Hobbies include snowboarding and other extreme sports.
- #42 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… Did not surrender a tally in any of his first six Valpo outings in 2021, a streak spanning 6 1/3 innings... Heaved a scoreless ninth and picked up his first save of the season as Valpo edged Illinois State 6-5 on May 27, 2021 in an MVC Tournament elimination game.... Has added a slider for the 2022 season... Throwing harder in 2022...Worked a 1-2-3 eighth on Feb. 25 in Game 2 of a doubleheader vs. Alabama A&M, helping Valpo hold on to a 3-2 victory.
Off the Bench
- #1 Nolan Tucker, 2B, R-Fr.. (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.... Appeared in four games in 2021 before incurring a season-ending injury... Will miss the beginning of the 2022 season with a hamstring injury.
- #2 Jake Kapers, C, Jr. (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) – Younger brother of Scott, who was Valpo’s starting catcher for 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, 2021 at Middle Tennessee.
- #17 Alex Ryan, CF, So. (Lake Mills, Wis. / Lakeside Lutheran) – Played in 10 games and made one start as a freshman in 2021... Three-time all-conference pick in high school… Milwaukee Brewers fans… Has a twin sister, Olivia… Hobbies include hiking and playing card games.
- #19 Kade Reinertson, C., R-Fr. (Huxley, Iowa / Ballard Community) – Did not see game action in 2021... Also played football and basketball in high school... Enjoys golfing and disc golfing... Kicks with his left foot but does everything else right handed.
- #20 Brady Nowicki, IF, Jr. (Big Bend, Wis. / Mukwonago [Indiana Hills CC]) – Interested in public relations and marketing... Joined the program for the 2022 season as a junior college transfer... Played JUCO baseball with teammates from eight different countries... Favorite food is Buffalo Wild Wings and favorite TV Show is Survivor.
- #22 Ryan Maka, OF, Fr. (Oak Forest, Ill. / Oak Forest) – Also competed in golf in high school... Other hobbies include investing and going to the gym... Favorite TV Show is Stranger Things... Listed as having made the biggest strides from Fall 2021 to Spring 2022.
- #28 Patrick Ilitch, C, Fr. (Detroit, Mich. / University Liggett [IMG]) – Batted .310 in Legacy Michigan College Baseball League in 2021... Played travel ball for Little Caesars from 2013-2021... Was his high school’s student body president as a senior and class president as a sophomore and junior... Finished in the top 10 percent of his class... Also played two years of football and one year of tennis... Has been to Costa Rica and loves the Spanish language... Interests include finance and sports psychology... Enjoys reading and spending time with friends.
- It’s never too early to glance ahead to 2023, as the program has announced five signees for next season.
- Infielder Kyle Tyler (Alsip, Ill. / Andrean), third baseman Thomas Cooper (Brentwood, Tenn. / Ravenwood), RHP Adam Guazzo (Algonquin, Ill. / Huntley), RHP Kaleb Krier (Altoona, Iowa / Southeast Polk [Des Moines Area CC]) and catcher Will Radich (Lake Oswego, Ore. / IMC Academy) have signed to join the program for the 2022-2023 academic and athletic year.
- Thoughts from Head Coach Brian Schmack on the Incoming Class: “We identified five players who fill needs for our program. They all fit the profile of what we’re looking for to keep the team rolling. We’re excited about this class as a whole. They are pumped to compete in the Missouri Valley Conference and continue to take us to the next level. I would like to thank our assistant coaches who have played a vital role in finding these players. I appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into the process.”
Inside the Assistants: Top assistant Kory Winter returns to head coach Brian Schmack’s staff this season, while assistant coach Mitchell Boe has joined the fold.
- 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 and coaches third base.
- Mitchell Boe is in his first year on the Valpo coaching staff, serving as the team’s infield and baserunning instructor while also coaching first base for the Beacons. A Naperville, Ill. native and product of Joliet Catholic High School, Boe played collegiately at the University of Iowa from 2016-2019. Boe appeared in 193 games for the Hawkeyes, tied for the ninth most in program history. He received Iowa’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award in 2019, when he was one of four team captains and started 46 games at second base.