Valparaiso (20-21, 11-7 Horizon)
at Wright State (30-13, 14-4 Horizon)
vs. Northern Kentucky (16-29, 5-17 Horizon)
Fri. May 6th - Lundeen (L) (4-3, 3.72) vs. Scholtens (R) (7-1, 3.13) 12 pm CT
Fri. May 6th - Haas (R) (3-1, 2.66) vs. Sexton (L) (5-2, 2.05) 3 pm CT
Sun. May 8th - Losi (R) (3-5, 5.14) vs. Miller (R) (3-4, 5.09) 12 pm CT
Sun. May 8th - Foreman (R) (0-1, 5.11) vs. Kelley (R) (0-3, 4.84) 3 pm CT
This Week in Crusader Baseball: Another four Horizon League games await the Crusaders this weekend. Valpo heads to Dayton to take on first-place Wright State in a Friday twinbill. The Brown and Gold will then return to Porter County to prepare for a Sunday doubleheader with Northern Kentucky.
Last Time Out: Scott Kapers and Shea Molitor belted dingers as part of a 13-hit barrage Wednesday, but NIU rallied for seven runs in the ninth inning to overthrow Valpo, 11-10. Nolan Lodden, Josh Clark, and Nate Palace each went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the Crusaders’ final midweek game away from home this season.
Following the Crusaders: ESPN3 will carry live coverage of Friday’s doubleheader in Dayton. Audio (WVUR 95.1 FM, Valparaiso) and live stats will be available for all four games this weekend. The links to those are posted at ValpoAthletics.com. In addition, follow @ValpoBaseball on Twitter for in-game updates and a behind-the-scenes look at the Crusaders throughout the season.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head baseball coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his third season at the helm of the Crusaders. He led Valparaiso to 25 wins in his inaugural campaign, a school record for victories by a first-year skipper. The former big-leaguer followed that up with a 22-win season in 2015. Schmack, a member of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, served as pitching coach/associate head coach at Valpo for seven seasons prior to his promotion. Under Schmack’s tutelage, seven pitchers have gone on to play professional baseball including Bryce Shafer, Dallas Cawiezell, and Karch Kowalczyk who were selected in the MLB Draft.
Probable Starters: Seniors Dalton Lundeen (4-3, 3.72) and Trevor Haas (3-1, 2.66) will get the ball in Dayton. Mario Losi (3-5, 5.14) and Ellis Foreman (0-1, 5.11) get the nod in Sunday’s doubleheader as Valpo aims to cement itself at the top of the HL standings.
Series Notes: Wright State leads the all-time series 33-18 over Valpo. The Raiders took two of three from the Crusaders in Valparaiso back in late March. Valpo is 4-2 all-time versus Northern Kentucky, however, after a three-game sweep of the Norse to open Horizon League play March 18th-20th.
Looking Back: Valpo finished 2015 with a 22-31 record overall, but a 15-14 mark in the Horizon League. The offense experienced a 53-point uptick in batting average and a 67-point increase in slugging percentage from the season prior. Senior Spencer Mahoney obtained the school record for career walks with 138 while moving into 8th-place all-time for career hits (216). Junior starting pitcher Dalton Lundeen amassed 94 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings pitched while winning five games for the third straight year. The southpaw entered 2016 needing 78 1/3 innings pitched to become Valpo’s career leader in that category.
In the Other Dugouts: Wright State has not-so-quietly positioned itself as a mid-major powerhouse with a 30-13 record. Long considered an offensive juggernaut, the Raiders are winning with excellent starting pitching and an adequate bullpen. Robby Sexton, Caleb Sampen, Jesse Scholtens, and Trevor Swaney have combined for a 24-6 record accompanied by a 2.72 earned run average. Sexton (1.055) is the only one of the quartet with a WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) north of 1.00. Scholtens earned his third win of the season on March 25th when he held Valpo to four runs - three earned - over 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander is third in the HL in strikeouts (68), but none of his 19 outs recorded in that outing came via Ks. Sexton shut the Crusaders out for six innings in the Saturday game before Josh Clark walked off the Raiders with a two-out RBI single off Jack Van Horn in the ninth.
Mitch Roman and Ryan Fucci have shouldered much of the load for the Wright State offense. Both have swiped 20 bases apiece while Fucci has driven in a team-high 37 runs. Sean Murphy is back in the Raider lineup after missing 20 games due to a wrist injury. His presence behind the plate greatly alters opponents’ running games.
Northern Kentucky enters this weekend with a 16-29 overall record coupled with a 5-17 mark in Horizon League play. A 3-0 win over Milwaukee last Sunday salvaged one tilt in the three-game set in Wisconsin. The victory also brought a seven-game skid to a welcome end.
The Norse are batting .257 as a team and have scored 199 runs on 399 hits. Catcher Logan Spurlin has smashed a club-high 47 hits and six home runs. Defensively, he’s thrown out a shade under 30% of would-be base stealers. NKU pitching has amassed a 5.91 earned-run average. The Crusaders will see right-handers Tyler Miller and Pat Kelley. Miller was tagged with the loss in the series opener back on March 18th. He walked three batters in 1/3 IP. Kelley, who started that contest, surrendered two runs in three frames.
The Dalton Lundeen File: Senior Dalton Lundeen has continued to make his mark in the Valpo record books in his final season in a Crusader uniform. He enters this weekend with 19 wins (4th in program history), 317 innings pitched (2nd-most), and 261 strikeouts (4th-most). The southpaw needs 10 2/3 innings to become the all-time leader in IP and four more strikeouts to move into 3rd place in that category.
Driftless Drivel: Nolan Lodden carved out a .441 on-base percentage in 52 games last season; he’s compiled a .441 OBP through 41 games in 2016...Chet Joslyn has limited right-handed batters to a .138 (4-for-29) average...Josh Clark is batting .362 versus right-handed pitching..Valpo’s leadoff batter is reaching base at a .365 clip...the Crusaders have committed multiple errors 22 times in 41 tilts...Lundeen owns a 2.65 ERA and a 43:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio versus Wright State in eight career starts ...Trevor Haas has spotted the Raiders just one earned run in 15 innings over his career...James Stea was 4-for-10 at the plate versus WSU in the team’s three-game set back in March...the Brown and Gold are averaging two errors per game in league play...Lodden has reached base in 31 consecutive games...Giovanni Garbella’s grand slam versus Purdue North Central last week was his first career hit off a left-hander...Bryce Yoder has allowed just one unearned run over his last 15 appearances; his ERA has shrunk from 15.75 to 3.42 since March 1st...Valpo owns a +29 run differential in 18 Horizon League contests.