Wright State (14-12, 8-0 Horizon)
Valparaiso (9-13, 1-2 Horizon)
Emory G. Bauer Field - Valparaiso, Ind.
Sat. April 5th - Webb (3-2, 4.41) vs. Hissong (1-2, 4.23) 12:00 pm
Sat. April 5th - Lundeen (1-2, 3.43) vs. Hoelzel (4-2, 2.82) 3:00 pm
Sun. April 6th - Losi (1-3, 3.98) vs. Sexton (4-3, 4.50) 12:00 pm
On Deck for Crusader Baseball: The 8-0 Wright State Raiders come to town for the first Horizon League series of the season at Emory G. Bauer Field. Due to a rain-filled weather forecast for Friday, the two teams will play a doubleheader Saturday beginning at noon. The second game of the twin bill will start approximately thirty minutes after the conclusion of game one. The 2014 Horizon League regular season champion will be determined by winning percentage as not all six teams will play the scheduled thirty games; therefore, slowing down Wright State’s perfect pace this weekend is especially important.
Last Time Out: After four prior failed attempts, the Crusaders finally held their home opener Wednesday against Northern Illinois. The NIU pitching staff combined to issue eleven walks and two hit batters, but Valpo hit just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position in a 10-6 loss to the Huskies.
On the Air: Brandon Vickrey (PxP) and Joey Basil (color) will have the call on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). A link to the live stats is also available at valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his first season at the helm of the Crusaders. 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, six pitchers went on to play professional baseball including Bryce Shafer and Dallas Cawiezell who were selected in the MLB Draft.
Probable Starters: Senior RHP Cole Webb (3-2, 4.41) will take the ball in the first of the three-game series for the Crusaders. LHP Dalton Lundeen (1-2, 3.43) will toe the slab in the second half of the doubleheader Saturday. Freshman right-hander Mario Losi (1-3, 3.98) seeks to regain the form he undertook against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi a couple starts ago when he held the Islanders to one run over eight innings.
Series Notes: Wright State leads the all-time series 23-13 over Valparaiso in a rivalry that started in 1992. The Crusaders won four of six against the Raiders in the regular season a year ago including all three at Emory G. Bauer Field. Wright State was the last-standing foe between the Brown and Gold and their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament in the 2013 Horizon League Conference Tournament at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio. Valpo dismissed WSU 3-0 on the shoulders of Dalton Lundeen, who didn’t allow a Raider past second base over eight pristine, shutout innings.
Looking Back: Valparaiso finished 2013 with a 32-28 record overall and a 13-11 mark in the Horizon League. The Crusaders tied with UIC for second place in the regular season but went 3-0 in the Horizon League Tournament in Youngstown to claim their second straight automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. After losing a 5-4 heartbreaker to #13 Indiana on the Hoosiers’ home turf, Valpo eliminated the Florida Gators 5-4 the following day for its first win in an NCAA Regional game since 1966.
Scouting the Opposition: Wright State currently sits at 14-12 overall. The Raiders challenged themselves with one of the most difficult non-conference schedules of any Horizon League club. Wright State salvaged one tilt in a four-game series at #4 Oregon State. The Raiders also faced #19 Arizona State, Long Beach State, UC Irvine, Kentucky. They went 1-2 in their season-opening three-game set against Michigan State in Nashville. WSU lost just three times in regulation in the month of March, one of those defeats coming at the hands of the fourth-ranked Beavers.
The Raiders lead the Horizon League in doubles (56), home runs (9), and stolen bases (24). Sean Murphy, Michael Timm, and Joe Ford each have gone deep twice. Four everyday starters have drawn ten or more walks and every starting position with the exception of catcher has swiped at least two bases. Many felt Kieston Greene was primed to have a monster year, but so far the outfielder is batting just .263 with no triples or long balls and a .312 OBP.
Pitching has held steady for Wright State thus far. Travis Hissong was the closer last year. This season he’s shifted into the role of Friday starter. The junior has racked up 39 strikeouts (a HL-most) in 44 2/3 innings, but the righty has also surrendered 15 extra-base hits. Joey Hoelzel is on pace for an All-Horizon League season. In his first seven starts, the senior has amassed 51 innings and currently owns a 2.82 earned run average and a 1.14 WHIP. Hoelzel possesses better than a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (36 K, 11 BB) and has turned in a complete game already. Robby Sexton, the Sunday starter, had held opposing batters to a .243 batting average but the southpaw has experienced command issues as evidenced by 20 walks and five hit batsmen in 38 innings. Closer Andrew Elliott is having a Kowalczyk-esque spring so far as the right-hander has allowed only one run in eleven appearances spanning 14 1/3 innings. The redshirt junior has punched out 18 batters and all six hits he has allowed have been singles.
In the Dugout: Greg Lovelady is in his first season as head coach of the Raiders. A Miami Hurricane during his collegiate playing days, Lovelady served on Rob Cooper’s staff for nine seasons, including the last seven as associate head coach.
Et Cetera: As a team, the Crusaders are batting just .217 versus right-handed pitching...Leadoff batters are getting on base at a .452 clip against Valpo hurlers...Friday starter Cole Webb has gotten 51 outs in the air compared to 27 on the ground...Since allowing eight runs in his first 2 2/3 innings to start the year, junior Ben Mahar has recorded seven straight scoreless appearances spanning eight innings...In seven games against WSU last season, Chris Manning batted .348 with a 1.152 on-base plus slugging percentage.