Valparaiso (9-13, 1-2 Horizon)
Milwaukee (8-11, 4-2 Horizon)
Friday, March 29th, 11:30 a.m. CDT
Saturday, March 30th, 3:30 p.m. CDT
Saturday, March 30th, 6:30 p.m. CDT
Les Miller Field - Chicago, Illinois
This Week in Crusader Baseball: Mother Nature continues to flex her muscle as a spring winter storm has prompted a multitude of changes to the baseball docket. The Valpo/Milwaukee series scheduled for this weekend at Henry Aaron Field in Milwaukee was moved to the turf at Les Miller Field on the campus of UIC. The Crusaders will look to slow down the Panthers who’ve come out the gate firing in Horizon League play, winning four of six on the road.
On the Air: Live stats will be available through valpoathletics.com for all three games.
Head Coach Tracy Woodson: Tracy Woodson, the 16th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his seventh season at the helm of the Crusaders and has a 164-195 (.457) record both for his career as well as at Valpo. Woodson ranks third in school history for career wins by a head coach. A member of the Los Angeles Dodgers 1988 World Champion team, he has also managed in the minor leagues through the AAA level.
Probable Starters: Junior RHP Cole Webb (2-3, 1.93) will take the ball Friday in the first of a three-game set for the Crusaders. Milwaukee will counter with reigning Horizon League Pitcher of the Week RHP Jake Long (2-2, 1.95). Game one of Saturday’s doubleheader will feature RHP Chris DeBoo (1-4, 4.54) opposite senior RHP Cale Tassi (2-3, 3.82). RHP Kyle Wormington (1-4, 4.19) will make the start under the lights for Valpo in game two. The Panthers will send LHP Mike Schneider (3-1, 3.71) to the hill.
Series Notes: Milwaukee has a 27-18 all-time series edge; however, the Crusaders have won the last seven games. Valpo opened at home last season against Milwaukee, winning the first two meetings via the shutout. Kevin Wild no-hit the Panthers through nine innings before a Ryan Solberg double landed on the right-field line in the 10th. Billy Cribbs hit a walk-off double off reliever Greg Blohowiak in the home half of the 10th for a 1-0 win. Valpo’s pitching staff allowed just seven runs in six games last season versus Milwaukee.
Looking Back: Valparaiso finished 2012 with a 35-25 record overall and a 22-8 mark in the Horizon League. The Crusaders took first place in both the regular season and Horizon League Tournament in Chicago before they made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 44 years.
Scouting the Panthers: Milwaukee currently stands at 8-11 overall. The Panthers went in to Dayton and won two of three against Wright State to open Horizon League play March 15th and 16th. Milwaukee followed that up with a convincing series win over UIC on their home turf. The Panthers faced a strenuous non-conference schedule in February with a four-game series at New Mexico State and a three-game set against #20 Miami in Coral Gables.
Jake Long joined the rotation this season and has created a highly formidable 1-2 duo alongside senior Cale Tassi. Injuries have held back the senior in years past, but the righty seems to be healthy now and is dismantling Horizon League hitters, going 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA in two complete games in conference play.
Long isn’t too familiar with the Crusaders, but he has enjoyed success in limited action against Valpo. For his career, Long has two relief appearances against the Brown and Gold (both in 2012), allowing just a hit and striking out one in 2 1/3 innings thrown. However, a high walk rate (15 BB in 32 1/3 IP in 2013) and an awkward strikeout-to-walk ratio (14 K to 15 BB) relative to his 1.95 ERA suggests a regression to the mean looms.
Cale Tassi was voted preseason pitcher of the year in a number of polls including the Horizon League Coaches’ survey. Tassi has had an up-and-down season on the hill, taking losses at Miami, Evansville and Wright State, but the senior shutout UIC for seven frames last Saturday for his second win. The righty was outstanding against Valpo in 2012. He received a no-decision on March 24th after throwing 8 1/3 scoreless innings, and took the loss on April 29th in Milwaukee when he tossed eight innings and allowed three earned runs.
Lefty Mike Schneider has experienced command issues, as evidenced by 20 walks in 34 innings. The junior is winless against the Crusaders in two career starts, posting a 3.75 ERA while allowing 18 baserunners in 12 frames.
Sophomore Michael Porcaro’s Horizon League-leading .405 batting average is pacing the Panther offense. The second baseman leads Milwaukee in doubles, triples and runs scored. Porcaro was 3-14 with two RBIs and two strikeouts last season against Valpo. Senior catcher/DH Will Fadness leads the club in RBIs with 19 and is tied for the lead in home runs with three. For his career, Fadness is batting just .150 against the Crusaders. Luke Meeteer and Jonathan Capasso have had some success against Valpo. Meeteer, a sophomore, was 7-18 (.389) against the Crusaders last season, but the outfielder is susceptible to the strikeout. Capasso, a senior, is 11-35 (.314) lifetime versus Valpo with four runs scored
Et Cetera: Through 22 games, Valpo has neither scored nor allowed double digits runs in a contest...At 9-13, the Crusaders sit one game ahead of where they were a year ago at this point...Saturday’s afternoon starter Chris DeBoo has not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since his Crusader debut on February 17th at Belmont...The weekend starters collectively are 4-11, despite a combined 3.49 earned-run average...Center fielder Bryce Hara has recorded a hit in nine straight games...Kyle Wormington is the only Crusader starting pitcher to have faced the Panthers. He dominated Milwaukee last season, going 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA, and walking just one batter in 15 1/3 innings.