Illinois State (18-29, 7-17 MVC)
at Valparaiso (19-23, 9-15 MVC)
Emory G. Bauer Field (500) | Valparaiso, Ind.
Thursday, May 18, 3 p.m. CT – RHP Griffin McCluskey
Friday, May 19, 1 p.m. CT – TBD
Saturday, May 20, 1 p.m. CT – TBD
Next Up in Valpo Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball program has put itself in a good position to make the upcoming Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in Terre Haute, but there is still work to be done this weekend at Emory G. Bauer Field. Valpo enters the three-game series against Illinois State needing one victory to lock up a conference-tournament berth. Valpo, Illinois State, Belmont and Bradley are all battling for the final two spots in the league tournament entering this weekend. In addition to important games, there will be a lot going on at Emory G. Bauer Field this weekend as Saturday will be a Valpo Alumni event with former members of the baseball program returning to town as well as senior day with three seniors being recognized as part of a pregame ceremony that will begin at 12:40 p.m.
Last Time Out: Valpo blitzed Belmont 12-3 in the series opener on Friday afternoon in Nashville as Griffin McCluskey delivered a strong pitching performance and Kyle Schmack and Jake Skrine both belted home runs. The Bruins did rally to win the remaining games in the weekend series, invoking the 10-run rule in a 13-3 win on Saturday before capturing a 5-1 triumph in the Sunday finale.
Following the Beacons: The Thursday and Friday games will air on ESPN+, while the Saturday contest will be carried on ESPN3. Todd Ickow will describe the scene with his play-by-play for all three games, while he’ll be joined by a star-studded cast of color analysts featuring Leo Staudacher (Thursday), Brian Jennings (Friday) and Aaron Leavitt (Saturday). Links to live video and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com. For all the latest in Valpo Baseball, follow @ValpoBaseball on Twitter and Instagram.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack (187-290) is in his 10th season in charge of the program. He ranks third in program history in seasons coached and games coached as he entered 2023 having skippered 435 Valpo games. He entered 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 holds a 15-25-1 all-time record in a series that dates back to 1969. The Brown & Gold went on the road and took two of three from the Redbirds last season in Normal after bouncing Illinois State from the MVC Tournament with a 6-5 win in Carbondale the year prior. Valpo also won three of four in the 2021 regular-season series at Emory G. Bauer Field. The Beacons are 8-6 against Illinois State since joining the Missouri Valley Conference including a 7-2 record in the last nine matchups.
McCluskey vs. Hometown Team: Griffin McCluskey will try to pitch Valpo into the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Thursday, and he will do so against his hometown team. The Normal, Ill. native will look to once again rise to the occasion against the Redbirds. Last season, he earned his first collegiate victory on April 17 in his hometown by limiting Illinois State to one run on four hits while walking one and striking out five over six quality innings, helping Valpo win the rubber match of the road series.
Senior Salute: Valpo will recognize three seniors as part of a pregame ceremony that is slated to begin at 12:40 p.m. on Saturday. The Beacons will recognize the trio of seniors who are completing their eligibility this year – pitcher Bobby Nowak, pitcher Nathan Chasey and catcher Jake Skrine.
In the Other Dugout – Illinois State
- Picked to finish seventh in the MVC preseason poll.
- Were swept in a key series with UIC at home last weekend, losing the first two games 10-0 and 11-2 before falling 3-2 in the finale.
- Have dropped six of their last seven but prior to that, picked up a road series win over Southern Illinois.
- Both teams are under the direction of ex-big leaguers as Illinois State head coach Steve Holm played for the San Francisco Giants (2008, 2009) and Minnesota Twins (2011), while of course Valpo’s Brian Schmack pitched for the Detroit Tigers in 2003.
MVC Tournament Scenarios
- If Valpo gets swept by Illinois State this weekend, the team’s only path to making the conference tournament field would be Bradley sweeping Belmont.
- If Valpo wins one game this weekend, the Beacons will clinch a spot in the MVC Tournament. One win over the Redbirds would assure that Valpo would finish ahead of both Bradley and Illinois State regardless of other outcomes this weekend. If Valpo wins exactly one game this weekend, the Beacons would be the No. 7 seed if Bradley wins the Belmont/Bradley series or the No. 8 seed if Belmont wins the Belmont/Bradley series.
- If Valpo wins two of three this weekend, the Beacons would finish as the No. 7 seed as long as Bradley wins at least one game against Belmont. If Valpo wins two of three but Belmont sweeps Bradley, then Valpo would be the No. 8 seed.
- If Valpo sweeps the weekend series from Illinois State, the Beacons would guarantee themselves at least the No. 7 seed. If Valpo sweeps Illinois State, UIC gets swept by Evansville and Murray State wins at least one game against Southern Illinois, Valpo would move up to the No. 6 seed. If Valpo sweeps Illinois State, UIC gets swept by Evansville and Murray State gets swept by Southern Illinois, there would be a three-way tie for fifth between Valpo, UIC and Murray State. All three teams would own a 3-3 record in games against the other two teams, so a “top down” tiebreaker would be used. Valpo would most likely end up as the No. 7 seed in this scenario since Murray State and UIC both have wins over first-place Indiana State.
- The double-elimination MVC Tournament will begin on Tuesday, May 23 in Terre Haute. The No. 6 seed will play the No. 7 seed at 2:30 p.m. and the No. 5 seed will play the No. 8 seed at 6 p.m. on the tournament’s first day.
- Valpo currently has 19 wins, recently surpassing the team’s win total of 16 that was reached each of the last two seasons.
- Valpo has secured its highest overall win total since the 2018 campaign.
- The team’s highest overall win total comes despite the fact that six games have been called off due to poor weather.
- One more win would give the Beacons their first 20-win season since joining the Missouri Valley Conference prior to the 2018 campaign. Their last 20-win season came in 2017, when they won 24 contests.
- If the season ended now, Valpo’s current overall winning percentage would mark the program’s best since 2017.
- With nine conference victories, Valpo has tied its highest MVC win total since joining the conference. One more would give the program its outright league-only high.
- Valpo has already clinched its best conference winning percentage since joining the league. The Beacons will finish with no worse than a .333 league-only winning percentage. Prior to this season, the team’s best MVC winning percentage was .321 in 2021.
- If Valpo qualifies for the MVC Tournament, that would also represent the first time the program has finished ahead of more than one team in the conference standings since joining the league. The team finished seventh of eight in 2018 and 2019 and eighth of eight in 2021 and 2022. There was no MVC play in 2020 due to COVID-19.
- With Valpo’s victory over Belmont on May 12, head coach Brian Schmack tied his predecessor Tracy Woodson for third on Valpo’s all-time wins list.
- Schmack needs one more win to move into sole possession of third on the program’s all-time wins list.
- Entering the Illinois State series, Schmack owns 187 career wins.
- With one more victory, Schmack would sit behind only Paul Twenge (1986-2006, 378) and the legendary Emory G. Bauer (1954-1981, 359) on Valpo’s all-time wins list.
- Valpo has launched 43 home runs this season, recently surpassing the 2018 campaign for fifth on the program’s single-season home run list.
- This year’s team owns the program’s highest single-season home run total since 2002, when the team ripped 49 dingers, a total that ranks fourth in the program record book.
- Valpo holds its highest single-season home run total during the BBCOR bat era that began in 2011.
Other Record Book Watches
- The Beacons are also reaching base at a high clip, as the team’s .386 on-base percentage is positioned to be its highest in over 20 years. If the season ended today, that mark would rank tied for fifth in the program’s single-season record book, joining the 2001 and 1998 seasons. This would be the first time since 2001 that Valpo would own an OBP of .386 or better, and if the Beacons move that up another percentage point, it would be the squad’s best team OBP since 1999.
- Valpo owns a .976 fielding percentage for the season, in line to shatter the program record of .973 set in 2018.
Maka-ing Good Things Happen
- Ryan Maka recently saw his 13-game hitting streak come to an end, but he still enters this weekend’s series with Illinois State owning a 23-game on-base streak.
- Entering the second game of the doubleheader on April 15 at Bradley, Maka was hitting .268 for the season. Since then, he is hitting .566 to go along with a .522 OBP and .776 slugging percentage, leading the team in all three slash-line categories in that stretch.
- Of his 27 hits during those 15 games, 10 have gone for extra bases, including four home runs. He has totaled 45 bases and driven in 23 runs while scoring 15.
- Maka has made his way onto the league-leaders page in batting average, as his team-best average of .342 ranks third in The Valley.
Notes Wrapping Up Belmont (May 12-14)
- Griffin McCluskey started the series with an 11- strikeout, no-walk performance over eight strong innings to pitch Valpo to a 12-3 victory on Friday. He achieved the highest single-game strikeout total by a Valpo pitcher since Jake Miller fanned 11 on April 3, 2022 at UIC.
- The 12 runs in the series opener tied Valpo’s season high, reached on two prior occasions.
- Bobby Nowak did not allow a hit in his 5 1/3 innings in Sunday’s series finale, but did walk six. He left the game with Valpo clinging to a 1-0 lead but was responsible for two runners on base, and eventually took a tough-luck loss in Valpo’s 5-1 setback.
- Valpo owned a 7-3 edge in the hit column in the series finale, but Belmont held the upper hand in the column that counts.
- The Game 1 win helped Valpo improve to 11-0 when scoring nine runs or more this season.
- After starting the season with a .217 average over the first eight games he played, Matt Olive has hit .360 over his last 15 games.
- Six of his 18 hits during that stretch have gone for extra bases including three home runs.
- Olive owns 15 RBIs and 30 total bases during those games, and he’s slugging .600 to go along with a .507 on-base percentage.
Banged Up Beacons
- Valpo played without four starting position players for an extended period of time as third baseman Kaleb Hannahs, catcher Kade Reinertson, outfielder Spencer Warfield and first baseman Brady Renfro have all been sidelined.
- Furthermore, Valpo has been without two potential weekend starting pitchers as Connor Lockwood went down with a season-ending injury and Trent Turzenski has logged just one inning this season.
- OF/1B Kyle Schmack, DH/OF Matt Olive and DH/C Jake Skrine have all either missed games or left a game early during this recent injury-riddled stretch.
Notes Wrapping Up May 9: Valpo 9, Western Michigan 6
- Kyle Schmack had a three-hit game, his second of the season, matching his season high in the hit column that was set on April 8 at Evansville.
- Schmack’s three RBIs marked his highest single-game total since four on Feb. 26 at UT Martin. He had a walk and two runs scored to go along with his big day that featured a pair of doubles.
- Jake Skrine had a triple, his first in a Valpo uniform.
- Valpo extended its head-to-head winning streak against Western Michigan to five.
Grand Salami Time
- Valpo has three grand slams this season, with Ryan Maka owning two of them.
- Maka’s first slam came on April 2 vs. Murray State and his second was May 5 vs. Southern Illinois. Brady Renfro also has a grand slam, which occurred on March 10 at No. 22 Southern Miss.
- Prior to Renfro’s bases-loaded big fly, no Valpo player had turned the trick since 2019 (Sam Shaikin).
- There have been 11 grand slams since Brian Schmack took over as Valpo head coach in 2014, and Maka is the first player with two in that time.
- Maka is the first Valpo player since at least 2006 with two career grand slams.
- This marks the first time since at least 2006 that Valpo has slugged three grand slams as a team in the same season.
Valpo Grand Slam Tracker (Since 2006)
Player Date Opponent
Ryan Maka May 5, 2023 vs. SIU
Ryan Maka April 2, 2023 vs. Murray State
Brady Renfro March 10, 2023 at No. 22 Southern Miss
Sam Shaikin March 3, 2019 at UNCW
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
Nolan Lodden March 1, 2015 at Gardner Webb
Robbie Robinson April 22, 2010 vs. Chicago State
Josh Wallace March 12, 2008 at Marshall
Dallas Cawiezell March 24, 2007 vs. Chicago State
Back on the Bump
- In the top of the ninth of the May 7 game vs. Southern Illinois, Trent Turzenski logged his first inning of the season.
- The right-hander saw his first action since April 1, 2022 at UIC, when he went down with an elbow injury. He went over 13 months in between game action after undergoing Tommy John UCL reconstruction surgery.
- Turzenski, who was the Friday starting pitcher last season at the time of his injury, faced the minimum with help from a double play and worked a scoreless frame in his return to the bump against SIU.
Notes Wrapping Up Southern Illinois (May 5-7)
- Valpo’s 9-8 win over the Salukis on May 5 helped the team improve to 9-0 when scoring nine runs or more this season.
- Valpo played its ninth one-run game of the season and improved to 6-3 in such contests.
- The win in the series opener helped Valpo improve to 7-1 all-time against SIU at Emory G. Bauer Field, but the Salukis rallied to win each of the next two games.
- The win in the series opener was Valpo’s first against the MVC preseason favorite since 2018. Valpo had dropped 13 straight against teams picked to win the league since beating DBU during the 2018 campaign.
- Alex Thurston and Alex Ryan both had a season-high four hits in Sunday’s series finale. For Ryan, the four hits represented a career high.
Storybook Moment (Minus the Fairytale Ending)
- The series opener at Missouri State on Friday, April 28 was all but over with two outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning and the lower third of the Valpo batting order due up with the Beacons trailing 3-0.
- Back-to-back walks to the No. 7 and No. 8 hitters set the stage for redshirt freshman Patrick Ilitch, who was inserted into the starting lineup less than an hour before game time due to an injury-related scratch and had just two career at-bats prior to the game.
- Ilitch – whose family owns Little Caesars Pizza, the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings – delivered by smacking his first career home run to left, leveling the score at three.
- Missouri State eventually won on a walk-off home run in the 10th.
Renfro’s Impressive Streak Snapped
- Brady Renfro reached base in the first 30 games of the 2023 season before his streak was snapped on April 22 vs. UIC.
- He became the first Valpo player to reach in 20 straight since Kaleb Hannahs did so in the final 20 games of the 2021 season.
- On April 9 at Evansville, Renfro surpassed Sam Shaikin’s 23 gamer from 2017.
- Renfro owned Valpo’s longest on-base streak since Nolan Lodden reached safely in 34 straight in 2016.
Weekly Awards Sweep
- Valpo earned its first sweep of the Missouri Valley Conference weekly awards since joining the league when Jake Skrine was named MVC Player of the Week and Bobby Nowak was tabbed MVC Pitcher of the Week on Monday, April 17.
- The last time Valpo swept the weekly awards in any conference was May 16, 2016, when Jake Hanson was named Horizon League Batter of the Week and Ellis Foreman achieved Horizon League Pitcher of the Week status.
- Skrine became the fourth member of the program to win MVC Player of the Week honors since joining the league and the first this season. He joined Sam Shaikin, Kaleb Hannahs and Nolan Tucker.
- Nowak became the third Beacon to earn MVC Pitcher of the Week this season, joining Jacob Rosenkranz and Connor Lockwood. Prior to this year, Valpo had won MVC Pitcher of the Week accolades on four occasions since joining the league – Jake Miller, Colin Fields (twice) and Easton Rhodehouse.
Beacon Brooms + Blanking the Braves
- The three-game road sweep at Bradley April 14-15 marked the program’s first road sweep of a league series since joining the Missouri Valley Conference. Valpo’s last sweep of a road conference series of three games or more was March 18-20, 2016 at Northern Kentucky.
- It was the first time Valpo swept a conference series in any location since taking all three from Southern Illinois on May 10-12, 2019 at Emory G. Bauer Field.
- The exclamation mark on the series was a 10-0 win in the finale, Valpo’s first shutout of the season and first since March 25, 2022 vs. St. Bonaventure, a game decided by the identical score of 10-0.
- The 10-0 triumph marked Valpo’s most lopsided league victory since joining the Missouri Valley Conference. The seven-inning win marked the first time Valpo implemented the 10-run rule since joining the league prior to the 2018 season.
- That was also Valpo’s first shutout in a league game since joining The Valley. The team’s last shutout win in conference play was April 23, 2017 vs. Wright State.
- Valpo stood at 7-6 through 13 games this season. 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- #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... Final line featured 7 1/3 innings of one-run, four-hit ball while striking out six on April 7 at Evansville. He achieved his second win of the season and the fourth of his collegiate career.... Allowed three runs on five hits in six innings on April 14 at Bradley... Received no decision on April 28 at Missouri State after allowing three runs on five hits in five innings... Picked up the win with eight innings of three-run ball while scattering nine hits on May 12 at Belmont. He racked up 11 strikeouts and issued no walks.
- #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... Did not yield a run over his two frames of relief while working around three walks and one hit on April 9 at Evansville... Earned his first win of the season and his second in a Valpo uniform after logging three scoreless innings of two-hit ball while issuing no walks on April 22 vs. UIC.
- #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... Worked a scoreless inning on April 30 at Missouri State.
- #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... Twirled two scoreless innings out of the bullpen on April 2 vs. Murray State, the only one of the seven pitchers who took the mound in the doubleheader to work shutout ball... Had 4 2/3 innings of shutout, one-hit relief to help Valpo beat Purdue Fort Wayne on April 11.... Earned his first career save by working the final three innings of the April 15 game at Bradley and allowing two runs on four hits... Worked four innings of five-run, five-hit ball while walking four and striking out three on April 21 vs. UIC, earning his first collegiate victory.
- #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... Picked up the win with six innings of two-run, four-hit ball in his first Valpo start on April 3 vs. Murray State. He racked up a career-high nine strikeouts... Started on April 9 at Evansville and received no decision while allowing three runs on five hits and one walk over six innings while fanning six... Named MVC Pitcher of the Week after tossing a three-hit shutout to help the team beat Bradley 10-0 on April 15.
- #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... Worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings without allowing a hit and walked one while striking out four to close out the April 7 triumph at Evansville. The save was the first of his collegiate career... Earned the win with four shutout innings of three-hit relief on April 14 at Bradley... Had a tough-luck loss on April 28 at Missouri State, when he allowed one run on two hits in four innings.
- #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... Flipped three scoreless innings to earn the save in the 5-2 win over Murray State on April 3. He allowed just one hit in those innings... Made the second start of his Valpo career and his first weekend start on April 8 at Evansville, allowing four runs on six hits in five innings while walking three and striking out two... Garnered the victory with six innings of six-run ball while striking out eight on April 15 at Bradley.
Position Player Profiles – Projected Lineup (Based on Recent Games)
- #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... Had his second home run of the season in the first game of a doubleheader on April 15 at Bradley... Made a fantastic leaping catch in center field to rob a home run on April 28 at Missouri State... Had a career-high four hits on May 7 vs. SIU.
- #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... Registered three of the team’s eight hits on April 9 at Evansville, his ninth multi-hit game of the year and his fifth game with three hits or more... Was part of back-to-back jacks in the April 7 game at Evansville along with Kyle Schmack.
- #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... Had a key two-out hit to drive in two in the April 3 win over Murray State... ... Was part of back-to-back jacks in the April 7 game at Evansville along with Kyle Schmack... Started in center field on April 8 at Evansville, his first time playing somewhere other than left field this season... Had three hits on April 8 at Evansville... Had a two-run triple that turned into a “little league home run” on April 11 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne... Hit his sixth home run of the season and the 15th of his career on April 18 at Notre Dame... Drew four walks on April 30 at Missouri State, becoming the first Valpo player to work four walks in a game since Spencer Mahoney on April 2, 2014 vs. Northern Illinois... Tied a season high with three hits while also driving in three runs on May 9 vs. Western Michigan... Homered in each of the first two games of the weekend series at Belmont (May 12, May 13).
- #22 Ryan Maka, RF, 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... Drilled a grand slam on April 2 vs. Murray State... Hit his first triple of the season on April 9 at Evansville... Had his fourth home run of the season in the finale of the Bradley series on April 15... Homered twice in the series vs. UIC (April 21-23), lifting his season total to six... Had multiple hits in each game of the Missouri State series (April 28-30) including three in the series finale... Hit a go-ahead grand slam on May 5 vs. Southern Illinois, his second grand slam of the season.
- #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... Pushed his on-base streak to 21 by reaching in all three games vs. Murray State (April 2-3)... Had three hits on April 8 at Evansville... Reached base in all three games at Evansville (April 7-9) to extend his on-base streak to 24... Had his fourth home run of the season as part of a three-hit day on April 11, extending his on-base streak to 25... Extended his on-base streak to 28 by reaching in all three games at Bradley (April 14-15)... His on-base streak reached 30 games before it was finally snapped on April 22 vs. UIC... Did not play in the Missouri State series (April 28-30) due to a hip issue.
- #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... Hit a long home run in each game of the series at Bradley, batting .636 (7-for-11) with five runs scored and nine RBIs to earn MVC Player of the Week accolades. He was named D1Baseball National Player of the Day on April 15 after going 6-for-7 with two home runs, four RBIs and seven runs scored in a doubleheader... Homered twice in the series vs. UIC (April 21-23), making it five home runs in a seven-game stretch.
- #4 Matt Olive, DH, R-So. (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School) – After missing the previous six games due to a hamstring injury, homered in back-to-back games vs. UIC on April 21 and April 22... Had two extra-base hits including a home run and drove in three on April 30 at Missouri State.
- #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... Had a season-high four hits on May 7 vs. SIU.
- #33 Thomas Cooper, 3B, Fr. (Brentwood, Tenn.) – Four-year varsity starter in high school and was a state runner-up in football... Has a Lego collection... Favorite movie is Star Wars Revenge of the Sith... Favorite TV show is Big Bang Theory.
- 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.