Brian Schmack enters his fifth season at the helm of the Crusader baseball program in 2018.
Valparaiso University Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera announced on July 24, 2013 that Brian Schmack has been named the 17th head coach in Crusader baseball history and just the sixth since 1946.
In 2017, Schmack continued his success despite guiding a youthful roster that featured 11 freshmen and 15 total newcomers after graduting 12 seniors in 2016. He led the Crusaders to 24 wins, including a strong finish to the regular season that saw them win eight of their last 11. Under Schmack's direction, three Crusaders earned Horizon League all-freshman team honors, two of which were pitchers. This marked the first time Valpo had three players on the all-freshman team since 2013 and the seventh straight year the Crusaders had multiple players on the all-freshman squad. After posting a 4-1 record, 2.93 ERA and seven saves, right-handed pitcher Jon Tieman was named a Freshman All-American, becoming the first Crusader to earn that high honor since shortstop Spencer Mahoney in 2012.
The 2017 season also saw the Crusaders set the program record for team fielding percentage, as they put together a .971 fielding percentage that bested the previous mark of .968, which had stood since 1998. Schmack picked up his 100th career victory on May 14, 2017, a 7-6 triumph over eventual Horizon League champion UIC, becoming the fifth head coach in Valpo history to reach the century mark.
The Valpo offense has enjoyed a significant statistical uptick over the last three seasons. The Crusaders held a combined average of .279, slugging percentage of .387 and on-base percentage of .372 from 2015-2017, all improvements from a .265/.351/.337 slash line from 2012-2014.
In 2016, Schmack guided the Crusaders to their first winning season since 2013, as Valpo finished 30-28. It marked the seventh 30-win season in program history. Valpo's offense scored 378 runs, the fourth-most in school history. The team's 586 hits also ranked fourth for a single season, while the 809 total bases were the fifth-most for a Crusader club. Valpo reached the championship game of the Horizon League Tournament.
Schmack set a school record for victories by a first-year head coach in 2014 with 25. The Valpo pitching staff led the Horizon League in earned run average with a 3.88 mark while issuing a league-low 144 walks. The Brown and Gold surrendered just 12 home runs in 2014, 10 fewer than any other staff in the Horizon League.
The 2014 Crusader staff was anchored by sophomore starting pitcher Dalton Lundeen and closer Karch Kowalczyk. Lundeen earned Horizon League Co-Pitcher of the Year accolades following a spring that yielded a league-low 1.94 ERA. His earned run average was over a full run lower than the HL's second-best pitcher. The southpaw concluded 2014 57th nationally in earned run average, 28th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.42), 60th in walks plus hits allowed per inning pitched (WHIP) at 1.02, and 31st in walks allowed per nine innings (1.30).
Before taking the helm, Schmack had spent the previous seven seasons as Valpo's pitching coach, helping the Crusaders to back-to-back Horizon League championships in 2012 and 2013. Prior to the 2011 season, Schmack was promoted to associate head coach. He also played 10 seasons of professional baseball.
Over his seven seasons with the Crusaders as pitching coach/associate head coach, Schmack helped the Valpo baseball program to 187 victories, including the Horizon League regular season title in 2012 and the Horizon League tournament championship in 2012 and 2013.
The Crusaders advanced to the NCAA Division I Tournament in 2012 and 2013 after a 44-year draught, and defeated Florida in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the program's first tournament win since 1966.
Schmack shaped the Valpo pitching staff into one of the best in the Horizon League, molding a staff with an ERA of 5.73 in 2006, the year before his arrivalm into one that had an ERA below 4.00 every year from 2011-2014.
Over Schmack's seven years as Valpo pitching coach, six Crusader pitchers earned All-League recognition, including two Pitcher of the Year and one Relief Pitcher of the Year honorees. In addition, five pitchers have been selected All-Newcomer Team recipients and five pitchers have represented Valpo on the league's All-Tournament Team.
Schmack has coached three of the eight winningest pitchers in program history, as well as two of the top five in Crusader history in career strikeouts and two of the top four in saves. Under his tutelage, Tyler Deetjen won eight games in 2012, the most by a Valpo pitcher in 25 years. Bryce Shafer tallied 121 strikeouts in 2010, second-most in program history and most by a Crusader in the last 40 years, while Jarad Miller set new Valpo and Horizon League records with 17 saves in 2009. In addition, nine pitchers coached by Schmack have gone on to play professional baseball, including four - Kowalczyk, Shafer, Dallas Cawiezell, Drew Hasler and Dalton Lundeen - who were chosen in the MLB Draft.
Schmack pitched in professional baseball from 1995-2004 in the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers organizations after breaking in with the Newark Bison of the Frontier League. In 2003, Schmack earned a promotion to the major leagues with the Tigers, appearing in 11 games and posting a 1-0 record with a 3.46 ERA. He earned his first major league victory against Cleveland on Sept. 2, 2003.
At Erie, Schmack was named to TOPPS’ AA all-star squad in 2003, leading the Eastern League with 29 saves. In 2000, he tied for third in the International League (AAA) with 11 victories for Charlotte.
Schmack pitched collegiately at Northern Illinois University from 1992-1995. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management from Valparaiso University in 2009. He and his wife, Cari, have three children, Kyle born in 2001 and twins Ella and Riley born in 2004.
What they're saying about Brian Schmack
"Having Brian on my staff for the last seven years, I've seen one of the better pitching coaches that I've ever been around. I think his move to being the head coach will be an easy transition. His knowledge of the game and his passion for the game will do him well as a head coach." - Tracy Woodson, former Valparaiso head coach and current Richmond head coach
"I think Brian is an outstanding hire for Valparaiso University baseball. First off, Brian is a quality individual, a quality family man. Couple that with his baseball knowledge, and I think Valparaiso baseball will be in great hands. He's been there seven years, and in that time no doubt has been a huge factor in the rise in the program. The continuity the program will have with Brian being named head coach is going to be good for everybody." - Ed Mathey, former Northern Illinois head coach
"Brian played for me at Northern Illinois - he always overachieved as a player and picked right up on it as a coach. Pitching's a big part of the game, and Brian has done an great job coaching some outstanding pitching staffs in his time at Valparaiso. He's also just a tremendous guy - a good person who truly cares about his players and does things the right way. Valpo did well to hire Brian as its new head coach." - Spanky McFarland, former Northern Illinois head coach and James Madison head coach