Bradley (12-6, 0-0 MVC)
at Valparaiso (7-14, 0-0 MVC)
Emory G. Bauer Field | Valparaiso, Ind.
Friday, March 30, Noon CT (Game 1) – Tieman (R) vs. Cook (L)
Friday, March 30, To Follow (Game 2) – Ferketic (R) vs. Hodgett (R)
Saturday, March 31, 1 p.m. CT – Gordon (R) vs. Lund (R)
Next Up in Crusader Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball program will begin the Missouri Valley Conference era this weekend by hosting Bradley for a three-game Easter Weekend series at Emory G. Bauer Field. The University joined the MVC as a full-fledged member on July 1, 2017 after 10 years in the Horizon League.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders didn’t scratch out their first hit until Chad Jacob doubled with two outs in the seventh in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss at Big Ten foe Purdue. Jacob crossed the dish on a sharp single through the left side by Scott Kapers to end Boilermaker starting pitcher Ryan Beard’s strong outing. Valpo later brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning, but Ross Learnard nailed down the save for Purdue. Alex Dirienzo threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Jarrett Hammel, who was hit with the loss after allowing two runs (both unearned) on two hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings. Valpo finished with four hits and Jacob’s two-bagger was the only extra-base knock for the Crusaders.
On the Air: All three games in the series will air on 95.1 FM Valparaiso with the audio available online via the TuneIn Radio app. Ben Ariano will have the play-by-play on Friday and Saturday, while Korey Schrock will describe the action on Sunday. Links to live audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes: The all-time series has been a competitive one, with Bradley holding a narrow 13-11 lead in a matchup that first occurred in 1991. This will mark the first Valpo/Bradley baseball showdown since 2009, a game Valpo won 5-2 at Emory G. Bauer Field.
Opening An Era: The last time the Valpo baseball team played its first game in a new conference was March 21, 2008, a doubleheader at Wright State. The Crusaders split that twinbill, winning the opener 6-5 before falling 8-7 in 10 innings in the second game. Head coach Brian Schmack is the only person who will be in attendance on Friday who was also there for Valpo’s initial games in the Horizon League, as he then served as the pitching coach under Tracy Woodson.
Quick Hits – Weekend Rotation
- Jon Tieman: Freshman All-American last season… Started his freshman year as Valpo’s closer before moving into the weekend rotation by season’s end… Became the first Valpo underclassman to get the Opening Day start for the Crusaders since Bryce Shafer in 2009. Six of Valpo’s last seven Opening Day starters had been seniors before Tieman got the ball at Alabama this season… Got the win on March 16 at Arkansas Pine Bluff after throwing eight innings and allowing seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits. The most impressive aspect of his start was that he struck out seven and issued no walks. The Crusaders didn’t allow any walks in that game, the first time they’d done that since April 23 of last season… Most recent start came last week at Butler, when he pitched Valpo to a 9-2 win over the school’s instate rival. He yielded two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out four in 7 1/3 innings. Tieman did not allow a run over the first seven innings and both runs charged to him scored after he had left the game. He sent down 11 straight batters from the third to the sixth. Tieman's outing came against Big East foe Butler, a team that entered that game with a 16-3 record. He has displayed strong control in his last two starts, going 14 straight innings without allowing a walk until his lone base on balls in the seventh on Friday at Butler.
- Trey Ferketic: Valpo is his fourth school (Saddleback, Long Beach State, UC San Diego)… Didn’t pitch last spring and threw just 3 2/3 innings at UC San Diego in 2016… Has allowed just 22 hits in 24 2/3 innings, by far the fewest of any of Valpo’s weekend starters this season… Hasn’t pitched in two weeks due to last week’s cancellations at Butler. His most recent outing was March 17 at Arkansas Pine Bluff, when he allowed six runs (three earned) on four hits and two walks while striking out eight in 5 1/3 innings… Will make his Emory G. Bauer Field debut on Saturday.
- Wes Gordon: Pitched in nine games, all starts, in his first year as a Crusader last season after transferring from Lake County (JUCO), but didn’t appear after April 14 due to an injury… Has only issued four walks in 23 2/3 innings this season… Hasn’t pitched in two weeks due to last weekend’s cancellations at Butler… Most recent outing was in Game 2 of the March 17 doubleheader at Arkansas Pine Bluff, when he received no decision after allowing five runs on five hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings, a game the Crusaders eventually won 12-8.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Position Players
- Chase Dawson, 2B: Has already surpassed his career high for RBIs in a single season. Had 15 RBIs in 52 games last season after having 17 in 49 games as a freshman. Already has 19 in the first 21 games of this season, four of them coming on a grand slam against Arkansas Pine Bluff on March 16… Hit .221 over the first 29 games last season before batting .364 over the final month (April 23 – May 24, 16 games), leading the team in batting average and on-base percentage (.364) during that stretch… Has led off and started at second base for Valpo every game this season.
- Sam Shaikin, SS: Was the only Crusader to start all 53 games last season. Has started all 21 games this year… Led Valpo in batting average at .317 a year ago… Has started at shortstop the last nine games after starting the first 12 games at third base. Switched positions with Chad Jacob… Has batted second for Valpo every game this season.
- Blake Billinger, LF: Was a unanimous first team all-conference selection in both seasons he played at Mission College (JUCO)… Has batted third and started in left field in every game this season… Hit a home run against Alabama in his first at-bat as a Crusader… Had a three-double game on March 2 vs. CSUN, becoming the first Valpo player with three doubles in a game since Andrew Quinnette on April 26, 2008 against Butler.
- Giovanni Garbella, DH: Missed nine games with an injury this season… Saw his 10-game hitting streak snapped on Monday vs. Ball State… Entered April 9 of last season hitting .213 with no home runs and eight RBIs in 26 games and was a career .204 hitter over three years. He hit .380 the rest of the way with five home runs and 24 RBIs over the final 25 games of the season.
- Zack Leone, 1B: Transferred to Valpo this season after having tremendous success from 2014-2017 at Susquehanna, where he was named an All-American by D3Baseball.com and the ABCA… Racked up 178 hits (fourth all-time), a .405 average (second all-time), 112 RBIs (second all-time), 49 doubles (program record), 18 home runs (second all-time), a .470 career OBP and a .641 career slugging percentage in his time at the Division III level… Valpo’s leading hitter at .418 in 17 games… Leads The Valley in batting average… Had seven RBIs in a game on March 17 at Arkansas Pine Bluff, becoming just the second player in the Missouri Valley Conference with a seven RBI game this season… Of his 17 RBIs, 15 have come with two outs.
- Chad Jacob, 3B: Has started the last nine games at third after starting the first 12 at shortstop… Before March 9 at Loyola Marymount, hadn’t started a game at third base since his freshman year in 2015… Has played in every game this season after dealing with various injuries through his first three collegiate campaigns.
- Scott Kapers, C: Missed three games this season before returning to the lineup on March 28 at Purdue after starting 52 of 53 games last season … Threw out 41.5 percent of would-be base stealers last season and has upped that to 50 percent (8-of-16) this year… Batted a team-best .378 over the final 14 games of 2017 and is hitting .317 in 18 games this year. Has made tremendous offensive strides since batting .196 as a freshman.
- Christian Barczi, C: Started three games behind the plate, the first three starts at catcher of his collegiate career, while Kapers was out with an injury… Named to the Horizon League all-freshman team last year after leading the team in league-only batting average at .343 in 20 contests… Slugged his first home run of the season and the second of his career on Monday vs. Ball State.
- Riley Dent, RF: Brother Ryan has played 10 minor league seasons in the Red Sox and Cubs organizations, reaching as high as Triple-A.
- Jayden Eggimann, CF: Has 19 RBIs after having 13 all of last season… Drilled a three-run homer in the ninth inning of an 11-7 victory over Grand Canyon on March 4. The homer was extra special for Eggimann, who started his collegiate career at Grand Canyon and is a native of the Phoenix area.
A Weekend To Remember: The Crusaders picked up several signature wins in the same day on Feb. 24 in Norman, Okla. Valpo upended host Oklahoma, a team ranked 28th nationally, 11-4 in the first game of the day, before routing Holy Cross 20-6. Both Oklahoma and Holy Cross reached the NCAA Tournament last season. The 20 runs in a game were Valpo’s most since April 2, 2010 (26 against Chicago State). The final game of the weekend in Norman saw the Crusaders take the Sooners to extra innings, but Oklahoma prevailed 3-2.
Ninth Inning Magic: On March 2 against CSUN – a neutral site game at GCU Ballpark in Phoenix – Valpo scored nine times in the top of the ninth to create a 13-13 tie. Chase Dawson capped the miraculous rally with a two-run homer, but CSUN walked off with a run in the bottom of the ninth for a 14-13 victory.
In The Other Dugout – Bradley: The Braves were picked to finish in sixth of eight in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll. Bradley finished last season at 20-31 overall and 16-14 in conference play. They went two-and-out in the MVC Tournament, falling to Dallas Baptist and Evansville. Head coach Elvis Dominguez has been in charge of the program for nine seasons. Bradley has played several foes who are receiving national attention this season, falling 6-5 at No. 19 UCF on March 13 after picking up a 10-7 win over No. 29 Georgia Tech on Feb. 17. Bradley’s most recent game was a 13-9 loss at Iowa on Wednesday that came on a walk-off grand slam. The Braves took a 9-8 lead to the eighth inning against the Hawkeyes. Valpo is expected to see LHP Cole Cook (2-3, 5.47), RHP Ryan Hodgett (0-1, 3.68) and RHP Sam Lund (3-0, 2.74) in this series. Bradley is led offensively by Brendan Dougherty (.391) and Luke Mangieri (.379), while Derek Bangert has a team-high 21 RBIs.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his fifth 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, then guided the team to its first winning record since 2013 in 2016. In 2017, Schmack continued his success despite guiding a youthful roster that featured 11 freshmen and 15 total newcomers. He led the Crusaders to 24 wins, including a strong finish to the regular season that saw them win eight of their last 11. Schmack, a member of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, served as pitching coach/associate head coach at Valpo for seven seasons prior to his promotion.
Looking Back: Valpo finished 2017 with a 24-29 record and a 13-15 mark in the Horizon League. Three Crusaders earned all-league freshman team honors, 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. 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.
Preseason Poll: The Crusaders were picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll in their first season in The Valley. Dallas Baptist is the preseason favorite to win the league and is ranked 18th nationally by D1Baseball.com, 20th by the NCBWA and 17th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Missouri State, picked second in The Valley, is ranked 35th nationally by the NCBWA and received 35 votes in the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll.