Valparaiso (2-6, 0-0 Horizon)
South Carolina Upstate (5-5, 0-0 Atlantic Sun)
Fri. Mar. 6 - Lundeen (L) (0-1, 2.19) vs. Boocock (R) (2-1, 3.78) 3:00 pm
Sat. Mar. 7 - Fritze (R) (0-1, 7.36) vs. Jackson (R) (0-0, 4.50) 12:00 pm
Sun. Mar. 8 - Losi (R) (0-1, 5.79) vs. Whitney (R) (1-1, 2.84) 12:00 pm
This Week in Crusader Baseball: After spending the first half of its spring trip in North Carolina, Valpo heads down to the Palmetto State to engage South Carolina Upstate in a three-game series beginning Friday at Harley Park. The Spartans enter this weekend riding a four-game winning streak that moved them to the .500 mark overall. Meanwhile, Valpo’s offense seems to have found its stride. The Brown and Gold have amassed 33 runs in their last three contests.
Last Time Out: Valpo pounded the baseball in Cullowhee to the tune of 26 runs in a two-game sweep of Western Carolina. Sophomore Nate Palace enjoyed a 5-for-8 series with a pair of doubles, a solo home run, eight runs scored, and six runs batted in. His six runs scored in the latter game set a school record. Dustin Beasley also assembled a monster series for the Crusaders, as he clubbed a grand slam as part of a seven-RBI tilt in an 18-5 victory. Second baseman Nolan Lodden went 4-for-8 versus the Catamounts with six runs. Valpo’s 18 runs scored in the series finale were the most plated in one game since April 2nd, 2010.
On the Air: Live stats will be available for all three games courtesy of USC Upstate Athletics. Links to those are up at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his second season at the helm of the Crusaders. He led Valparaiso to 25 wins in his inaugural campaign, a school record for victories by a first-year skipper. 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, seven pitchers have gone on to play professional baseball including Bryce Shafer, Dallas Cawiezell, and Karch Kowalczyk who were selected in the MLB Draft.
Probable Starters: Junior LHP Dalton Lundeen (0-1, 2.19) will open the series on the hill for the Crusaders in search of his first victory of the season. RHP Ryan Fritze (0-1, 7.36) will take the ball on Saturday. Sophomore righty Mario Losi (0-1, 5.79) will close out the set versus the Runnin’ Bulldogs on Sunday.
Series Notes: The two teams met first for the first - and only - time three seasons ago in Spartanburg. The Spartans defended their home turf in an 8-2 win over Valpo. Bobby Martin had the lone RBIs for the Crusader offense before Rob Rabakozi made his Valpo debut out of the pen.
Looking Back:Valpo finished 2014 with a 25-28 record overall and a 12-12 mark in the Horizon League. Sophomore Dalton Lundeen compiled one of the best seasons on the mound of any lefthander in college baseball, registering HL-lows in earned run average (1.94), walks-plus-hits per inning pitched (1.02), and walks per nine innings (1.30). Offensively, Chris Manning racked up 61 hits as he boosted his career total to 264, good for second place all-time in school history.
In the Other Dugout: Head coach Matt Fincher is in his 18th season as head coach of the Spartans. Fincher owns a career 395-544 while at the helm of the USC Upstate program. The former University of Georgia assistant has led the Spartans to 33 victories on three separate occasions (2005, 2006, 2012) in addition to a 34-win campaign in ‘07. He was named Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year following the 2012 season. Fincher oversaw USC Upstate’s graduation from Division II to Division I in 2008.
USC Upstate won its season opener versus Dayton before dropping five straight. The Spartans have recovered nicely though, with a three-game sweep of St. Joseph’s and a decisive 12-3 win over Winthrop. USC Upstate has received eight home runs from six different batters. They’ve displayed exemplary plate discipline so far, having drawn 48 walks in just ten games.
Sophomore Zach Krider and junior Jake Beaver have led the Spartan offense through the first ten games. Krider has piled up 15 hits - five of which have gone for extra bases - and 11 runs in just 36 at-bats. His seven walks have boosted his on-base percentage to an even .500. Beaver has a .320 batting average to date along with a pair of doubles. Charlie Carpenter has been a vivid source of power for USC Upstate, but is prone to the strikeout. The freshman first baseman is the owner of 13 runs batted in and 15 Ks. Center fielder James Fowlkes has a Spencer Mahoney-like approach at the plate. Opposing pitchers have issued the junior college transfer 11 walks.
This weekend will represent Brian Boocock and Tyler Jackson’s fourth starts on the hill for the Spartans. Boocock’s peripherals are strong: right around 1 hit/IP, and 1 K/IP while touting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of over 4:1.The sophomore has already surpassed his 2014 workload of 15 innings as a reliever. This is Jackson’s first season with USC Upstate. He started his collegiate career at the University of South Carolina before transferring to USC Lancaster. While with the Lancers, Jackson sported an impressive 70:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opponents have hit .328 against him in 14 innings with USC Upstate. Blake Whitney has limited batters to a stingy .178 batting average while striking out 16 in just 12 2/3 innings pitched. Fincher has shown he’s not afraid to use reliever Zac Manuppelli for extended work. In four outings, the right-hander has recorded 10 2/3 innings, including a four-inning appearance last time out.
Driftless Drivel: USC Upstate’s roster consists of just four seniors...four of Valpo’s eight tilts have taken over three hours...the Crusaders’ 18 runs in their last game matched their total through the first five games ...the Spartans’ Zac Manuppelli is the brother of former Youngstown State closer Nic...USC Upstate pitchers have hit just one batter in 90 innings (tied for the least in the country). Spencer Mahoney has 103 career walks and 103 career runs.