Valparaiso (18-32, 6-15 MVC)
at Missouri Valley Conference Tournament
Horner Ballpark | Dallas, Texas
Wednesday, May 23, 7:30 p.m. CT – at DBU (36-17, 16-5 MVC) – RHP Jon Tieman (5-5, 4.75)
Thursday, May 24 – TBD
Friday, May 25 – TBD
Saturday, May 26, 7 p.m. – Championship
Next Up in Crusader Baseball: The Valparaiso University baseball team will spend the week in the Lone Star State as Dallas Baptist University hosts the 2018 Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Tournament. The eight-team, double-elimination event will commence on Wednesday and conclude on Saturday with the winner earning an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. The seventh-seeded Crusaders will face an immediate test in their tournament opener as they clash with host DBU, the No. 2 seed, under the Horner Ballpark lights to conclude the first day of MVC Tournament play.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders will look to rebound after dropping all three games against Indiana State this past weekend. The Sycamores captured a 6-3 win in a competitive series opener behind a five-run sixth inning. From there, Indiana State cruised to a 16-0 win on Friday and an 8-2 triumph on Valpo’s senior day on Saturday.
On the Air: Every game of the tournament will air on ESPN+. Scott Warmann (play-by-play) and Shane Dennis (color commentary) will be on the call for Wednesday’s game between the Crusaders and Patriots. Valley fans can take advantage of a free trial offer to watch the 2018 MVC Baseball Tournament from Dallas, Texas, on ESPN+. Proceed to https://plus.espn.com and click on the Start My 7-Day Free Trial tile. The free trial timeframe is for new ESPN+ subscribers only. Patrons will be auto-billed unless they cancel before the end of their free trial period. The subscription will automatically renew unless canceled and is subject to the ESPN+ Subscriber Agreement. Participants can cancel their subscription by logging into their account and clicking “My Subscription,” emailing or calling Customer Support at 1-800-727-1800. Pricing is subject to change. Links to live video and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Tournament History: In four of its last seven years in the Horizon League, Valpo won the league tournament or finished as the runner-up. The Crusaders are hoping to secure their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2013, when they won the Horizon League Tournament for the second straight season.
Series Notes – DBU: All four all-time meetings between the two teams prior to this season occurred in 2016, when host DBU took three of four at Horner Ballpark. Dallas Baptist entered that series ranked 25th nationally. The Crusaders won 6-1 in the third game of that series, a game that two current Crusaders participated in – Scott Kapers (2-for-4, 2 RBIs) and Chase Dawson (1-for-4). Valpo also picked up a win over DBU earlier this season when Valpo snatched the series finale 9-2 last month at Emory G. Bauer Field. Blake Billinger had three of Valpo’s seven hits, while Wes Gordon hurled a complete game and picked up the win, allowing two runs on just five hits. DBU owns a 5-2 lead in the all-time series.
Series History – Valpo vs. the Rest of the Field
Indiana State: 30-43-1
Illinois State: 8-21-1
Missouri State: 0-5
Southern Illinois: 3-3
Providing Relief: Several members of the Valpo relief corps have thrived late in the season. Perhaps the most noteworthy success story out of the pen of late has been sophomore lefty Jarrett Hammel, who transferred in after Division II Saint Joseph’s College (Rensselaer, Ind.) closed its doors. Over his last six outings, Hammel has not allowed a run – a span of 13 straight scoreless frames. Also ending the season on a high note was right-hander Luke VanLanen, who allowed two runs on just four hits in seven innings over three games in the final week of the regular season.
Doubling His Way Into the Record Book: Valpo’s Blake Billinger has etched his name atop the program’s all-time doubles list. He smoked his 23rd double of the season this past weekend against Indiana State, matching Kyle Muhlsteff’s single-season program record of 23 established in 2010. His next two-bagger will allow him to move into sole possession of the program record.
Other Record Book Threats: Sam Shaikin has scored 49 runs this season, five away from moving to the Top 5 in program history… Chase Dawson needs one more triple to enter the Top 5 in program history… As a team, Valpo has 103 doubles and has moved into the Top 5 in program history for doubles in a season. The 2000 and 1998 seasons were previously tied for fifth in program history, as the Crusaders had registered 102 doubles in each of those campaigns. The 2016 season is fourth at 109… The Crusaders have 37 home runs and are just three away from moving into the Top 5 in program history for home runs in a single season… After shattering a program record for fielding percentage that had stood since 1998 last season, the Crusaders hold a .971 fielding percentage this year, a mark that would match last year for the program record.
Saluting the Seniors
- After waving goodbye to just five seniors a year ago, Valpo honored 10 players at its Senior Day this past weekend. Four of them spent their entire careers with the Valpo program, two were graduate transfers this season, one joined the program as a sophomore and three came in last season as junior college transfers. Seven walked across the stage during Valpo’s undergraduate graduation on Sunday, one will receive his MBA in August, one is on track to complete his undergraduate studies in December and one is on track to finish his master’s degree in December.
- This senior class is diverse geographically as Arizona, Pennsylvania, Indiana, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Wisconsin are all represented.
Pitching Profiles – Weekend Rotation
- Jon Tieman: Freshman All-American last season… Started his freshman year as Valpo’s closer before moving into the weekend rotation by season’s end… Became the first Valpo underclassman to get the Opening Day start for the Crusaders since Bryce Shafer in 2009. Six of Valpo’s last seven Opening Day starters had been seniors before Tieman got the ball at Alabama this season… Got the win on March 16 at Arkansas Pine Bluff after throwing eight innings and allowing seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits. The most impressive aspect of his start was that he struck out seven and issued no walks. The Crusaders didn’t allow any walks in that game, the first time they’d done that since April 23 of last season… One of his strongest starts of the season was when he pitched Valpo to a 9-2 win over the school’s instate rival Butler on March 23. He yielded two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out four in 7 1/3 innings. Tieman did not allow a run over the first seven innings and both runs charged to him scored after he had left the game. He sent down 11 straight batters from the third to the sixth. Tieman's outing came against Big East foe Butler, a team that entered that game with a 16-3 record… In the conference opener vs. Bradley, he left in position for the win but wound up with no decision after allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits and two walks in seven innings… Took the loss after allowing six runs (three earned) in 7 1/3 innings on April 6 at Southern Illinois… Got no decision despite eight strong innings at Michigan State on April 13… Threw his first career complete game in a 7-2 win over Evansville on April 20. Scattered nine hits and permitted only two earned runs while racking up a season-high eight strikeouts. Earned his fourth win of the year, matching his season win total from his rookie campaign…There has only been one successful stolen base with Tieman on the mound this season. Opponents are 1-for-7 when trying to run against the Tieman/Kapers combo... Allowed four earned runs and no walks in six innings on April 27 vs. DBU… Got no decision after allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings against Missouri State on May 4… Threw a career-high 132 pitches in his second complete game of the season on May 11 at Illinois State, yielding just one run on eight hits and two walks to lift Valpo to a 2-1 victory. Gained his team-leading fifth victory of the season, surpassing his 2017 total of four wins, which tied for the team lead.
- Trey Ferketic: Valpo is his fourth school (Saddleback, Long Beach State, UC San Diego)… Didn’t pitch last spring at UC San Diego due to an injury and threw just 3 2/3 innings in 2016… Went seven innings and allowed two runs on five hits and one walk on March 30 against Bradley, a game Valpo eventually won in 10 innings. He received no decision…. Became the first Valpo player this season to throw a complete game in a 6-2 win over Southern Illinois on April 7. He threw 130 pitches… Followed that up with another complete game to help the Crusaders over Michigan State 7-6 on April 13.
- Wes Gordon: Pitched in nine games, all starts, in his first year as a Crusader last season after transferring from Lake County (JUCO), but didn’t appear after April 14 due to an injury… Left in position for the win in his first conference start, scattering seven hits and yielding two runs (one earned) while walking none in seven innings on April 1 against Bradley, but eventually received no decision…Went six strong innings and yielded just one run on seven hits on April 22 at Evansville. Picked up his first victory since April 8, 2017 against Northern Kentucky and limited the opposition to fewer than two runs for the first time since March 24 of last season at UIC… Threw his first career complete game on April 29 vs. DBU, limiting the Patriots to two runs on five hits to garner the win… Had another strong outing on May 6 against Missouri State, allowing three runs on six hits in seven innings against the conference’s first-place team, but took the loss.
Player-by-Player Profiles – Position Players
- Chase Dawson, 2B: Had already surpassed his career high for RBIs in a single season before conference play even began. Had 15 RBIs in 52 games last season after having 17 in 49 games as a freshman. Hit a grand slam against Arkansas Pine Bluff on March 16… Hit .221 over the first 29 games last season before batting .364 over the final month (April 23 – May 24, 16 games), leading the team in batting average and on-base percentage (.364) during that stretch… Has led off and started at second base for Valpo every game this season… A local to Northwest Indiana as an Andrean High School alum and Chesterton native… Is the first Valpo player with five triples since Kyle Gaedele had eight in 2010… Leads The Valley in triples… Has been successful with each of his last nine stolen-base attempts. Was cut down trying to steal in each of the first two games of the season, but has been perfect in stolen-base attempts since.
- Sam Shaikin, SS: Was the only Crusader to start all 53 games last season. Has started every game this year… Led Valpo in batting average at .317 a year ago… Started at third base for the first 12 games of the season, but has started at shortstop every game since. .. Has batted second for Valpo in every game this season… Named to the Brooks Wallace Award Watch List by College Baseball Foundation for an award that goes to the top shortstop in the nation… Is the only Crusader to have earned MVC Player of the Week Honors as he did so in the second week of the year, hitting a robust .700 in three games against Oklahoma and Holy Cross… Has launched eight home runs in 2018, tied for the team lead, and has 12 in his Crusader career.
- Blake Billinger, LF: Was a unanimous first team all-conference selection in both seasons he played at Mission College (JUCO)… Has batted third in every game this season… Hit a home run against Alabama in his first at-bat as a Crusader… Had a three-double game on March 2 vs. CSUN, becoming the first Valpo player with three doubles in a game since Andrew Quinnette in 2008… Hit .769 (10-for-13) in a three-game series at Southern Illinois (April 6-8), becoming the first Crusader since 2010 to go 5-for-5 in a game… Belted his third homer of the year on April 17 at Illinois... Leads the team with 21 multi-hit games and eight games with three hits or more… Became the first Valpo player since 2010 and seventh in program history with 20 doubles in a season on May 1 vs. Northern Illinois… Leads the MVC in two-baggers, three ahead of DBU’s Jameson Hannah… Became the first Valpo player since Quinnette in 2008 with a three-homer game as he put together the first three home run performance in the Missouri Valley Conference this season in an 18-13 win over Western Michigan on May 8… Enters this week one double away from breaking the program record for doubles in a single-season as he’s currently tied for the record with 23… Delivered a walk-off single to drive in two with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a 3-2 win over Chicago State on May 15.
- Giovanni Garbella, RF: Entered April 9 of last season hitting .213 with no home runs and eight RBIs in 26 games and was a career .204 hitter over three years. He hit .380 the rest of the way with five home runs and 24 RBIs over the final 25 games of the season… Drove in a season-high four runs and launched his fourth homer of the season in Valpo’s 6-2 win on April 7 at SIU… Followed that with a home run on April 13 at Michigan State, ripping three extra-base hits and recording the go-ahead RBI in a 7-6 win over the Spartans in the second game of a doubleheader... Had a career-high four hits on April 17 at Illinois… Had a season-high five RBIs, all in his first two plate appearances, in a win over Evansville on April 20. That included his sixth home run of the season and the 13th of his career…. Won the MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week honor on April 25, becoming the first Valpo male athlete in any sport to do so… Hit his team-leading eighth home run of the season on May 8 against Western Michigan… Hopes to continue his baseball career in either the United States or Italy at season’s end.
- Zack Leone, 1B: Transferred to Valpo this season after having tremendous success from 2014-2017 at Susquehanna, where he was named an All-American by D3Baseball.com and the ABCA… Racked up 178 hits (fourth all-time), a .405 average (second all-time), 112 RBIs (second all-time), 49 doubles (program record), 18 home runs (second all-time), a .470 career OBP and a .641 career slugging percentage in his time at the Division III level… Had seven RBIs in a game on March 17 at Arkansas Pine Bluff, becoming just the second player in the Missouri Valley Conference with a seven RBI game this season… Had three doubles in the April 25 defeat to the Fighting Irish, becoming the second Valpo player this season with a three-double game and just the third player in the entire MVC with three doubles in a contest this year… Placed a go-ahead double down the right-field line to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning of a dramatic 2-1 victory over Illinois State on May 11… Has been skydiving over the Swiss Alps… Hopes to play baseball in either the United States or Italy after completing his Crusader career… Enjoys playing chess and owns more chess trophies than baseball trophies.
- Chad Jacob, 3B: Before March 9 at Loyola Marymount, hadn’t started a game at third base since his freshman year in 2015, but has started at third every game since, switching positions with SS Sam Shaikin… Has played in every game this season after dealing with various injuries through his first three collegiate campaigns… Leader on Valpo’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as the Vice President… Had the best offensive weekend of any Crusader against DBU (April 27-29), posting a .455 average (5-for-11) against the Patriots… Had a career-high four hits on May 8 at Western Michigan… graduated with a degree in business finance and is set to begin a consulting job in Orange County.
- Scott Kapers, C: Threw out 41.5 percent of would-be base stealers last season and has cut down 39.6 percent this season… Batted a team-best .378 over the final 14 games of 2017 and started this season with a .317 average over the first 18 games. Has made tremendous offensive strides since batting .196 as a freshman… Brother Jake, also a catcher, has signed his NLI to play at Valpo starting next season… On the Johnny Bench Award Watch List for an award given annually to the nation’s top catcher…Became the third Crusader with a five-hit game this season by going 5-for-5 on May 8 at Western Michigan. Also threw out two Broncos trying to swipe second in that game.
- DH – This spot in the Valpo lineup has been a revolving door throughout the season. Most recently, left-handed hitting Patrick Donohue and right-handed hitting Christian Barczi have platooned at this position.
- Jayden Eggimann, CF: Has 35 RBIs after having 13 last season… Ranks third on the team in RBIs despite batting ninth in the order… Drilled a three-run homer in the ninth inning of an 11-7 victory over Grand Canyon on March 4. The homer was extra special for Eggimann, who started his collegiate career at Grand Canyon and is a native of the Phoenix area… Racked up seven RBIs on April 11 vs. Milwaukee, finishing a double shy of the cycle. Only four players in The Valley have seven RBI games this season, and two of them play for the Crusaders. Also launched a first-inning grand slam in the win over the Panthers… Made a diving catch in center for the final out of a 2-1 victory over Illinois State on May 11 with the potential tying run at second and the winning run at first… Graduated on Sunday with a degree in entrepreneurship in health and wellness and a minor in communications.
- LHP Chet Joslyn – Active leader in career pitching appearances with 74… Longest-tenured Crusader as the lone fifth-year senior. Graduated on Sunday with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in biomedical engineering… Will be working as a manufacturing engineer at Zimmer-Biomet, a knee and hip replacement manufacturer.
- RHP Hayden Kissee – Graduated with degree in exercise science and has plans of going to graduate school for occupational therapy… Joined the program as a junior college transfer last season… Had a strong week in mid-April, garnering a win with two scoreless innings against No. 25 Illinois before nailing down the save with three scoreless frames at Evansville to secure Valpo’s first Missouri Valley Conference series win.
- RHP Luke VanLanen – Four-year member of Valpo’s bullpen… graduated with degree in mathematics and plans to go to graduate school for medical dosimetry… allowed two runs on just four hits in seven innings over three games in the final week of the regular season.
- LHP Jarrett Hammel – Sophomore transferred to Valpo this year after Division II Saint Joseph’s College closed its doors… Over his last six outings, has not allowed a run – a span of 13 straight scoreless frames.
- RHP Alex Dirienzo – Senior who transferred to Valpo followed his freshman season when Akron dropped its baseball program… Graduated with a degree in sociology and has plans of becoming a state trooper.
- RHP Easton Rhodehouse – Named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team last season.
Quality Wins: Valpo added to its growing list of quality wins on April 29 against DBU. The Patriots entered the weekend ranked 46th nationally in RPI, while Valpo also has wins over Illinois, ranked 25th nationally by Baseball America at the time of the game, and Oklahoma, ranked 28th nationally by the USA Today at the time of the Valpo victory.
Six is The Magic Number: Valpo is just 3-28 this season when scoring five runs or fewer. When the Crusaders score six runs or more, they own a 15-4 mark. Valpo’s first win of the season when scoring fewer than five runs was on May 11, a 2-1 victory over Illinois State. They followed that with their second win of the year in such games on May 15, beating Chicago State 3-2.
Cardiac Crusaders: The Crusaders were down to their final strike with nobody on base down by a run on May 15 against Chicago State, but a pinch hit single by Riley Dent started the game-winning rally as the Crusaders eventually pulled out a 3-2 win over Chicago State. That marked the first time since March 26, 2016 Valpo has won when trailing after eight innings. The Crusaders had dropped 62 straight games when behind after eight. While one long streak ended, another one continued, as the Crusaders garnered their 22nd straight win in the head-to-head series with the Cougars.
Billinger Bomb After Billinger Bomb: Blake Billinger homered in three consecutive plate appearances on May 8 at Western Michigan, becoming the first Valpo player to launch three home runs in a game since Andrew Quinnette in 2008. Earlier this season, Billinger also became the first Valpo player with a three-double game since Quinnette in 2008. He was the first player in The Valley with a three-homer game this year and the 23rd nationally. Billinger became the first Valpo player since Quinnette in 2008 with 12 total bases in a single game in that contest.
5-for-5: Scott Kapers became the third Valpo player with a five-hit game this season on May 8 at Western Michigan, joining Chase Dawson and Blake Billinger. Before this year, Valpo hadn’t had more than one player post a five-hit game in any of the previous seven seasons. Kapers joined Billinger as the second Valpo player to go a perfect 5-for-5 this year after previously that feat had not been accomplished by a Crusader since 2010.
More Western Michigan Tidbits: Valpo and Western Michigan combined for 64 total bases, the most in a Valpo game since Valpo and Butler combined for 73 on April 26, 2008. Valpo totaled 35 bases, the most by the Crusaders since they had 40 on April 3, 2010 against Chicago State. Valpo had six hit batters in the game, the team’s most since at least 2005. The Crusaders also set 2018 game highs in home runs with four and matched two other games (against Milwaukee and Grand Canyon) for the season high for hits with 18.
Two-Bagger, Three Times: Zack Leone enjoyed a three-double game on April 25 at Notre Dame, becoming the second Valpo player with three doubles in one game this season, joining Blake Billinger (March 2 vs. CSUN). Only three players in the entire Missouri Valley Conference have had three-double games this season, and two of them play for the Crusaders. No Valpo player had posted a three-double game since Andrew Quinnette on April 26, 2008 against Butler prior to this season.
Top 25 Win: On the exact 55-year anniversary of Valpo’s most recent win over Illinois, the Crusaders beat the No. 25 Fighting Illini 11-7 on Tuesday, April 17 in Champagne. It marked just the second time all season Illinois had lost a game by more than three runs. The Crusaders also beat a Top 25 team in 2016, topping No. 25 Dallas Baptist 6-1. Illinois entered the game ranked 25th by Baseball America, 27th in the RPI and 17th by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. Illinois had won five straight and 22 of its previous 27. The 11 runs are the most Illinois had given up in a loss all year.
Beating Big Ten Competition: After dropping the first game of a doubleheader at Michigan State in 12 innings on Friday, April 13, Valpo picked up a 7-6 win in the nightcap. This marks the third straight season Valpo has beaten a team from the Big Ten Conference, as the Crusaders knocked off instate foe Purdue each of the last two years. The Crusaders followed that with the 11-7 win over the Fighting Illini, the fourth Big Ten win Valpo has notched in the last three years and the second in a row.
A Weekend To Remember: The Crusaders picked up several signature wins in the same day on Feb. 24 in Norman, Okla. Valpo upended host Oklahoma, a team ranked 28th nationally, 11-4 in the first game of the day, before routing Holy Cross 20-6. Both Oklahoma and Holy Cross reached the NCAA Tournament last season. The 20 runs in a game were Valpo’s most since April 2, 2010 (26 against Chicago State) – a mark that has since been topped with a 23-run outpouring on April 11 vs. Milwaukee. The final game of the weekend in Norman saw the Crusaders take the Sooners to extra innings, but Oklahoma prevailed 3-2.
Ninth Inning Magic: On March 2 against CSUN – a neutral site game at GCU Ballpark in Phoenix – Valpo scored nine times in the top of the ninth to create a 13-13 tie. Chase Dawson capped the miraculous rally with a two-run homer, but CSUN walked off with a run in the bottom of the ninth for a 14-13 victory.
Walk-Off Winner: Valpo reversed the ghosts of years past on March 30 when Zack Leone crushed a three-run, walk-off home run, Valpo's first game-ending long ball in over 15 years. The swing that sent Valpo to a 5-2, 10 inning victory over Bradley for its first Missouri Valley Conference triumph also allowed the team to lay to rest the ghosts of the program's recent past. Three of the Crusaders’ first five losses this season came in walk-off fashion, while Valpo has been hurt by walk-off home runs in the past as well – most recently last year’s season opener at Western Kentucky and most notably a 2013 NCAA Tournament game against Indiana.
Head Coach Brian Schmack: Brian Schmack, the 17th head coach in Valparaiso University history, is in his fifth 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, then guided the team to its first winning record since 2013 in 2016. In 2017, Schmack continued his success despite guiding a youthful roster that featured 11 freshmen and 15 total newcomers. He led the Crusaders to 24 wins, including a strong finish to the regular season that saw them win eight of their last 11. Schmack, a member of the 2003 Detroit Tigers, served as pitching coach/associate head coach at Valpo for seven seasons prior to his promotion.
Looking Back: Valpo finished 2017 with a 24-29 record and a 13-15 mark in the Horizon League. Three Crusaders earned all-league freshman team honors, the first time Valpo had three players on the all-freshman team since 2013 and the seventh straight year the Crusaders had multiple players on the all-freshman squad. After posting a 4-1 record, 2.93 ERA and seven saves, right-handed pitcher Jon Tieman was named a Freshman All-American, becoming the first Crusader to earn that high honor since shortstop Spencer Mahoney in 2012. The 2017 season also saw the Crusaders set the program record for team fielding percentage, as they put together a .971 fielding percentage that bested the previous mark of .968, which had stood since 1998. The Valpo offense has enjoyed a significant statistical uptick over the last three seasons. The Crusaders held a combined average of .279, slugging percentage of .387 and on-base percentage of .372 from 2015-2017, all improvements from a .265/.351/.337 slash line from 2012-2014.
Preseason Poll: The Crusaders were picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll in their first season in The Valley. Dallas Baptist is the preseason favorite to win the league and is ranked 18th nationally by D1Baseball.com, 20th by the NCBWA and 17th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Missouri State, picked second in The Valley, is ranked 35th nationally by the NCBWA and received 35 votes in the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll.