Official Athletic Site of the Valparaiso University Crusaders
Valpo Baseball Opens Season Friday Against Ball State At Governor's Cup

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Valparaiso University Baseball Team will open its season on Friday at 2 p.m. against Ball State at the Governor's Cup Tournament hosted by the University of Evansville. The Crusaders will also play on Saturday and Sunday. Indiana State, IPFW and Butler join Ball State, Evansville and Valpo at the event.

Following the tournament, Valpo will begin its spring trip games in Bradenton, Fla. on March 1 against Northeastern. The Crusaders are scheduled to play eight games down south.

Season Preview

Several questions should develop for the Valparaiso University Baseball Team as the 2004 season progresses. Will youth be served for coach Paul Twenge's Crusaders as a plethora of freshmen and sophomores replace the senior-laden team of a year ago? Can the depth of the pitching staff evolve to complement Tom Starck, last season's Mid-Continent Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year? As Adam Paetznick, the 2003 Mid-Con saves leader, makes the transition back into the starting rotation, who will step forward to fortify the bullpen?

Due to the graduation of 11 seniors, the 2004 Crusaders are forced to retool at six positions in the field. The lone returning everyday starters are second baseman Eddie Hannan, shortstop Kevin Kutansky and the platoon of Nick Mazzone and Jeff Rickert in left field. The pitching staff returns lefty Starck and righty Elliott Gibbs, along with Paetznick adjusting to a different role.

Overall, Valpo has just four seniors on the entire roster, including catcher Troy Garrett, a transfer. The youthful theme surrounding the Crusaders is epitomized by the fact that four true freshmen will occupy four starting positions.

Here's a look at each position area:

Pitching
Valpo's major strength in 2004 focuses on the return of Starck, who turned in the best season for a Crusader pitcher in Mid-Con history (1982-). A senior, Starck compiled a 3.44 ERA, while striking out 76 in 70 2/3 innings. In a four-game stretch in Mid-Con play, Starck fanned 45 in 34 innings, recording at least 10 strikeouts in each of the contests. During that span, he struck out 12 batters twice and compiled two complete games. In Mid-Con games only, Starck finished 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA, striking out 50 in 38 1/3 innings.

Paetznick, following a league-leading 8-save season, will make the transition into the starting rotation. The 6'8" senior averaged more than a strikeout per inning in 2003. Sophomore righthander Gibbs and his high-velocity arm return after pitching nearly 50 innings as a freshman.

Sophomore righty Kyle Obenauf (3-2 in 2003) will compete for a spot in the rotation and provide strength to the bullpen. Junior Eric Brauer, who used the 2003 season as a medical red-shirt year following surgery, is expected to be the closer. Righthander Jordan Smolar (3.32 ERA), who ranked second behind Paetznick with 16 appearances last year, fortifies the relief corps. Junior Adam Knobel also gives the bullpen solid depth.

Catcher
Twenge will depend upon the tandem of Garrett and Tyler Lowell behind the plate. Garrett, a transfer from Ball State, has one year of eligibility remaining. Lowell, a sophomore, played in 29 games as a freshman without committing an error (121 chances).

Infield
In addition to the return of Starck on the mound, the other main strength of Valpo's squad rests with the middle infielders. Hannan, the only returning Crusader to start all 56 games a year ago, will control second base. A senior, Hannan finished third among Valpo's starters with a .282 batting average in 2003. His defensive presence was also felt as evidenced by a fine .973 fielding percentage. Hannan teams with sophomore Kutansky, who earned the starting shortstop job in the second half of his freshman campaign. Kutansky produced big numbers in the last 10 games of 2003, hitting .459 (17 of 37) with 16 RBIs, including two, 5-RBI games. Overall, he batted .270 with 24 RBIs and compiled a .417 slugging percentage.

The corner positions will be manned by either true freshmen or a sophomore. Freshman Ryan Manthei and sophomore Rickert will compete for the third base spot. Rickert, who will also play a major role in left field, batted .333 (6 for 18) in 16 games as a freshman. First base will be occupied by two freshmen, Zach Rodeghero and Colin Reynolds.

Outfield
Although the young outfield will have two new starters, some collegiate experience exists. In 2003, Mazzone and Rickert shared a platoon in left field. Now both in their sophomore seasons, the duo provides coach Twenge with an effective lefty/righty combination. One of reasons why Mazzone and Rickert were able to gain valuable playing time as freshmen was due to an injury to Mike Arensdorff. Prior to breaking a bone in his hand/wrist very early in the 2003 season, Arensdorff was the starting leftfielder. A red-shirt freshman, Arensdorff will move over to right field in 2004. Another true freshman, Brian Rzepka, is slated to patrol center field.

Designated Hitter
The offensive position that will be the most difficult to replace is designated hitter. Marc Boggio, who graduated after earning First Team All-Mid-Con recognition last year, led Valpo with a .347 batting average and 37 RBIs in 2003. Red-shirt freshman Matt Augustine will have an opportunity to establish himself as the regular DH.


W Tennis Valpo 0 Chicago, Ill.
Apr 14 Chicago State 7
M Tennis Valpo 7 Homewood, Ill.
Apr 15 Chicago State 0
Baseball Valpo CCD
Apr 15 Toledo
M Track Cougar Invitational River Forest, Ill.
Apr 17 No Team Score
W Track Cougar Invitational River Forest, Ill.
Apr 17 No Team Score
Baseball Valpo 4 Milwaukee, Wis.
Apr 17 Milwaukee 0
M Tennis Youngstown State 1 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 18 Valpo 6
Baseball Valpo 0 Milwaukee, Wis.
Apr 18 Milwaukee 3
Softball Oakland 3 VU Softball Field
Apr 18 Valpo 11
W Tennis Youngstown State 7 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 18 Valpo 0
M Golf Wolfpack Spring Open Raleigh, N.C. (Lonnie Poole Golf Course)
Apr 19 CCD
M Track DePaul Invitational Chicago, Ill.
Apr 19 2nd/3 (191)
W Track DePaul Invitational Chicago, Ill.
Apr 19 3rd/5 (82)
W Tennis Cleveland State 7 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 19 Valpo 0
Softball Oakland 1 VU Softball Field
Apr 19 Valpo 2
Baseball Valpo 0 Milwaukee, Wis.
Apr 19 Milwaukee 5
Softball Oakland 4 8 inn.
Apr 19 Valpo 2
M Tennis Cleveland State 5 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 19 Valpo 2
M Golf Wolfpack Spring Open Raleigh, N.C. (Lonnie Poole Golf Course)
Apr 20 12th/15 (314)
Baseball Kalamazoo 3 Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 21 Valpo 10
Baseball Ohio Northern 2 Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 22 Valpo 1
Softball Valpo 3 Macomb, Ill.
Apr 22 Western Illinois 1
Softball Valpo 5 Macomb, Ill.
Apr 22 Western Illinois 4
Softball Valpo 2 Notre Dame, Ind.
Apr 24 #21/21 Notre Dame 7
W Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 25
M Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 25
M Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 25
W Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 25
M Tennis Valpo Ann Arbor, Mich.
Apr 25, 2:00 p.m. UIC
Baseball UIC Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 25, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
M Tennis Valpo Ann Arbor, Mich.
Apr 26, 3:00 p.m. Horizon League Tournament
M Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 26
W Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 26
W Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 26
M Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 26
Baseball UIC Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 26, 12:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball Valpo Dayton, Ohio
Apr 26, 12:00 p.m. Wright State
Softball Valpo Dayton, Ohio
Apr 26, 2:00 p.m. Wright State
M Tennis Valpo Ann Arbor, Mich.
Apr 27, 2:00 p.m. Horizon League Tournament
M Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 27
W Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 27
Softball Valpo Dayton, Ohio
Apr 27, 12:00 p.m. Wright State
Baseball UIC Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 27, 12:00 p.m. Valpo
Baseball Western Michigan Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 29, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball IUPUI VU Softball Field
Apr 29, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball IUPUI VU Softball Field
Apr 29, 5:00 p.m. Valpo
Baseball Chicago State Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 30, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball Valpo Bloomington, Ind.
Apr 30, 3:00 p.m. Indiana (resumption of suspended game)
Softball Valpo Bloomington, Ind.
Apr 30, 4:00 p.m. Indiana
W Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 2
M Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 2
Baseball Oakland Emory G. Bauer Field
May 2, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
M Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 3
W Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 3
Baseball Oakland Emory G. Bauer Field
May 3, 12:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball Valpo Green Bay, Wis.
May 3, 1:00 p.m. Green Bay
Softball Valpo Green Bay, Wis.
May 3, 3:00 p.m. Green Bay
W Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 4
M Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 4
Softball Valpo Green Bay, Wis.
May 4, 12:00 p.m. Green Bay
Baseball Oakland Emory G. Bauer Field
May 4, 12:00 p.m. Valpo