UIC (14-19, 9-9 Horizon)
Valparaiso (15-19, 6-6 Horizon)
Emory G. Bauer Field - Valparaiso, Ind.
Fri. Apr. 25th - Webb (5-2, 3.40) vs. Michelson (4-3, 4.97) 3:00 pm
Sat. Apr. 26th - Lundeen (3-3, 2.25) vs. Lewandowski (2-4, 4.01) 12:00 pm
Sun. Apr. 27th - TBA (RHP) (X-X, X.XX) vs. Andersen (1-3, 8.92) 12:00 pm
On Deck for Crusader Baseball: Valpo and UIC conclude its season series beginning Friday at Emory G. Bauer Field. The Crusaders are a perfect 4-0 in the opening game of Horizon League series so far. Conversely, the Brown and Gold are still in search of their first victory in the closing tilt of HL sets. The Flames took two of three from Valpo last month in Chicago, so a series win is a must for the Crusaders if they wish to even the tiebreaker for the HL Conference Tournament.
Last Time Out: Cole Webb tossed a two-hit shutout last Friday versus Milwaukee en route to Valpo’s 4-0 win at Henry Aaron Field. Unfortunately, the good news began and ended there. The offense went into a shell on Saturday and Sunday. as the Crusaders accumulated just one run batted in the whole weekend. Dalton Lundeen took a tough-luck loss on Saturday opposite Cody Peterson. The Panther right-hander responded with a one-hitter to even the series. On Sunday, Valpo’s problems were compounded as left-hander Justin Langley met little resistance from the Brown and Gold, striking out 12 Crusaders in seven scoreless frames.
On the Air: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will broadcast all three games live this weekend, with Brandon Vickrey on play-by-play for the entire series. Live stats links are 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 (5-2, 3.40) will take the ball in the first of the three-game series for the Crusaders. LHP Dalton Lundeen (3-3, 2.25) will shoot for his fourth win of the season on Saturday. The Crusaders have yet to determine a starting pitcher for Sunday’s series finale.
Series Notes: UIC leads the all-time series 61-53 over Valparaiso in a rivalry that started in 1977. The two schools have met 19 times over the past two seasons with the Flames owning a 10-9 edge in that span; however, the Crusaders are 3-1 versus the Flames in the HL Tournament since 2012. Valpo held on for an 8-7 win in Youngstown last season in the opening game of the tourney, one year after defeating UIC 14-5 at Les Miller Field to advance to its first NCAA Tournament in 44 years.
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: UIC owns a 14-19 overall record entering this weekend. The Flames have won just three games away from Granderson Stadium: one at Lamar in the opening weekend of the season and two at Oakland a couple weeks ago in Rochester. UIC is on a five-game skid that includes a sweep last weekend by the odds-on regular season favorite Wright State Raiders. The Red and White have experienced moderate success at Emory G. Bauer Field, having gone 7-5 on Valpo’s home turf since 2008.
The Flames come into Friday as one of the top hitting teams in the country. Their .308 batting average is 11th in all of Division I baseball, while a .405 on-base percentage ranks eighth overall. Catcher Jacob McNamara’s .378 average is currently 51st in the nation and his .494 OBP is 15th-highest. The Flames as a team pace the HL in nearly every offensive category. They’ve scored 87 more runs this season than the Crusaders in one fewer game. Six of UIC’s starters are batting not only above .300, but .315. Tyler Detmer and Alex Jurich both have five home runs apiece, while Jeff Boehm boasts a 1.002 OPS. Alex Lee is having quite the comeback season. After sitting out 2013 with a medical redshirt, the shortstop is hitting .330 with a .435 OBP.
As good as their offense has been, UIC’s pitching has kept opposing teams in games. Opponents have amassed a .317/.397/.404 slash against Flame hurlers. Tomas Michelson harbors next-level stuff but the junior has yet to consistently display dominance within the HL. His ERA took a blow last week as Wright State plated 11 off the right-hander (10 earned) in 3 2/3 innings. Ian Lewandowski will be making his fourth career start versus Valpo on Saturday. He’s 2-0 lifetime against the Crusaders despite a 1.63 WHIP. Jack Andersen will get the ball on Sunday for UIC. The sophomore surrendered two runs in 4 1/3 innings in his only start against the Brown and Gold on 3/22/14.
In the Dugout: Mike Dee is in his 16th season as head coach of the Flames. A UW-La Crosse alum, Dee has been named Horizon League Coach of the Year eight different times. He is 484-383-1 at the helm of UIC.
Et Cetera: Cole Webb (2.17) and Dalton Lundeen (2.35) own two of the three best earned run averages in Horizon League play...League opponents are batting .158 off Webb, 39 points lower than the second best pitcher (Nic Manuppelli, YSU)...The Crusaders’ team batting average has yet to eclipse .233 in the month of April...Three of Valpo’s last four contests have been played in 2:00 or under...UIC’s Jacob McNamara went hitless in seven at-bats versus Valpo in 2013. He was 4-for-10 (.400) with four HBPs against the Crusaders in last month’s series...Michael Morman leads Valpo with 12 multi-hit games...Karch Kowalczyk is batting .361 (13-for-36) with runners in scoring position.