Valparaiso (23-20, 9-9 Horizon)
Game #44 vs. Northwestern (12-30, 3-13 Big Ten)
Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m. CDT - U.S. Steel Yard, Gary
Game #45-46 at Youngstown State (13-30, 9-11 Horizon)
Saturday, May 9, 12 p.m. (DH) CDT - Youngstown, Ohio
Games #47-78 vs. Butler (9-32, 5-14 Horizon)
Sunday, May 10, 12 p.m. CDT (DH) - Emory G. Bauer Field
This Week in Crusader Baseball: As Valparaiso heads into the final two weeks of the regular season the Crusaders are in the thick of a tight Horizon League race. Valpo will open the week on Tuesday hosting Northwestern in non-conference action at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary before playing four conference games this weekend. The Crusaders head to Youngstown State for a doubleheader on Saturday before hosting instate rival Butler in a Mother’s Day twinbill on Sunday.
On the Air: Tuesday’s game against Northwestern as well as Sunday’s doubleheader against Butler can be heard live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Saturday’s doubleheaders at Youngstown State will not be broadcast. In addition, live stats via Gametracker will be available through www.valpoathletics.com for every game this week.
Pitching Rotation: John Snelten (RHP, 2-3, 4.99) is slated to toe the rubber for Valpo against Northwestern on Tuesday. Northwestern will counter with Matt Diedrich (LHP, 0-1, 11.88). On Saturday at Youngstown State, the Crusaders will send Jon Gulbransen (LHP, 5-5, 5.29) and Tyler Deetjen (1-1, 3.94) to the hill to open the weekend’s Horizon League action. The Penguins have not announced their weekend starters yet. On Sunday, Valpo will have Alex Berry (3-5, 4.93) and Bryce Shafer (6-3, 3.89) take the mound while the Bulldogs have not announced starters for the doubleheader.
Wrapping Up Recent Action: Valpo won the first four games last week before dropping the weekend finale against Youngstown State. Against Bradley on Tuesday, John Snelten struck out seven in 7.1 innings as the Crusaders defeated the Braves 5-2. Wednesday in DeKalb, Ill., Tyler Deetjen and four relievers combined on a three-hitter as Valpo posted a 12-2 victory over Northern Illinois. Friday against Youngstown State in the series opener, Valpo scored three times in the eighth to break a 3-3 tie on the way to a 6-4 win over the Penguins. In Saturday’s opener, the Crusaders scored eight times in the sixth inning and defeated YSU 8-7. In the nightcap, Valpo committed six errors and Youngstown State took advantage in a 13-4 win over the Crusaders.
Scouting Northwestern: The Wildcats enter the week in ninth place in the Big Ten standings after being swept at home against Illinois last weekend. Northwestern, which has dropped four in a row overall, is hitting .265 as a team, led by Chris Lashmet who is batting .317 on the year. The pitching staff has posted a 6.14 earned run average while opponents are hitting .319 against the Wildcats.
Scouting Youngstown State: The Penguins begin the week in fifth place in the Horizon League, just percentage points ahead of Cleveland State after taking one of three at Valpo last weekend. John Koehnlein is hitting a team-leading .340 while Jacke Healey has seven homers and 31 RBIs to go along with a .301 average. Youngstown State is hitting .266 as a team while the pitching staff has a 6.59 ERA. Phil Klein is the team’s top pitcher with a 4.62 ERA and a 3-1 record in nine starts.
Scouting Butler: The Bulldogs have won two of their last three games, but have been idle since April 26. Luke Duncan leads the Butler offense hitting .333 on a team that is hitting just .252 overall. On the mound, Jared Wagoner has a team-best 5.91 earned run average in 13 appearances for Butler. The Bulldogs enter the week in seventh place in the Horizon League standings.
Miller Sets School’s Single Season Saves Record: Jarad Miller recorded three saves last week and has slammed the door in his last five appearances overall to break Valparaiso’s single season save mark. The sophomore has 13 saves this season already, bettering Justin Craker’s mark of 12 set in 2001.
A Close Race: With just two weeks left in the regular season, the middle of the pack in the Horizon League is bunched tightly. Just three games separate second place Milwaukee from sixth place Cleveland State, with the Crusaders two games back of the Panthers in fourth place. The sixth and seventh place teams have to play in an opening round game on Tuesday in the Horizon League Tournament while the top two seeds get byes until Thursday’s action.
Pencil Him in the Lineup: Josh Wallace has started all 43 games this season for Valpo, the only player to do so. In fact, Wallace has hit in the clean up spot in each and every contest for the Brown and Gold.
Home Sweet Home: Valpo is 13-4 at Emory G. Bauer Field this season after finishing 10-6 there one year ago. Valpo still has six games scheduled for its home park this year, in addition a game in Gary at the U.S. Steel Yard.
Lenski Leads the League in Hitting: Matt Lenski entered the week leading the Horizon League in batting, hitting .422 on the season, and holds a 34-point lead on Milwaukee’s Josh Groves. He also leads the conference in on base percentage (.494), is second in slugging percentage (.600), is fourth in hits (57), is sixth with 35 runs batted in, and is tied for eighth in homers with five. The senior catcher has 21 multi-hit games in 36 games played, including a four-hit contest and six three-hit tallies.
Shafer-Gulbransen One-Two in the League in Wins: Bryce Shafer remains the Horizon League leader in wins with six victories on the season. Last weekend, Jon Gulbransen notched his fifth victory of the year, and is tied for second in the conference in wins behind Shafer.
Coming Through With Men On: Andrew Quinnette has taken care of business when stepping to the plate with runners in scoring position. The sophomore is hitting .432 (16-for-37) with runners on second or third, tops on the team.
Doing it All: Damon McCormick, who plays infield most of the time for the Crusaders, has appeared in seven games on the mound for Valpo this season. In 11.2 innings, the sophomore is 1-0 with a save and has yet to allow an earned run. Opponents are hitting just .061 against McCormick this season.
Settled by the Eighth: Valpo is 17-0 this season when leading after eight innings of play. However, the Crusaders are 0-18 when trailing after eight innings.
Pitching Ranks as the League’s Best: As a team, Valpo pitchers lead the Horizon League limiting opponents to a .277 average on the season. Crusaders hurlers are also tops in the league with a 4.66 earned run average on the year, and lead the league in saves with 16.
Still Perfect in the Field: Ryan O’Gara has yet to commit an error at first base this season in 206 chances. He leads the team in chances as well as putouts with 193.
Miller Sets All-Time Save Mark: On April 4, with his save against Cleveland State, Jarad Miller set Valpo’s career save record. He now has 22 career saves, eight more than Adam Knobel’s previous mark of 14.
Winning Extra Inning Games: Valparaiso won both games that went extra innings against North Dakota, its only two walk-off victories of the season. The Crusaders have won five straight extra inning contests dating back to the 2008 campaign.
Sweeping Twinbills: Valparaiso has swept five doubleheaders already this season, after taking both twinbills against North Dakota. The Crusaders have also recorded sweeps against Morehead State, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Milwaukee. Valpo managed to sweep just one doubleheader in all of 2008.
Streaking: Andrew Quinnette enters the Northwestern game with a current team-long five game hitting streak. Steven Scoby has the team’s longest streak on the season, having hit safely in 12 straight games earlier this year.
Valpo Tabbed Fifth: The Crusaders were picked to finish fifth in the Horizon League preseason poll, according to the league’s head coaches. Valpo finished sixth in the regular season last year, but placed third in the Horizon League Tournament. UIC is this year’s preseason favorite.