Valparaiso (20-26, 9-12 Horizon)
Youngstown State (12-33, 6-14 Horizon)
Eastwood Field - Niles, Ohio
Thu. May 15th - Webb (6-3, 4.15) vs. Krokos (0-3, 8.78) 4:30 pm
Fri. May 16th - Lundeen (3-6, 2.16) vs. O’Brien (1-9, 8.00) 4:30 pm
Sat. May 17th - Foreman (2-6, 5.70) vs. TBA (X-X, X.XX) 1:00 pm
On Deck for Crusader Baseball: The last time the Crusaders were on Eastwood Field, they celebrated their second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. This weekend the curtain comes down on the regular season and third through sixth place have yet to be determined. Milwaukee and Valparaiso are both tied for third at 9-12 in league play. If Valpo and UWM match each other this weekend, the Panthers will finish ahead of the Brown and Gold by virtue of the tiebreaker. With just one win over the Penguins this series, the Crusaders can finish no lower than fourth place.
Last Time Out: Valpo cruised to an 11-1 rout of Wright State on Friday before losing a pair of tight games Saturday and Sunday. Dalton Lundeen pitched well enough for his fourth win, but three errors behind him led to four unearned runs in a 6-4 defeat. Ellis Foreman had the most imperative start of the season, striking out 11 batters, and allowing just six singles over nine innings. However, the offense couldn’t push a run across to get him the victory either as Sean Murphy cracked a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th to give the Raiders a 1-0 triumph. On Monday, Foreman was named Horizon League Pitcher of the Week. He’s the third different Crusader pitcher to earn the honor.
On the Air: All three games this weekend will feature both free video and live stats courtesy of Youngstown State Athletics. Links to both are 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: RHP Cole Webb (6-3, 4.15) will take the ball in the series opener for the Crusaders. LHP Dalton Lundeen (3-6, 2.16) will make attempt number five at his fourth win in Friday’s tilt. RHP Ellis Foreman (2-6, 5.70) looks to repeat his Horizon League Pitcher of the Week performance last Sunday versus Wright State in the series finale on Saturday.
Series Notes: Valpo leads the all-time series 46-16 over Youngstown State in a rivalry that started in 1992. The Crusaders have won 19 of the last 21 contests versus the Penguins dating back to 2010. Valpo took two of three from YSU at home last month. Valparaiso is 21-10 versus Youngstown State away from Emory G. Bauer Field.
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: Youngstown State currently sits at 12-33 overall. The Penguins are coming off a home series win over second place UIC last weekend. They’re 6-6 at Eastwood Field, so if YSU can take two of three from the Crusaders they’ll finish with a winning record at home for the first time since 2008. The Penguins have been victorious in four of their last nine tilts, having scored 51 runs over that span. However, their 354 strikeouts are tops in the Horizon League.
Like Valpo, Youngstown State has at times endured extended struggles at the plate. Their batting, on-base, and slugging percentages rank ahead of only the Crusaders within the Horizon League. After an 0-for-4 day at the dish against Toledo on Tuesday, freshman Alex Larivee dipped just below the .300 mark for the first time all season. Larivee leads the Penguin offense with 46 hits. Senior Phil Lipari has racked up thirteen extra-base hits en route to his .444 slugging percentage. Matt Sullivan paces YSU in the RBI department with 28.
The Penguins’ team earned run average of 7.42 is the sixth highest in the nation. Ryan Krokos gets the nod in Thursday’s series opener. The junior right-hander blanked UIC for five innings in their 2-1 win over the Flames last Saturday. Krokos has made eight starts on the year, but he’s lasted no longer than five innings in any outing. Patrick O’Brien, YSU’s Friday starter, has won just once in ten starts while tabulating a 8.00 ERA. O’Brien owns a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 2:1, but opponents are batting .364 off the righty. Youngstown State has yet to name a starting pitcher for Saturday’s contest. Senior Nic Manuppelli had been slotted in the third spot in the weekend rotation earlier in the season, but he’s pitched just once since April 19th. Kevin Yarabinec has done a superb job in the closer role for the Penguins. Yarabinec has surrendered just one earned run in his last eight appearances. The freshman possesses a 2.12 ERA and has 20 strikeouts in 17 innings to go with four saves.
In the Dugout: Steve Gillispie is in his 2nd season as head coach of the Penguins. He played collegiately at Northwest Missouri State and Fort Hays State before serving on the Nebraska, Jacksonville State, UAB, and Utah coaching staffs. Gillispie also spent three seasons as a scout in the Phillies organization.
Et Cetera: At -149, Youngstown State has the lowest run differential of any Horizon League team...Karch Kowalczyk batted .455 with a homer and six RBIs in three games versus the Penguins last season...In three career starts vs. YSU, Dalton Lundeen is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA...Spencer Mahoney is a lifetime .417 batter (25-for-60) with 18 runs scored against the Penguins...Mark Johnson was named Horizon League Player of the Week last month after going 7-for-12 with a 2.000 OPS against Youngstown State in the series in Valparaiso.