Murray State (12-13, 1-2 MVC)
at Valparaiso (8-10, 0-3 MVC)
Emory G. Bauer Field (500) | Valparaiso, Ind.
Saturday, April 1, Noon – RHP Griffin McCluskey
Sunday, April 2, Noon (Game 1) – RHP Connor Lockwood
Sunday, April 2, To Follow (Game 2) – RHP Bobby Nowak
Next Up in Valpo Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team will continue a four-game homestand this weekend with the team’s first home series of the season as Murray State comes to town for a three-game Missouri Valley Conference set. The slate has been altered to one game on Saturday and two on Sunday due to Friday’s weather forecast, and there could be an additional adjustment if weather wreaks havoc on Saturday’s plans.
Last Time Out: Valpo began the home portion of the season in style on Tuesday night, walking off with a 7-6 victory thanks to Kaleb Hannahs’ third double of the game in the bottom of the 11th. That capped a seesaw affair that saw the teams go back and forth throughout. Bobby Nowak delivered 3 1/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief while striking out a career-high seven to earn the win.
Following the Beacons: Saturday’s game will air on ESPN3 and both of Sunday’s contests will be available on ESPN+. Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Brian Jennings (analyst) will have the call. Links to live video and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack (176-277) is in his 10th season in charge of the program. He ranks third in program history in seasons coached and games coached as he enters 2023 having skippered 435 Valpo games. He enters the season with 168 victories, one of four coaches in program history with over 150. 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 and Murray State have split eight all-time matchups, including a four-game nonconference series last season in Murray, Ky. The Racers won the first game 8-1 and the third game 5-1, while Valpo prevailed 7-2 in Game 2 and 6-1 in the series finale to earn the road split. This will mark Murray State’s first-ever trip to Valpo.
In the Other Dugout – Murray State
- Picked to finish ninth of 10 in the MVC preseason poll, one spot ahead of the Beacons.
- Dropped two of three in the first MVC series of the season vs. Bradley, but the middle game was a tight 4-3 defeat and the series finale was a lopsided 11-1 victory.
- Coming off a 12-6 midweek win at Austin Peay.
- Under the direction of fifth-year head coach Dan Skirka.
- The game-ending double by Kaleb Hannahs sent Valpo to a 7-6 victory over Milwaukee on March 28 and represented Hannahs’ third double of the game.
- The Valpo third baseman became just the second MVC player with a three-double game this year, joining Missouri State’s Taeg Gollert (Feb. 18 vs. Cal Poly).
- All three of Hannahs’ hits were two baggers, helping him become the first Valpo player since Zack Leone on April 25, 2018 at Notre Dame with three doubles in a game.
- Valpo had five doubles in the contest, the team’s highest single-game total since April 16, 2022 at Illinois State.
Kaleb Calls Game
- The third and final double of Kaleb Hannahs’ big day on March 28 vs. Milwaukee lifted the Beacons to their first walk-off win since April 23, 2021, when Valpo walked off to beat Southern Illinois in both games of a doubleheader, 7-6 in Game 1 and 4-3 in Game 2.
- Jonathan Temple delivered a walk-off home run in Game 1, and Riley Dent lashed a walk-off single in Game 2 in the aforementioned sweep of the Salukis.
- The win over the Panthers was Valpo’s second extra-inning game of the season and first since Feb. 25 at UT Martin, a 5-4, 10-inning triumph.
- This was the first time the team played 11 innings since March 20, 2021 at Western Kentucky.
- Valpo improved to 3-0 this season in one-run games. The team’s previous one-run affair was also decided by the exact score of 7-6 on March 4 at Little Rock.
- Kaleb Hannahs eventually played the role of hero in the March 28 walk-off win over Milwaukee, Valpo would not have reached that point without the right arm of Bobby Nowak.
- He threw 3 1/3 shutout innings while yielding one hit and walking two. He struck out seven and was the winning pitcher to improve to 2-0 on the season.
- Nowak entered the game in a tight spot, with the contest tied at six and runners at second and third with nobody out in the eighth. He recorded a swinging strikeout to end the frame.
- Over his last three outings, Nowak has thrown 5 1/3 innings and allowed no runs on one hit while striking out nine.
- Nowak allowed two runs on March 12 at No. 22 Southern Miss, but has not permitted any runs in his other seven outings this season.
- Nowak holds a microscopic 1.64 ERA this season in eight games, working 11 innings.
- The Northwest Indiana native is slated to make first Valpo start in his 26th appearance with the Brown & Gold this weekend. He is set to become the sixth different Valpo pitcher to start a game this season.
Two for the Price of One
- Valpo has had a knack for turning two so far this season, as the team has turned 18 twin-killings in 18 games.
- The Beacons are tied for 13th nationally in double plays per game and are one of just 17 teams in the country who have averaged at least one defensive double play per game played this season.
- Several other Missouri Valley Conference members are among the national leaders in turning two. UIC ranks ninth with 1.05 DPs per game, while Southern Illinois leads the nation at 1.44.
Renfro Reaching Regularly
- Brady Renfro reached base in 18 consecutive games. He has boarded the bases in every game this season.
- This marks the longest on-base streak by a Valpo player since Kaleb Hannahs reached in the final 20 games of the 2021 season.
- Part of Renfro’s success in getting on base has been thanks to his patience. He ranks second in The Valley and 25th nationally with 1.06 bases on balls per game.
Other Notes Wrapping Up March 28 (Valpo 7, Milwaukee 6; F/11)
- Brady Renfro launched his third home run of the season and his 14th in a Valpo uniform.
- Alex Thurston had his first triple of the season and the sixth of his career.
- The Panthers trotted out eight different pitchers. Valpo starter Ryan Mintz was able to go five and issued no walks.
- Each team had 12 hits, the fourth time in the last five games that Valpo has outhit the opponent or been tied in the hit column.
Home at Last
- On March 28 vs. Milwaukee, Valpo finally lifted the lid on the home portion of the season after 17 straight away from home.
- The Beacons have won three consecutive home openers.
- Here’s a look at home opener dates and results during the Brian Schmack Era, during which time the program holds a 5-4 mark in home lidlifters.
Year Date Opponent Result
2023 March 28 Milwaukee W 7-6 (F/11)
2022 March 25 St. Bonaventure W 8-5
2021 April 23 SIU W 7-6
2019 March 23 Butler L 6-4
2018 March 26 Ball State L 13-5
2017 April 8 NKU W 8-7
2016 March 25 Wright St L 9-6
2015 March 20 YSU W 9-5
2014 April 2 NIU L 10-6
Pencil Them In
- The top of the Valpo lineup has featured very little movement this season, and seven players have started all 18 games.
- Seven of Valpo’s nine regular starters have been in the program three years or more, with the only exceptions being Ryan Maka (second season) and Jake Skrine (first season).
On the Board Early
- Valpo has struck first in 12 of the team’s 18 games this season.
- The first frame has been a prosperous one for the Beacons, who have jumped on the board in the opening inning in nine of their 18 contests. Valpo was 6-1 in those games before scoring in the first inning and eventually dropping both games of the March 26 doubleheader at Indiana State.
Other Notes Wrapping Up the Sycamore Series
- Friday’s game was postponed due to rain and made up as part of a doubleheader on Sunday.
- Saturday’s series opener saw Indiana State prevail 10-1 behind ace Matt Jachec, a first-team all-conference pitcher from last season. He allowed one run on four hits while walking none and striking out eight to earn the win.
- Brady Renfro and Kade Reinertson reached base twice each in the series opener. Half of Valpo’s four hits went for extra bases as Renfro and Alex Ryan both doubled. Renfro doubled and scored in the top of the seventh, allowing the Beacons to extend the game and narrowly dodge the implementation of the 10-run rule.
- Indiana State won the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader 7-2 with Jake Skrine accounting for Valpo’s lone multi-hit effort. Each team had eight hits, but the Sycamores strung together hits in their one big inning (a five-run sixth) and had four extra-base knocks to Valpo’s one.
- Valpo dropped the series finale and the second game of Sunday’s double dip 4-2 as the hit column once again failed to tell the game’s story. Valpo outhit Indiana State 10-8.
- Kyle Schmack and Ryan Maka both had multi-hit games in the series finale. Maka had his fifth of the year, while Schmack had his team-leading eighth.
- The bullpen was a bright spot in Sunday’s series finale as Nathan Chasey (3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB), Grant Jablonski (1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB) and Bobby Nowak (1 IP, all zeros) combined for five innings of two-hit, shutout ball while walking one.
- Indiana State extended its head-to-head winning streak over Valpo to 22 games. The Beacons have yet to beat the Sycamores since joining the Missouri Valley Conference prior to the 2018 season with their last win over their instate rivals coming in 2007.
Notes Wrapping Up March 21: Notre Dame 8, Valpo 4
- Valpo outhit the opposition for the ninth time this season. This was just the second time the Beacons dropped a game in which they outhit the opponent, something that would do two more times later that week at Indiana State.
- Valpo has consistently been competitive in matchups with Notre Dame over the years, but has struggled to get over the hump and win the game. Seven of the last eight matchups have been decided by four runs or fewer, but Notre Dame owns a 14-game head-to-head winning streak.
- Nolan Tucker had three hits, his sixth multi-hit game in the team’s 14 contests this season. This marked his third game with three or more hits.
- Also boasting two hits was Ryan Maka, his fourth multi-hit contest.
- Kyle Schmack and Brady Renfro drove in two runs apiece. Schmack upped his team-leading RBI total to 17, while Renfro beefed up his total to 13.
- Bobby Nowak pitched a perfect bottom of the eighth.
- Nathan Chasey allowed one run on two hits and no walks in three innings. He made his first career start in his 41st appearance with the Brown & Gold.
- Prior to its recent 0-4 week at Notre Dame and Indiana State, Valpo stood at 7-6 through 13 games. That marked the program’s best record at this juncture of the season since Paul Twenge’s group won eight of its first 13 in 1997.
- Through nine games, the Valpo baseball program was off to its best start since Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and way before Nirvana as the team’s 6-3 record was its best at this point in the season since 1985. Head coach Rick Ferchen’s team began 1985 with a 7-2 mark through nine games.
- The highlight of the sizzling start was a five-game winning streak that was snapped in Sunday’s series finale at Little Rock. That marked the team’s longest winning streak since recording six straight from May 15-25, 2016. That stretch featured wins over Oakland, Youngstown State and Northern Kentucky.
- Valpo was recognized by D1Baseball as one of three “Upsets of the Night” on March 10 after beating No. 22 Southern Miss 6-1 in the series opener.
- The victory snapped the team’s skid of 15 straight losses against nationally-ranked opponents and marked the team’s first victory over a top-25 foe since beating No. 25 Illinois on April 17, 2018.
- At No. 22, Southern Miss was the highest ranked team that Valpo has defeated since a win over No. 9 Arizona State on April 21, 2013.
- Southern Miss entered the game ranked No. 22 by Baseball America, the NCBWA and D1Baseball, while ranking No. 24 in the coaches’ poll and No. 30 according to Collegiate Baseball.
- The Golden Eagles were the preseason favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference and won an NCAA Regional last season before falling to Ole Miss in the Super Regional. They own a streak of six straight 40-win seasons, the longest such streak in Division-I Baseball.
- Southern Miss swept former Missouri Valley Conference member (and powerhouse) Dallas Baptist the weekend prior to dropping the game to the Beacons.
Outdueling An All-American
- In the 6-1 victory at No. 22 Southern Miss on March 10, Valpo handed 2022 consensus All-American starting pitcher Tanner Hall the loss. He went six innings and allowed two runs on six hits while walking two and striking out five.
- Hall was outdueled by Valpo starting pitcher Jacob Rosenkranz, who yielded one run on just two hits in six innings to pick up the win. He walked only one and notched three strikeouts, needing only 60 pitches to get through six frames.
- The win marked the second of Rosenkranz’s career, with both coming this season. His prior victory occurred on Feb. 26 at UT Martin.
- Rosenkranz was making the second start of his collegiate career and his first of the season. This one had a far different result than his first collegiate start, which came way back on March 14, 2021 at Middle Tennessee. In that outing, he did not record an out and was charged with three runs on one hit while walking two.
- After Rosenkranz was lifted, Ryan Mintz did the rest, working in and out of trouble over three scoreless innings to nail down his first career save.
- Thanks to his standout showing on the mound in the win over the Eagles, Rosenkranz was named MVC Pitcher of the Week on March 13. He became the second Valpo pitcher to earn an MVC weekly award this season, joining Connor Lockwood. They join Jake Miller, Colin Fields (twice) and Easton Rhodehouse as the only Valpo hurlers to achieve MVC Pitcher of the Week status since the program joined the league.
It’s Grand Salami Time
- While Jacob Rosenkranz carved on the mound, it was Brady Renfro who delivered Valpo’s big offensive blow of the game in the March 10 upset of No. 22 Southern Miss.
- With the bases loaded in the seventh, Renfro belted a 409-foot grand slam featuring an exit velocity of 104 to stretch Valpo’s lead to 6-1.
- Renfro’s slam was the first by a Valpo player since Sam Shaikin on March 3, 2019 at UNCW.
- Renfro became the ninth Valpo player to hit a grand slam since Brian Schmack took over as head coach in 2014, joining Shaikin, Jayden Eggiman (April 11, 2018 vs. Milwaukee), Chase Dawson (March 16, 2018 at Arkansas Pine Bluff), James Stea (April 13, 2017 vs. Oakland), Nate Palace (May 15, 2016 vs. Oakland), Giovanni Garbella (April 25, 2016 vs. Purdue North Central), Dustin Beasley (March 2, 2015 at Western Carolina), and Nolan Lodden (March 1, 2015 at Gardner Webb).
- The home run was Renfro’s second of the season and the 13th of his collegiate career.
Other Notes Wrapping Up Southern Miss
- Nolan Tucker had a triple in the series opener, the first by a member of the Beacons this season and the second of Tucker’s career.
- Jake Skrine saw his 10-game hitting streak – the longest by a Valpo player this season – come to an end in the Saturday game against the Golden Eagles.
- Three double-figure on-base streaks were extended over the weekend as Nolan Tucker (13), Brady Renfro (13) and Jake Skrine (12) all stretched their streaks.
- Kyle Schmack had Valpo’s only multi-hit performance in Sunday’s series finale, his team-leading seventh of the season.
- Nathan Chasey heaved three scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the March 12 series finale.
- Valpo has featured a flair for the dramatic this season, twice coming from behind to win with ninth-inning rallies.
- The first such comeback came on Feb. 25 at UT Martin, when Valpo was down to its final out in the top of the ninth when Nolan Tucker singled to tie the game at four. A bases-loaded hit by pitch helped Valpo produce the go-ahead run in the 10th, a game the Beacons won 5-4.
- The March 4 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Little Rock was equally as improbable, as the Beacons were down 6-3 going to the ninth before plating four to win 7-6. A two-run single by Brady Renfro tied the game and an RBI double by Jake Skrine gave Valpo the lead.
- Valpo had lost 66 straight games when trailing after eight innings before winning back-to-back games under those circumstances. Prior to the UT Martin rally, the last time Valpo trailed through eight and prevailed was May 10, 2019 vs. Southern Illinois, a 5-4, 14-inning win.
- Prior to this season, Valpo had not won multiple games when trailing through eight innings in the same season since 2012, when they won three such games. This year, Valpo produced multiple ninth-inning rallies in the first seven games of the year.
Other Notes Wrapping Up Little Rock
- Valpo outhit Little Rock 12-8 in the series opener, but had to overcome a Little Rock advantage in the extra-base hit department. Six of the eight hits by the Trojans went for extra bases including four home runs, while 10 of Valpo’s 12 knocks were singles.
- Valpo pitching registered 12 strikeouts in the series opener, the third time this season the Beacon arms have fanned double figures. The nightcap of the Saturday doubleheader saw Valpo again tally double-figure strikeouts on the mound (10), the fourth time this season that has occurred.
- The Beacon bats produced a dozen hits in the series opener and 10 in each of the next two games. They have been in double figures in the hit column in six straight contests.
- The doubleheader sweep of the Trojans on March 4 was Valpo’s first doubleheader sweep since March 25, 2022 vs. St. Bonaventure.
Nowak Nailing It Down: Bobby Nowak nailed down eight saves last season, finishing just outside the program’s single-season top 5. He finished with Valpo’s highest single-season save total since 2014, when Karch Kowalczyk had 11. The righty nailed down his first save of 2023 on March 4 at Little Rock, the ninth save of his Valpo career. That helped him climb into a tie for eighth in program history in career saves, joining Adam Paetznick (2001-2004).
Valpo’s Career Saves List
- Jarad Miller, 2008-2012, 36
- Karch Kowalczyk, 2010-2014, 24
- Adam Knobel, 2002-2005, 14
- Justin Craker, 1998-2001, 13
- Easton Rhodehouse, 2017-2021, 11
T-6. Dallas Cawiezell, 2005-2007, 10
T-6. Jon Tieman, 2017-2021, 10
T-8. Adam Paetznick, 2001-2004, 9
T-8. Bobby Nowak, 2022, 9
- Chip Pettit, 1993-1996, 8
Bringing Out the Brooms
- Valpo’s three-game sweep of UT Martin marked the program’s first series sweep of three or more games since May 10-12, 2019 vs. Southern Illinois at Emory G. Bauer Field.
- This was the team’s first sweep of a road series of three or more games since March 18-20, 2016 at Northern Kentucky.
- Not only did Valpo polish off the sweep on Sunday, Feb. 26, but the Beacons invoked the 10-run rule with a 17-4 blowout. The 17 runs marked Valpo’s highest total since also scoring 17 on May 1, 2021 at Illinois State.
- The Beacons notched 17 hits for the second time in the series in Sunday’s series finale. Prior to that series, the program had not recorded 17 or more hits in a game since 18 in the aforementioned May 1, 2021 game against the Redbirds.
- They had not notched 17 or more hits in a road game since May 8, 2018 at Western Michigan.
- The 13-run margin of victory was Valpo’s largest since beating Milwaukee 23-5 on April 11, 2018.
- Valpo hit four home runs in the series finale, its highest single-game home run total since launching five on May 1, 2021 vs. Illinois State.
- The three-game series against the Skyhawks saw Valpo produce 32 runs on 46 hits while batting .383 and slugging seven home runs.
- While Valpo won two of the three games at UT Martin in lopsided fashion, the middle game of the series featured significant late drama. UT Martin took the lead by scoring twice in the eighth, then Valpo tied it despite being down to its final out in the ninth before winning it with a run in the 10th.
- This was Valpo’s first extra-inning game since April 26 of last season, a 6-5 loss at Purdue.
- This was the squad’s first extra-inning victory since a 6-4 win over Missouri State in the opening round of the MVC Tournament on May 25, 2021.
- The 6-5 edging of UT Martin was Valpo’s first one-run win since May 1, 2022 at Southern Illinois, an 11-10 triumph.
Jumping on the Jayhawks
- Valpo’s 11-3 win in the middle game of the series vs. Kansas represented the program’s first win over a Power-5 conference opponent since knocking off No. 25 Illinois 11-7 on April 17, 2018.
- This marked Valpo’s second Big 12 win of the Brian Schmack Era and first since beating Oklahoma 11-4 on Feb. 24, 2018.
- The 11 runs represented the team’s highest single-game run total since beating Southern Illinois 11-10 on May 1 of last season.
Lockwood = Locked In
- Connor Lockwood built on his late-season success from 2022 in his first outing of 2023, delivering seven shutout innings of two-hit ball while walking none and fanning six to earn the victory in Saturday’s 11-3 triumph vs. Kansas.
- The seven innings marked the longest outing of Lockwood’s career after he went no longer than six as a freshman last season.
- This was the first outing of Lockwood’s career where he pitched shutout ball while throwing more than three innings.
- The six strikeouts outdid his previous career high of four.
- By virtue of his successful outing against the Jayhawks, Lockwood was tabbed the MVC Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 20. He joins Jake Miller, Colin Fields (twice) and Easton Rhodehouse as the only Valpo hurlers to garner MVC Pitcher of the Week accolades since the program joined the Missouri Valley Conference.
- Valpo slugged six home runs in the season-opening series with Kansas, including two from Jake Skrine, a graduate transfer from Indiana University who was competing in his first weekend with the Brown & Gold. Skrine’s home runs were the first two of his collegiate career.
- Kade Reinertson’s three-run big fly in Saturday’s game played a crucial role in the outcome. That was his first collegiate home run and came as part of a four-RBI game. He entered the day with one RBI in his first 23 career games.
- Kyle Schmack spanked the 10th homer of his Valpo career, while Brady Renfro had his 12th and Nolan Tucker contributed his third.
- The most home runs Valpo hit in a single series last year was three. The six home runs in Corpus Christi marked Valpo’s most in a series since six in a home set with Illinois State from April 30 – May 2, 2021, and that was a four gamer.
Other Notes Wrapping up Kansas
- Grant Jablonski worked 3 1/3 shutout innings of hitless ball while striking out four and walking one in Sunday’s game. That marked his career high in terms of both innings pitched and strikeouts. He faced the minimum as the only player who reached base against him was erased on a double play.
- Redshirt sophomore Matt Olive made his season debut in Sunday’s game as the designated hitter. That was his first appearance since March 13, 2022 after he missed the bulk of last season with an injury.
- Valpo outhit the Jayhawks 5-4 in Sunday’s game and owned an overall 17-14 edge in the hit column over the three games.
- Four of Kansas’ six runs in the rubber match were unearned tallies.
- Valpo pitchers notched 10 strikeouts on opening day and fanned 26 Jayhawks over the three games.
Inside the Schedule
- The 2023 nonconference schedule will see Valpo take on opponents from nine different conferences including four of the power five – the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten and SEC as well as the Ohio Valley Conference, Sun Belt, Summit League, Horizon League and Mid-American Conference.
- Valpo will make a trip to preseason top-25 Southern Miss (March 10-12) to match up with a team that won Conference USA last season as part of a 47-19 record, hosting and winning an NCAA Regional before making an NCAA Super Regional appearance.
- Valpo will play twice at Notre Dame (March 21, April 18), a team that reached the College World Series as part of a 41-7 season last year.
- Valpo’s program produced a pair of pitchers who went on to continue their careers in professional organizations following the 2022 spring.
- Left-hander Jake Miller was selected with the 237th overall pick in the eighth round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Detroit Tigers. He became Valpo’s first draft choice since Scott Kapers was selected in the 17th round of the 2018 draft by the Texas Rangers.
- Miller was Valpo’s highest draft choice since 2010, when Kyle Gaedele went to the San Diego Padres in the sixth round. The New York native was the highest Missouri Valley Conference pitcher taken in the 2022 draft.
- Miller made his professional debut by pitching in five games in 2022 for the Lakeland Flying Tigers of the Class-A Florida State League.
- Right-hander Colin Fields was signed by the Tigers as an undrafted free agent following the 2022 draft.
- Miller and Fields are part of a long list of Tiger ties within Valpo’s program. Valpo legend Lloyd McClendon was on the Tigers big league coaching staff from 2006-2013 and 2017-2020 including a stint as interim manager, former Valpo players Bo McClendon and Dalton Lundeen were also drafted by the Tigers, Valpo head coach Brian Schmack played in the big leagues with the Tigers in 2003 and current Valpo player Patrick Ilitch is the grandson of longtime Tigers owner Michael Ilitch (1992-2017) and the nephew of current owner Christopher Ilitch (2017-present).
Who’s Back, Who’s Gone, Who’s New?
- The Valpo offense is loaded with returning talent in 2023 as 82.7 percent of the team’s hits from last season came from players who are back for the 2023 campaign. The top six Beacons in terms of batting average return and 11 of the 15 position players who saw action a year ago are back with the program.
- Relievers Nathan Chasey and Bobby Nowak are back after posting the club’s top two ERAs a year ago, but the top two arms in the weekend rotation – Jake Miller and Colin Fields – were snatched up by the Detroit Tigers.
- Valpo’s newcomers include five freshmen (Kyle Tyler, Will Radich, Adam Guazzo, Cole Syversen and Thomas Cooper), two junior college transfers (Josh Spencer and Kaleb Krier) and one four-year transfer (Jake Skrine, Indiana).
Tucker’s Tear: Nolan Tucker hauled in several awards at the conclusion of the 2022 campaign as he was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper while also earning All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team and MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team honors. He was in his third season on campus but qualified for the Freshman All-American honor based on receiving a medical redshirt in 2021 and the 2020 campaign not counting toward eligibility due to COVID-19. Tucker finished his 2022 season second in the conference in batting average both overall (.365) and in league play (.384). He also ranked ninth in the league in on-base percentage (.440) and had four hits on three different occasions. He finished with the highest batting average by a Valpo player since Ryan O’Gara hit .388 in 2010, making a significant jump after entering the season with a .188 batting average. He finished a home run shy of the natural cycle on April 30 at Southern Illinois as his single, double and triple came in that order as part of a four-hit game. That helped him earn MVC Player of the Week on May 2.
Sophomore Jump: Valpo shortstop Alex Thurston enjoyed a sophomore jump rather than a sophomore slump last season. After hitting .158 as a freshman, Thurston finished the season with a .301 batting average, the second-best on the team and one of two Beacons to finish the year above the .300 line.
Renfro’s Rise: After finishing with a .231 batting average in 2021 both overall and in MVC play, Brady Renfro hit for Valpo’s second-highest batting average in league play last year. He ranked fifth on the team with a .252 nonconference batting average, but did his best offensive work in league play, where he finished second on the squad with a .319 average.
- #38 RHP Griffin McCluskey, Jr. (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) – As a freshman, got the starting nod on May 11, 2021 vs. No. 8 Notre Dame 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... Earned his first collegiate victory in his hometown of Normal on April 17, 2022, 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... Was Valpo’s 2023 opening day starter vs. Kansas in Corpus Christi, Texas... Picked up his first win of the season with five innings of one-run, four-hit ball while striking out four on Feb. 24 at UT Martin... Logged four innings and allowed three runs on four hits with three of the four hits leaving the yard on March 4 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Little Rock. This was the first outing of his career where he logged two innings or more and did not issue a walk... Started and worked two scoreless innings at 2021 national champion and SEC foe Mississippi State on March 7.
- #11 RHP Connor Lockwood, So. (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... Finished his freshman season with an 0-5 record and 7.30 ERA in 2022, but did his best work late in the year, posting a 1.80 ERA over his last three regular-season starts... Pitched three scoreless innings of one-hit ball on May 7 vs. DBU before working 2 2/3 shutout frames while allowing one hit on May 13 vs. Bradley... Started his 2023 season with a gem, earning the win thanks to a career-long seven innings and a career-high six strikeouts while allowing no runs on two hits and walking none in an 11-3 victory over Big 12 foe Kansas in Corpus Christi, Texas on Feb. 18... Logged 6 1/3 innings of two-run, four-hit ball while striking out six on Feb. 25 at UT Martin... Pitched six innings, allowing three runs on six hits while walking one to earn the victory in Game 2 of a doubleheader on March 4 at Little Rock.
- #39 RHP Ryan Mintz (Jr*., 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... Started eight games over his first two seasons but all 12 appearances in 2022 came in relief... Worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings on March 19, 2022 at Murray State... Tossed three shutout frames on April 15, 2022 at Illinois State... Earned his first career save by working in and out of trouble over three scoreless innings to close out the team’s upset of No. 22 Southern Miss... Kept Valpo in the game with five innings of four-run ball while issuing no walks on March 28 vs. Milwaukee.
- #10 LHP Christian Hack, So. (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... Appeared in six games out of the Valpo bullpen and logged 6 2/3 innings as a freshman in 2022... Finished out the Feb. 26 win at UT Martin with 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball while yielding one hit.
- #12 RHP Jacob Rosenkranz, Jr*. (Lincolnshire, Ill. / Stevenson) – Lived in Texas for 13 years... Favorite TV show is Breaking Bad... Made five appearances in 2020 (COVID shortened), 13 in 2021 (one start) and 12 in 2022... Finished the 2022 season with a 5.79 ERA, but if you take out two bad outings (March 13 at SEMO and April 10 vs. Indiana State), he had a 1.84 ERA over his other 10 games... Earned his first career win with 3 1/3 innings of one-run, two-hit ball on Feb. 26 at UT Martin... Picked up the win in an upset of No. 22 Southern Miss in his second career start and first in two years on March 10, allowing one run on two hits while striking out three. He needed just 60 pitches to get through six innings.
- #16 RHP Josh Cottrill, R-So. (Pewaukee, Wis. / Pewaukee) – Redshirted in 2021 during his first season on campus, then logged 8 2/3 innings in seven games out of the bullpen in 2022... Best outing of 2022 came on April 1 at UIC, when he did not allow a hit or walk over 2 2/3 shutout innings while striking out three... 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... Pitched a shutout inning on Feb. 24 at UT Martin.
- #32 RHP Bobby Nowak, Sr. (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central) – Hobbies include hunting and fishing... Favorite movie is Indiana Jones... Touted as a pitcher with strength who can spin it well... Received 2022 All-MVC Honorable Mention... Nailed down eight saves in 2022, one shy of cracking the program’s single-season top five... Had Valpo’s highest single-season save total since 2014... Finished his first season at Valpo already ranked ninth in program history in career saves... Ranked second on the team in ERA at 5.09 while appearing in 17 games out of the bullpen in 2022... Earned his first career win while striking out six in 2 1/3 innings on Feb. 25 at UT Martin... Nailed down the ninth save of his career to help Valpo beat Little Rock 7-6 on March 4 in Game 1 of a doubleheader, moving into a tie for eighth in program history in career saves... Struck out a career-high seven and earned the win thanks to 3 1/3 shutout innings of relief on March 28 vs. Milwaukee.
- #34 RHP Grant Jablonski, Jr*. (Mishawaka, Ind. / Mishawaka) – Appeared in four games in 2021 and two in 2020 before appearing in nine games in 2022... 2019 Indiana All-Star while earning all-state honors... Favorite TV show is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia... Worked 3 1/3 shutout innings of hitless ball while striking out four and walking one in his Feb. 19 season debut vs. Kansas in Corpus Christi, Texas. That marked his career high in terms of both innings pitched and strikeouts. He faced the minimum as the only player who reached base against him was erased on a double play.
- #42 RHP Nathan Chasey, Sr.* (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... Posted a 4.76 ERA in 14 relief appearances in 2022... Allowed one run on four hits in four innings in the Feb. 17 season opener vs. Kansas in Corpus Christi, Texas... Allowed one run on two hits over three innings on Feb. 24 at UT Martin... Earned his second career save by pitching the final three innings of a 9-3 victory in Game 2 of a doubleheader at Little Rock on March 4. Seven of the nine outs he recorded were strikeouts... Heaved three scoreless innings out of the bullpen on March 12 in the series finale at No. 22 Southern Miss... Allowed one run on two hits and no walks in three innings in his first career start in his 41st appearance with the Brown & Gold on March 21 at Notre Dame... Worked three scoreless innings of two-hit ball in the March 26 series finale at Indiana State.
Position Player Profiles – Projected Lineup (Based on Recent Games)
- #15 Kaleb Hannahs, 3B, Jr. (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, Valpo has two sons of Missouri Valley Conference head baseball coaches in the starting lineup… 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… Earned MVC Player of the Week on May 3, 2021 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... 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... Named to the 2022 MVC All-Defensive Team... Led the team in runs scored with 36 while starting all 48 games in 2022, posting a .275 batting average... Became the first Valpo player in five years with a three-double game including a walk-off two-bagger in the team’s 7-6, 11-inning victory vs. Milwaukee on March 28.
- #1 Nolan Tucker, 2B, R-So*. (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… 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... Lashed out four hits and was a homer away from the natural cycle after recording a single, double and triple in that order in his first three plate appearances on April 30, 2022 at SIU... Hit .667 (8-for-12) over a three-game series at SIU (April 30-May 1, 2022)... Named the MVC Player of the Week on May 2, 2022... 2022 All-MVC First Team, MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Freshman All-American (qualified due to medical redshirt year and COVID year despite being in his third season on campus)... Led the team in hitting and finished with Valpo’s highest single-season batting average since 2010 at .365... Had his first home run of the season and the third of his career on Feb. 19 vs. Kansas in Corpus Christi, Texas... Hit .533 and launched two home runs in the series sweep at UT Martin... Had the first triple by a Beacon this season and the second of his career on March 10 in the win at No. 22 Southern Miss... Had three hits on March 21 at Notre Dame.
- #27 Kyle Schmack, LF, Jr*. (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... Ripped his third home run of the season and fifth of his career in Game 2 of a doubleheader on March 19, 2022 at Murray State, his 21st birthday... Reached base 10 times in the April 1, 2022 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)... Hit for a .292 average that ranked third on the team in 2022 while also tying for the club lead in both home runs (seven) and RBIs (27)... Hit his first home run of the 2023 season on Feb. 19 vs. Kansas.
- #30 Brady Renfro, 1B, Jr. (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… 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... Named All-MVC Honorable Mention... Was one of two players to start all 48 games for Valpo in 2022... Tied for the team lead in both home runs (seven) and RBIs (27) while also posting a .275 batting average during the 2022 campaign... Hit .319 in MVC play in 2022, ranking second on the team in league-only batting average while driving in a team-high 11 runs in Valley action... Drilled a solo homer in the Feb. 17, 2023 season opener vs. Kansas in Corpus Christi, Texas... Had three hits and reached base four times in a 7-6 win at Little Rock on March 4... Drilled the first grand slam by a Valpo player since 2019 on March 10, the big blow of the team’s upset win at No. 22 Southern Miss... Extended his on-base streak to 18 while launching his third home run of the season on March 28 vs. Milwaukee.
- #5 Jake Skrine, DH, Sr. – Joined the program prior to the 2023 season as a Big 10 transfer from Indiana University... Pursuing a public health certificate... Lived in Puerto Rico for two years... Favorite MLB player is Hank Aaron... Spanked his first collegiate home run – a solo shot – in an 11-3 win over Kansas on Feb. 18 in Corpus Christi, Texas... Wasted no time in notching his second home run of the season the very next day in the Feb. 19 series finale vs. Kansas... Drove in four runs in a 9-3 win at Little Rock on March 4.
- #22 Ryan Maka, OF, So. (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... Delivered his first collegiate home run on March 29, 2022 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne... Became the first Valpo player since 2018 and second since 2008 to notch a three-homer game on May 13, 2022 vs. Bradley. Had four home runs in that series and five extra-base hits en route to earning Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Week recognition... Ranked third on the team in MVC-only batting average at .286 and tied for the team lead with four home runs in Valley play in 2022... Hit .571 in the series sweep at UT Martin... Drilled a three-run homer as part of a go-ahead five-run seventh inning in a 9-3 win at Little Rock on March 4.
- #6 Alex Thurston, SS, Jr. (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... Posted five hits on April 29, 2022 at Southern Illinois, becoming the first Valpo player with a five-hit game since Scott Kapers on May 8, 2018 at Western Michigan... After hitting .158 in 2021, made a significant jump with a team-high .301 batting average in 2022 while playing in 47 games, all starts... Hit his second career home run and first of the season on March 5 at Little Rock.
- #19 Kade Reinertson, C., R-So. (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... Played in 22 games and made 17 starts in 2022... Had his first career home run – a three-run bomb as part of a four-RBI day – in Valpo’s 11-3 victory over Kansas on Feb. 18.
- #17 Alex Ryan, CF, Jr. (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... Played in 46 games (44 starts) in 2022... Tied for second in the league in triples and also tied for second in the MVC with five sacrifice bunts in 2022... Hit his first home run of the season and the second of his career on March 5 at Little Rock.
Off the Bench
- #4 Spencer Warfield, OF, So. (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... Appeared in 18 games and made 13 starts during his freshman season in 2022.
- #9 Matt Olive, OF, R-So., (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School) – Majoring in mechanical engineering with minors in Spanish and mathematics… 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... Received a medical redshirt for the 2022 campaign after playing in just five games prior to a season-ending injury.... Was in the lineup at designated hitter on Feb. 19 vs. Kansas, making his first appearance since March 13, 2022 after missing the bulk of last season with an injury... Hit his first home run of the season and the third of his career on March 5 at Little Rock.
- It’s never too early to glance ahead to 2024, as the program has announced four signees for next season, all pitchers.
- Lucas Foley (Deer Park, Ill. / Lake Zurich), Bennett Musser (Round Lake, Ill. / Mundelein), Jake Jakubowski (Lake in the Hills, Ill. / Huntley [Heartland]) and Jack Thompson (Rosemount, Minn. / Rosemount) have signed to join the program for the 2023-2024 academic and athletic year.
- Thoughts from Head Coach Brian Schmack on the Incoming Class: “The goal going into recruiting for the 2023 class was identifying strike throwers who can fit into our pitching philosophy. We think we found four guys who will be able to come in and compete in the zone immediately. We also look at each of the guys and think there is some runway for them physically to be able to gain strength and velocity as they mature and get into our lifting program.”
Inside the Assistants: Top assistant Kory Winter returns to head coach Brian Schmack’s staff this season, while assistant coaches Jeff Mayes and Trey Matthews have 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.
- Jeff Mayes is in his first season on the Valpo coaching staff, serving as the team’s infield coach. He spent the previous three seasons on staff at his alma mater Aurora University, a Division-III institution in Illinois, where the program amassed an 83-21 record during his tenure. Prior to that, he enjoyed a standout playing career for the Spartans.
- Trey Matthews joined the staff prior to the 2023 campaign. He serves as the team’s catching coach. Matthews grew up in Florida and played at Plant City High School before continuing his playing career at Southern Western University. He transferred to Warner University, where he graduated in 2020 before beginning his coaching career with stints at a Florida high school and at Warner prior to his current role.