Indiana State (16-8, 2-1 MVC)
at Valparaiso (11-13, 0-0 MVC)
Emory G. Bauer Field (500) | Valparaiso, Ind.
Saturday, April 9, 1 p.m. – RHP Colin Fields
Sunday, April 10, Noon (Game 1) – LHP Jake Miller
Sunday, April 10, To Follow (Game 2) – TBD
Next Up in Valpo Baseball: After its best pre-conference performance since joining the Missouri Valley Conference, the Valparaiso University baseball team will hope that success translates to league play as the Valley slate begins this weekend with Indiana State in town. The Sycamores are the only team that Valpo has not defeated since joining the conference, a trend the Beacons hope to flip this weekend.
Last Time Out: After a key road series win at UIC last weekend that involved the Beacons rallying to take the final two games after dropping the opener, Valpo fell in both ends of a midweek doubleheader at Milwaukee on Tuesday. The Panthers won the opener 3-2 and the nightcap 8-3 at Franklin Field in Franklin, Wis.
Following the Beacons: All three games this weekend are slated to air on ESPN3 with Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Thomas Kithier (analyst) on the call. Links to live video and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com. For in-game updates, follow @ValpoBaseball on Twitter.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack (163-248), the 17th head baseball coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his ninth season in charge of the program. 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 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 holds a 30-50-1 record in the all-time series between the two teams. Since joining the Missouri Valley Conference, Valpo is 0-10 against the Sycamores. The Beacons are attempting to snap a 15-game head-to-head losing streak that dates all the way back to March 31, 2007, an 11-2 win in Terre Haute. Valpo will be hosting the Sycamores for the first time since 2018, the program’s first season in the league.
Valpo in Conference Openers
- Each of the last two MVC slates (2019 and 2021) have started with Valpo visiting DBU and returning home on the wrong end of a sweep.
- The last time the Beacons opened the MVC slate at home was 2018 vs. Bradley, a doubleheader to start the team’s first season in the league. Valpo dropped the opener 5-4 but won the nightcap 5-2 behind a walk-off home run by Zack Leone in the bottom of the 10th.
- Valpo will attempt to win its first conference game of the season for the first time since joining The Valley. The last time Valpo prevailed in a conference opener was a 5-4, 10-inning victory at Northern Kentucky on March 18, 2016.
- Valpo will also aim to win its first league-opening series for the first time since sweeping the Norse in the aforementioned March 2016 set in Highland Heights, Ky.
Notes Wrapping Up Milwaukee (April 5, L 3-2, L 8-3)
- Valpo dropped the first game 3-2, falling to 1-2 in one-run games this season and 4-4 in contests decided by two runs or fewer.
- Adam Brauch accrued his sixth multi-hit game of the year, accounting for half of the team’s four hits in Game 1.
- Alex Thurston saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end in Game 1, but highlighted the Valpo offense by reaching base three times in Game 2 including a pair of hits. That was his eighth multi-hit effort this season, the third most on the team.
- Valpo pitching has now issued one walk or fewer in seven of the last 10 games.
- Kaleb Hannahs hit safely in both games, extending his hitting streak to 11, the longest by a Beacon this season.
Inside the Sycamores
- Started conference play by taking two of three from Illinois State last week.
- Picked to finish second in the MVC Preseason Poll.
- Earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Regional last season and won a game in the Nashville Regional to finish the season with 31 wins.
- Indiana State head coach Mitch Hannahs is the father of Valpo starting third baseman Kaleb Hannahs.
Extinguishing the Flames: By going on the road and winning two of three from April 1-3 at Curtis Granderson Stadium in Chicago, Valpo earned a series win over UIC for the first time since 2012. The victories came over a quality program that won 30 games last season. Furthermore, Valpo won the series despite dropping the series opener, the first time Valpo rallied to win a series after losing the opener since May 2015 vs. Youngstown State.
Fields Cracks Program’s Top 10: After becoming the 12th player in program history to reach 200 career strikeouts on March 25 at St. Bonaventure, Valpo starting pitcher Colin Fields unlocked another achievement on April 1 at UIC, cracking the program’s career top 10. He did so in resounding fashion, fanning a career-high 13 to usurp Chuck Donley (212, 1991-1995) for 10th in program history. Furthermore, the 13 strikeouts marked the most by a Valpo pitcher in a single game since April 12, 2011, when Jon Gulbransen reached that same number in a game against Chicago State. He earned the victory over the Flames to improve to 4-0 this season.
Valpo’s All-Time Strikeout List
Name Years Strikeouts
Tim Juran 1969-1972 371
Joe 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 2017-2021 244
Tom Starck 2001-2004 222
Richard Beumer 1959-1962 217
Colin Fields 2019-pres. 215
Chuck Donley 1991-1995 212
Jim Pomeroy 1996-1999 202
Not Fooling Around: Valpo left fielder Kyle Schmack had a monster day at the plate during the April 1 doubleheader at UIC, reaching base 10 times over the two games. He had six total hits in addition to three walks and one HBP. In addition, Schmack turned in a web gem in left with a crucial catch while slamming into the fence in the eighth inning of the Game 2 victory. That catch was ranked No. 9 on D1Baseball’s countdown of Top 10 Plays of the Week.
A Look at the Leaderboards: Several Valpo players rank among the national and conference leaders in a variety of statistical categories. With a remarkable ratio of 41 strikeouts against just three walks in 27 innings, left-handed pitcher Jake Miller leads the Missouri Valley Conference and ranks eighth nationally in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 13.67. Fields leads the nation in strikeouts per nine innings at 16.40, while ranking ninth nationally in total strikeouts with 65. Fields also ranks tied atop the MVC in opponents’ batting average at .189 and fifth in ERA at 3.03. Bobby Nowak is 16th in the nation and tied for the MVC lead with six saves. As a team, Valpo is 27th nationally in strikeouts per nine innings (10.6) and 33rd in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.85), leading the MVC in both areas. Kyle Schmack ranks among the league leaders in batting average (.360, 12th), slugging percentage (.562, 13th) and on-base percentage (.462, seventh).
.500 Through 22 Games: Wins are always hard to come by early in the season for a cold-weather team playing a slew of road games against warm-weather opponents, but this year Valpo weathered that storm by posting an 11-11 record over the team’s first 22 games and entered this week at the .500 mark. That marked the program’s best record at that point in the season since 1998. Valpo slipped below the break-even mark earlier this week, dropping both games of a doubleheader at Milwaukee on the final day of baseball prior to the start of league play. Valpo owns an 11-9 mark in 20 weekend games and an 0-4 record in midweek contests.
Other Notes Wrapping Up UIC (April 1-3)
- Alex Thurston posted four RBIs in the second game of the April 1 doubleheader, becoming the first Valpo player with a four-RBI game this season. The last Valpo player with four or more RBIs in a game was Riley Dent, who had six on May 1 of last season vs. Illinois State.
- Thurston hit safely in all three games in the series, extending his hitting streak to nine. He has hit safely in 19 of his last 20 games.
- Valpo totaled 26 hits over the two games during the April 1 doubleheader. In Game 1, eight of the nine batters in the starting lineup notched at least one hit, and then the same thing occurred in Game 2. Valpo had 37 hits in the three-game series, posting double-figure hit totals in each contest.
- The Beacons stranded a season-high 15 on base in the 9-7 loss in Game 1 of the April 1 doubleheader. That was the team’s highest LOB total since April 24 of last season vs. Southern Illinois (16). Valpo followed that by stranding 14 in the nightcap, so the team stranded 29 over the two games, in part a product of how many baserunners the Beacons had throughout the day.
- Valpo pitchers struck out 16 Flames in Game 2 of the April 1 doubleheader, the fourth time this season that Beacon pitching has fanned 16 or more.
- Jake Miller struck out a career-high 11 in the series finale, surpassing his previous peak of nine on March 20 of this season at Murray State. The southpaw did not issue any walks over his seven innings of six-hit, two-run ball in the series finale.
- Bobby Nowak nailed down his sixth save in Sunday’s series finale, already the most by a Valpo hurler in a single season since Jon Tieman’s seven in 2017.
More From the Whiff Wire: Prior to this season, Valpo pitchers had not struck out 17 or more batters in a single game since 2011. This year alone, that feat has been achieved three times – March 5 at Omaha and both games of a March 25 doubleheader vs. St. Bonaventure. In Game 1 of that double dip, starter Trent Turzenski became the first Valpo hurler to rack up a dozen strikeouts in a game since Jon Tieman on April 19, 2019 at SIUE. Prior to that, no Valpo pitcher had struck out 12 since Jon Gulbransen in 2011. In Game 2 of the April 1 doubleheader at UIC, Valpo pitching accrued 16 strikeouts, the fourth time this season the staff has struck out 16 or more.
Home Sweet Home
- Although Valpo started the season with its usual long stretch of road games by playing the first 16 contest of the year away from home, there is plenty of home baseball to look forward to this spring.
- Valpo has 19 Emory G. Bauer Field games on the docket. There were 20 prior to weather removing the home opener vs. Milwaukee from the slate. If all 19 are played, it will mark the first time Valpo has played that many 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.
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.
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.
Pitching Profiles – Projected Starters
- #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... Posted his fifth career double-figure strikeout total by fanning 10 in five innings of Valpo’s 7-5 win at Omaha on March 5. He gave up five hits and allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings to take no decision... Struck out eight batters over just 3 1/3 innings while allowing six runs (four earned) on five hits and walking five in Game 1 of the March 13 doubleheader at SEMO. That marked his fourth straight start with seven or more strikeouts... Earned the victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader on March 19 at Murray State, ending the Racers’ longest home winning streak since 1958 by handing them their first home loss of the season. He recovered after walking five in the first two innings – four of which came on full counts – and did not permit a walk for the remainder of his outing while sending down 11 straight from the second to the sixth. He totaled nine strikeouts, his fifth straight start with seven or more, and allowed two runs on just two hits in five frames... Became the 12th pitcher in program history to reach the 200-strikeout milestone on March 25 in Game 2 of a doubleheader vs. St. Bonaventure, doing so by fanning 10 over five shutout innings of two-hit, two-walk baseball to earn the win and improve to 3-0... Logged seven dazzling innings of two-run, two-hit ball while striking out a career-high 13 and walking three to improve to 4-0 in an 8-3 victory at UIC in Game 2 of a doubleheader on April 1. He became the first Valpo hurler to strike out 13 in a game since 2011 and climbed into the program’s all-time top-10 in career strikeouts.
- #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... Had back-to-back scheduled starts canceled due to weather on Feb. 27 at Alabama A&M and March 6 at Omaha... Finally returned to the rubber on March 13 at SEMO and allowed seven runs on seven hits, two walks and eight strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. His line was a bit deceiving as all seven runs against him came on home runs (four total), many of which carried to right field on a hitter-friendly day and would not have left the yard under normal conditions... Pitched a career-high seven innings and racked up a career-high nine strikeouts while issuing no walks, scattering six hits and permitting one run to earn the win and help Valpo complete a road split at Murray State in the March 20 series finale... Was used out of the bullpen in Game 2 of a doubleheader on March 25 vs. St. Bonaventure and struck out seven while allowing two hits and walking none over four innings to earn his first collegiate save... Pitched Valpo to a 5-2 victory on April 3 at UIC, the rubber-match of a three-game series with the Flames. He tossed seven innings of two-run, six-hit ball, walking none while racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts.
Position Player Profiles – Projected Lineup
*Based on recent games
- #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... Had three hits in the second game of a March 13 doubleheader at SEMO... Posted four RBIs in the second game of the April 1 doubleheader at UIC, becoming the first Valpo player with a four-RBI game this season... Saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end in Game 1 of an April 5 doubleheader at Milwaukee, but he reached base three times including a pair of hits in the nightcap.
- #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... Hit his third home run of the season and also doubled in Valpo’s 4-2 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Omaha on March 4... Had three hits in each game of the March 13 doubleheader at SEMO, totaling six hits on the day including a double and home run.
- #27 Kyle Schmack, LF, 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... Had a pair of doubles to help Valpo to a 4-2 win in Game 1 of a March 4 doubleheader at Omaha... Launched his fourth career home run and second of the season on March 15 at No. 6 Notre Dame, part of a multi-hit day... Ripped his third home run of the season and fifth of his career in Game 2 of a doubleheader on March 19 at Murray State, his 21st birthday... Followed that by tying a season high with three hits in the March 20 series finale, a victory at Murray State... Reached base 10 times in the April 1 doubleheader at UIC and made an impressive catch while crashing into the left-field fence in the eighth inning, a play that checked in at No. 9 on D1Baseball’s Top 10 Plays of the Week.
- #30 Brady Renfro, 1B, 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 Br.wers… 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... Had three hits including a home run in the opener of the March 13 doubleheader at SEMO. Launched another home run in the second game of the twinbill.
- #21 Adam Brauch, DH, 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... Delivered a clutch, two-run double in the bottom of the seventh of a March 5 game at Omaha that gave Valpo the lead for good in a 7-5 victory... Drilled his first collegiate home run, a three-run bomb, in Game 1 of a March 25 doubleheader vs. St. Bonaventure... Had a career-high three hits on March 29 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne... Had two hits on April 5 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Milwaukee, accounting for half of the team’s hits in that contest.
- #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... After four straight hitless games, broke through with a pair of doubles on March 20 at Murray State.
- #4 Spencer Warfield, RF, 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.
- #1 Nolan Tucker, 2B, R-Fr.. (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central) – 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... Missed the beginning of the 2022 season with a hamstring injury... Delivered a go-ahead, bases-clearing double on March 20 at Murray State... Had a career-high four hits in Game 1 of the March 25 doubleheader vs. St. Bonaventure, becoming the first Beacon to notch a four-hit game this season.
- #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.
Beacon Bullpen ‘Bits
- #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... Made his collegiate debut on March 4 at Omaha and worked a scoreless inning that featured a pair of strikeouts... Worked a perfect inning of relief on March 29 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne.
- #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... Allowed two runs on six hits and no walks in 3 2/3 innings on March 15 at No. 6 Notre Dame... Made his first career weekend start in Game 2 of a doubleheader on March 19 at Murray State... Made his second start of the season on March 29 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne and took the defeat.
- #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... Pitched a shutout inning of relief on March 19 in Game 2 of a doubleheader at Murray State... Worked a perfect inning of relief on March 29 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne.
- #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.
- #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... Earned saves in the March 4 and March 5 games at Omaha, allowing a combined one hit over 1 2/3 innings to lift his season save total to four. At the end of that weekend, he was one of 10 players nationally with four or more saves... Put a zero on the board in the ninth in a 6-1 win at Murray State on March 20... Retired the side in order in the top of the ninth in Game 1 of a March 25 doubleheader vs. St. Bonaventure, nailing down his fifth save... Nailed down his sixth save on April 3, working a perfect ninth in the rubber match of a three-game series at UIC.
- #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... Logged two scoreless innings on March 15 at No. 6 Notre Dame.
- #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... Earned his first career save in Game 1 of a doubleheader on March 19 at Murray State, closing out the game by retiring 10 straight Racers to cap four strong innings.
- #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... Pitched a scoreless inning in his season debut on March 4 at Omaha... Made his first start of the season on April 5 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Milwaukee and allowed three runs on four hits in four innings while walking one and striking out three to take a tough-luck defeat.
- #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... Earned the win on March 5 at Omaha in Game 1 of a doubleheader by tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and no walks... Worked a perfect eighth inning in a 6-1 victory in the series finale at Murray State on March 20... Had two innings of strong relief in Game 1 of a doubleheader on March 25 vs. St. Bonaventure, as the only baserunner he allowed was a solo home run.
Off the Bench
- #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.
- #5 Jeremy Drudge, OF, 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.
- #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.
- #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, RF, 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... Had a triple for his first collegiate hit and finished with two knocks in Game 2 of a doubleheader on March 13 at SEMO... Delivered his first collegiate home run on March 29 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne.
- 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.