Baseball to take on Valpo

By Brian Earle

Baseball is taking a break from its conference schedule for a midweek matchup against Valparaiso at 3 p.m. today in Valparaiso, Ind.

The game was added to the teams’ schedules on Tuesday due to the two teams cancelling games due to inclement weather. Valparaiso and NIU agreed upon the game to allow their teams to play the most possible games this season.

“Earlier this year for us, we lost two games to weather down at Bradley, so we had two open games on our schedule,” said coach Ed Mathey. “You always want to play the schedule out, you want to play all 56 of those games, and it’s what’s best for the kids and the players.”

The midweek game will give the Huskies (4-19-1) a chance to give some other players more live game action and a chance to prove themselves.

“You have to get some guys in there who haven’t been getting regular at-bats so that they’re ready for it, if they need to come off the bench,” Mathey said. “Or [they can] work on an opportunity on earning a starting spot, and that’s the great thing about these midweek games.”

Pitcher Jordan Ruckman will get the nod on the mound for the Huskies after pitching two scoreless innings over the weekend against Bowling Green. Ruckman was a starter at the beginning of the season before Anthony Andres took over his starting spot.

“With Jordan it’s really about what comes out of his hand,” Mathey said. “His stuff is good enough; he showed that last year. It’s just about throwing the ball downhill and competing in the strike zone. When he does that he gives us a great chance to win some games … . If he’s in the strike zone it’s going to be a big benefit for us.”

At the plate, infielder Justin Fletcher and outfielder Brandon Mallder have been swinging the bat well as of late. They each recorded four hits over the weekend while Fletcher scored four runs and Mallder drove in five RBIs. Mallder was perfect at the plate in Friday’s game, going 2-2 with three walks and four RBIs.

The Crusaders (9-11) have struggled recently, losing their last four games. Despite their recent struggles, Mathey knows the Crusaders will present a tough challenge to the Huskies.

“They’re a pretty good team,” Mathey said. “They’re in the Horizon League. We’ll recruit against them, so it has that feel to it. Valparaiso was in the regionals each of the last two years, so this is another team on our schedule that’s got NCAA Regional experience.”