Valparaiso (4-11, 0-0 Horizon)
Northern Kentucky (6-10, 0-0 Horizon)
Bill Aker Baseball Complex - Highland Heights, Ky.
Fri. Mar. 18th - Lundeen (L) (2-2, 4.72) vs. Kelley (R) (0-1, 5.06) 2 pm CT
Sat. Mar. 19th - Haas (R) (0-1, 2.30) vs. Watts (R) (0-3, 9.22) 12 pm CT
Sun. Mar. 20th - Losi (R) (1-2, 8.44) vs. Ganns (L) (0-1, 3.00) 11 am CT
This Week in Crusader Baseball: Horizon League baseball touches down in Highland Heights, Kentucky for the first time this weekend when Valpo visits NKU in a three-game series. Staff ace Dalton Lundeen shoots for his tenth career win in league play in Friday’s 2:00 pm opener at Bill Aker Baseball Complex.
Last Time Out: Valpo seized one win in a four-game set at Dallas Baptist last week as the team’s spring trip reached the finish line in Texas. Josh Clark continued to swing a hot stick and Dalton Lundeen perplexed a domineering DBU offense, allowing just one run on four singles in Friday’s 6-1 win.
On the Air: Live audio of all three games will be available free of charge courtesy of Northern Kentucky Athletics. Live stats will also be available. Links to all three are posted at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head baseball coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his third 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. The former big-leaguer followed that up with a 22-win season in 2015. 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: Senior left-hander Dalton Lundeen (2-2, 4.72) will seek to continue his recent run of dominance Friday in the first of the three-game set for the Crusaders. Senior righty Trevor Haas (0-1, 2.30) gets the ball in Saturday’s showdown at high noon. Junior right-hander Mario Losi (1-2, 8.44) will close out the series Sunday on the bump for Valpo.
Series Notes: This weekend is the first meeting between Valpo and Northern Kentucky in over 20 years. The two teams met in Panama City, Florida in 1984 and 1985 during the Rick Ferchen Era. The Norse possess a 2-1 edge in the series.
Looking Back: Valpo finished 2015 with a 22-31 record overall, but a 15-14 mark in the Horizon League. The offense experienced a 53-point uptick in batting average and a 67-point increase in slugging percentage from the season prior. Senior Spencer Mahoney obtained the school record for career walks with 138 while moving into 8th-place all-time for career hits (216). Junior starting pitcher Dalton Lundeen amassed 94 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings pitched while winning five games for the third straight year. The southpaw enters 2016 needing 78 1/3 innings pitched to become Valpo’s career leader in that category.
In the Other Dugout: 2016 represents Northern Kentucky’s inaugural season in the Horizon League. The Norse went 5-16 in Atlantic Sun play last spring as part of an overall 17-34 campaign. NKU’s last winning season came in 2012, the school’s final season as a Division II member. To the club’s credit, it has made considerable strides in the win column since its graduation to Division I.
Two-way player Trey Ganns amassed 15 extra-base hits, 25 runs batted in, and a .296 batting average last season en route to Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team honors. The Kentucky native was the lone Norse represented on the Preseason All-Horizon League Team this past February. Ganns was batting .302 just six days ago, but a recent 3-for-21 skid has lowered his average to .255. He’s drawn ten walks already, a trend that has continued from his rookie season (24 walks in 169 at-bats). On the mound, Ganns has accounted for two of Northern Kentucky’s six wins. Western Illinois didn’t record a hit off the right-hander in four innings of relief back on March 6th. Last Sunday, he earned the victory after limiting Alabama State to three runs in five innings. He’ll get the ball on Sunday.
Redshirt freshman Will Haueter resides atop the NKU offensive leaderboard with 21 hits in 53 at-bats (.396 BA) entering Friday. Seniors Logan Spurlin and Quint Heady have both corked two home runs while sophomore Mike Moffatt has logged three round-trippers. Heady is also Northern Kentucky’s biggest stolen base threat. The outfielder is a perfect 8-for-8 on the basepaths in 14 games.
Northern Kentucky’s pitching staff has logged a 6.91 earned-run average in 16 contests. Friday starter Pat Kelley has taken three no-decisions and a loss in his four starts. He surrendered seven runs - five earned - in 6 1/3 innings last weekend in the series opener at Alabama State. Western Illinois roughed up right-hander Justin Watts a couple weeks ago (seven runs in 2 IP) before Alabama State scored five off him in 5 1/3 innings. Opposing batters have racked up nine extra-base hits in 16 1/3 frames off the Saturday starter. RHP Alex Bolia lurks in the back-end of the Norse bullpen. He hasn’t surrendered a hit in his past three appearances and owns two saves on the season.
Todd Asalon is in his 16th season as head coach of Northern Kentucky, his alma mater. The 1994 graduate takes a 479-400-1 career record into this weekend’s series. Asalon got his feet wet as an assistant coach with the Norse in 1991 before accepting the position of head baseball coach at Thomas More College in 1994. He spent six seasons with the Saints before returning to Highland Heights in 2000 as just the second-ever head baseball coach at Northern Kentucky. Asalon succeeded Bill Aker, who accumulated 807 wins in 29 seasons at NKU.
Gold Rush: The Crusaders tout ten players from the state of California, and each class is represented with at least two players from the Golden State.
Driftless Drivel: Valpo has scored six or more runs in each of its four wins..Northern Kentucky has received at least one RBI from 15 different players...Friday marks the Crusaders’ first trip to the state of Kentucky since the 2012 season opener at Murray State...left-handed batters are just 4-for-23 (.174) versus Trevor Haas...Valpo is batting .311 (50-for-161) with runners in scoring position so far this season...Dalton Lundeen possesses a 141:30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 160 career IP in HL play.