Valparaiso (11-23, 2-7 MVC)
at Southern Illinois (26-11, 6-3 MVC)
Itchy Jones Stadium | Carbondale, Ill.
Friday, April 29, 6 p.m. CT – RHP Colin Fields
Saturday, April 30, 2 p.m. CT– LHP Jake Miller
Sunday, May 1, 1 p.m. CT – RHP Griffin McCluskey
Next Up in Valpo Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team has won each of its last two road series, going on the road to take series from a pair of quality programs in Illinois State and UIC. The Beacons will head back to the Land of Lincoln this week with hopes of continuing their road success at Southern Illinois.
Recently in Valpo Baseball: Winds blowing out in excess of 20 miles per hour altered the complexion of this past weekend’s series with Missouri State, as the visiting Bears slugged six home runs in Saturday’s doubleheader and three more on Sunday en route to a three-game sweep of host Valpo at Emory G. Bauer Field. The Beacons pounded out 12 hits in the first game of the series but had just two runs to show for it in a 14-2 loss that was shortened to eight innings due to the 10-run rule after Missouri State scored seven in the top of the eighth. Valpo dropped Saturday’s second game 9-4 and was limited to three hits in a 6-1 loss on Sunday that was shortened to seven innings due to lightning. Valpo followed that up with a heartbreaking 6-5 setback at Big Ten foe Purdue on Tuesday. The Beacons led 2-0 early and regained the lead at 5-3 in the top of the seventh, but the Boilermakers forced extras and eventually walked off with a 6-5 win in the bottom of the 10th.
Following the Beacons: All three games this weekend will air on ESPN3. Links to live video and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com. For in-game updates, follow @ValpoBaseball on Twitter.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack (165-258), 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 9-5 lead in the all-time series with Southern Illinois, which dates back to 1966. The Salukis ended Valpo’s season a year ago with an 11-5 win on their home field in the MVC Tournament in Carbondale. That came after Valpo won three of four at Emory G. Bauer Field during the regular season. Valpo has won six of the seven regular-season matchups, but all of those have occurred in Northwest Indiana. This will be Valpo’s first regular-season visit to SIU since dropping two of three in 2018.
200-Hit Pace: Sophomore Kaleb Hannahs collected his 100th career hit during this weekend's series against Missouri State, putting him well on pace to reach the 200-hit milestone by the end of his collegiate career. If he eventually reaches that threshold, he would become just the 11th player in program history and first since Spencer Mahoney in 2015 with 200 career hits. Chase Dawson came close in 2019, but finished his career with 199 hits. Hannahs reached the 100-hit milestone during Saturday’s doubleheader vs. Missouri State, when he had two hits in each game. Kyle Schmack, also a sophomore in terms of eligibility but in his third year in the program due to the COVID year, enters this weekend series at SIU with 98 career hits.
Flexibility is Paramount: So far this season, three weekends have stayed on schedule, while seven weekend series (including this past weekend’s series vs. Missouri State) have included at least one schedule change due to weather. Valpo has played a doubleheader in eight of 10 weekends (seven due to weather-related changes, one scheduled doubleheader). The weather forecast is not favorable for this weekend’s series with the Salukis staying on schedule.
A Look at the Leaderboards: Valpo leads the Missouri Valley Conference in strikeouts per nine innings at 9.8 and strikeout-to-walk ratio at 2.57. Bobby Nowak ranks 31st nationally and second in The Valley with seven saves. Colin Fields leads the MVC and ranks 18th in the nation with 82 strikeouts. He leads the MVC and ranks fifth nationally with 14.28 strikeouts per nine innings. Jake Miller ranks third in the MVC in walks per nine innings at 12.23. Nolan Tucker ranks ninth in the league in hitting at .346. Fields is eighth in the league in ERA at 3.83.
Notes Wrapping Up Purdue
- This marked Valpo’s first extra-inning game of the season and first since beating Missouri State in 10 innings in the MVC Tournament on May 25, 2021 in Carbondale.
- Valpo fell to 2-3 in one-run games and 5-7 in games decided by two runs or fewer this season.
- Valpo continued to play tight games against their instate, power-five foes from the Big Ten Conference. Valpo has played Purdue seven times during Brian Schmack’s head coaching tenure, and all seven have been decided by four runs or fewer including a pair of Valpo victories.
- Kade Reinertson went 2-for-3 with two walks, reaching base four times to pace the Beacon bats. This was his first collegiate multi-hit game.
- Alex Thurston’s triple was his second of the season and the fourth of his career.
- Brady Renfro moved into the team lead in RBIs with 23 thanks to his bases-clearing double. That also extended his on-base streak to 11.
- Connor Lockwood pitched well but received no decision and was charged with five runs on six hits while walking one and striking out four over six plus innings.
Notes Wrapping Up Missouri State (April 22-24)
- Brady Renfro belted his team-leading seventh home run of the season and the 11th of his collegiate career in Saturday’s second game.
- Renfro became the third Valpo player this season to drive in his 20th run of the year.
- Alex Thurston launched his first collegiate home run in Saturday’s second game.
- Kaleb Hannahs finished with two hits in each game of Saturday’s doubleheader, reaching the 100-career-hit milestone.
- Missouri State lifted six home runs including three from Dakota Kotowski in Saturday’s doubleheader, then Kotowski slugged his fourth home run of the weekend on Sunday. The Bears hit nine home runs in the series.
In the Other Dugout: Southern Illinois
- Went on the road and won two of three against MVC preseason favorite Dallas Baptist last weekend.
- Also own series wins over Bradley and Evansville.
- Enter this weekend tied atop the MVC at 6-3.
- JT Weber is hitting a team-best .401 with 15 home runs and 37 RBIs, while Kaeber Rog is hitting .309 with 10 bombs and 42 driven in.
- Picked to finish tied for third in the MVC preseason poll.
Fields on the Single-Season Strikeout List: On April 23 vs. Missouri State, Colin Fields lifted his season strikeout total to 82, already surpassing his 81 strikeouts that led the team last season. In fact, with at least five projected starts remaining, Fields has already notched the team’s highest single-season strikeout total since Dalton Lundeen’s 94 in 2015. Fields is well positioned to become the first Valpo hurler to rack up 100 strikeouts in a single season since Bryce Shafer in 2010. To crack the top five in single-season program history, he needs to get to 103 strikeouts for the season. Three of the current top five single-season strikeout totals in program history came in 1972 or earlier.
Fields on the Career Strikeout List: 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. Fields turned in another gem to start MVC play on April 9 vs. Indiana State, logging six scoreless innings of five-hit ball while striking out eight. He now has 232 career strikeouts, a number that ranks eighth in program history. Fields has struck out seven or more in nine of his 10 starts 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
Colin Fields 2019-pres. 232
Tom Starck 2001-2004 222
Richard Beumer 1959-1962 217
Chuck Donley 1991-1995 212
Jim Pomeroy 1996-1999 202
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... Logged six scoreless innings of five-hit ball while striking out eight in the MVC opener on April 9 vs. Indiana State. That outing came against a team that entered the game leading the MVC and ranking 16th nationally in batting average. He jumped two more places on the program’s career strikeout list, advancing to eighth in program history... Took his first loss of the season on April 15 at Illinois State as he was touched for seven runs on 10 hits in five innings, his first rough outing of the year... Struck out seven over five innings of six-hit, three-run ball on April 23 in Game 1 of a doubleheader vs. Missouri State. He surpassed his season strikeout total from last season in that game, already notching the program’s highest single-season strikeout total since 2015 with five projected starts remaining.
- #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... Took the defeat in his first MVC start in Game 1 of a doubleheader vs. Indiana State on April 10... Picked up the win on April 16 at Illinois State, allowing one run on three hits over 5 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out five... Struck out nine while allowing four runs on five hits in six innings in Game 2 of an April 23 doubleheader vs. Missouri State, receiving no decision.
- #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... Made his first career weekend start on April 10 in Game 2 of a doubleheader vs. Indiana State. He received no decision after allowing four runs on seven hits and one walk in 5 1/3 innings... Earned his first collegiate victory in his hometown of Normal on April 17, pitching Valpo to a 2-1 win over Illinois State on Easter Sunday. He allowed just one run on four hits and one walk while striking out five over six strong innings... Took the defeat in the April 24 series finale vs. Missouri State, allowing five runs on five hits while striking out five in 4 1/3 innings.
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... Saw his 11-game hit streak end in the April 9 series opener vs. Indiana State, but bounced back by notching four hits in the middle game of the series on April 10, tying a career high and becoming the second Beacon with a four-hit game this season... Had two hits in each game of a doubleheader on April 23 vs. Missouri State, reaching the 100-hit milestone for his collegiate career.
- #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... Posted his first career two-homer game on April 16 at Illinois State, launching a pair of long balls in Valpo’s 10-2 victory over the Redbirds. He scored four runs in the game, becoming the first Valpo player to score four times in a game since May 8, 2018 vs. Western Michigan (both Chad Jacob and Blake Billinger).
- #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 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... 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... Drilled his fifth home run of the season on April 16 at Illinois State as part of a 10-2 win... Hit his sixth home run of the season and the 10th of his career to account for Valpo’s lone run on April 19 at No. 18 Notre Dame... Belted his seventh home run of the season and the 11th of his career on April 23 vs. Missouri State... Delivered a bases-clearing double on April 26 at Purdue.
- #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... Lined his first home run of the season and the second of his career on April 12 at Eastern Illinois.
- #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... Homered in both games of the April 10 doubleheader vs. Indiana State, launching his second and third home runs of the season. He drove in four in the nightcap, becoming just the second Valpo player with a four-RBI game this season.
- #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.
- #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.
- #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.
- #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... Turned in an inning of scoreless relief on April 19 at No. 18 Notre Dame.l
- #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... Worked a scoreless ninth on April 17 at Illinois State, preserving a 2-1 win for his seventh save of the season. He moved into a tie for 10th in program history in career saves.
- #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... Pitched 3 2/3 innings out of the bullpen during the series vs. Indiana State (April 9-10), allowing one run (which scored after he left the game) on three hits over two outings... Pitched two innings and allowed just one run (a solo homer) to finish out a 10-2 win at Illinois State on April 16.
- #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... Logged three shutout innings of two-hit ball out of the bullpen on April 15 in the series opener at Illinois State.
- #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... After missing the previous weekend due to an injury, pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen on April 15 at Illinois State.
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.
- #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.
- #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... Ripped a bases-clearing double in the ninth inning on April 12 at Eastern Illinois.
- #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... Had his first career multi-hit game and reached base four times on April 26 at Purdue.
- #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.
- 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.