Brian Schmack enters his sixth season at the helm of the Crusader baseball program in 2019.
Valparaiso University Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera announced on July 24, 2013 that Schmack had been named the 17th head coach in Crusader baseball history and just the sixth since 1946.
Schmack guided the Crusaders to numerous accomplishments during their first season in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2018. Valpo made an immediate splash in the highly-respected baseball conference, putting together a strong showing in the MVC Tournament, including a 13-10 victory over host Dallas Baptist, a team that went on to receive an at-large NCAA Regional berth.
The Crusaders had four wins against teams that finished the season in the Top 50 nationally in RPI (DBU twice, Oklahoma, Illinois). The win over the Fighting Illini was perhaps the most notable, as the Crusaders knocked off a team ranked No. 25 nationally on April 27 in Champaign by a score of 11-7. The 11 runs tied with Nebraska for the most runs scored this season in a win over Illinois, a Big Ten team that went 33-20.
Schmack also led the Crusaders to a pair of 20+ run outputs in a single game in 2018 after the Crusaders hadn’t scored 20 or more runs in a game since 2010. The first time was against defending Patriot League champion Holy Cross on Feb. 24 (20-6), the second against Milwaukee on April 11 (23-5). DBU, an at-large NCAA Regional team, played 63 games in 2018. Two teams scored 13 or more runs against them – Oklahoma (15, March 6) and Valpo (13, May 23).
Schmack instructed Scott Kapers throughout his career as a three-year starter behind the plate for the Crusaders. The catcher was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 17th round of the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft, becoming the eighth Valpo player to be drafted in the last nine years.
Other accomplishments by Schmack’s 2018 team included ranking in the Top 5 in program history in doubles (107, fifth), home runs (41, fifth) and walks (248, third). The home run total was Valpo’s highest since 2002, the team’s .973 fielding percentage set the program record for the second straight year and the .404 team slugging percentage was Valpo’s best since 2010.
During Valpo’s first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, Schmack instructed a Scholar-Athlete First Team honoree, Scholar-Athlete Honorable Mention athlete, two members of the all-defensive team, two all-conference honorable mention honorees, one all-tournament team performer and one First-Team All-MVC recipient (Blake Billinger).
In 2017, Schmack had success despite guiding a youthful roster that featured 11 freshmen and 15 total newcomers after graduating 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, both of whom went on to play professionally in the affiliated ranks. 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 drought, 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 arrival, 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 were selected All-Newcomer Team recipients and five pitchers 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 5 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.