BROOKINGS, S.D. - After winning a pair of home games earlier this week, the South Dakota State University baseball team heads back out on the road for three games this weekend in Omaha, Neb.
The Jackrabbits, 10-17-1 overall, are scheduled to open weekend play at 6 p.m. Friday against Creighton (Neb.). SDSU is slated to play Iowa at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the weekend concluding with a 1 p.m. matchup Sunday against Creighton. All three games will be played at TD Ameritrade Park - the home of the College World Series in downtown Omaha.
Both Creighton and Iowa enter the weekend with 14-16 overall records. The Bluejays and Hawkeyes are scheduled to play each other at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Audio coverage of all three games will be available through the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com.
THE SERIES: Friday's game against Creighton will be the 24th meeting between SDSU and the Bluejays on the baseball diamond. Dating back to a 17-16 Creighton victory during the 1958 season, the Bluejays lead the all-time series by a 16-7 count. Since SDSU moved to the Division I level at the start of the 2005 season, Creighton holds an 11-2 series advantage after completing a three-game sweep of the Jackrabbits last season. The Jackrabbits' last win in the series was a 4-2 victory in the opening game of a doubleheader on March 15, 2009, in Omaha.
Saturday's game against Iowa will mark the seventh meeting between the Jackrabbits and Hawkeyes. The series began in 2010, with the Jackrabbits and Hawkeyes splitting a two-game series. SDSU took a 3-1 series lead by winning both matchups during the 2011 campaign before Iowa notched a pair of victories in a two-game series last week in Iowa City.
In the series opener April 3, Iowa scored four times in the bottom of the first inning en route to a 6-2 victory.
Both Jackrabbit runs scored on an Aaron Machbitz single in the sixth inning. Eric Cain was 2-for-4 as the Jackrabbits managed only five hits in the contest.
Iowa put the game away with a two-run home half of the seventh on run-scoring singles by Chett Zeise and pinch hitter Jake Mangler. Zeise, Mike McQuillan and Andrew Host each tallied two of the Hawkeyes' 11 hits in the game.
Iowa made it a series sweep on April 4 as freshman Jake Yacinich drove in four runs, including a back-breaking three-run triple in the sixth inning, to lead the Hawkeyes to an 11-4 victory.
The Hawkeyes led 3-0 after three innings, scoring once in the first and twice in the third against SDSU starter Nick Young. Chett Zeise doubled in the first run of the third inning and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Bryan Niedbalski.
SDSU came back to take a 4-3 lead by scoring all of its runs in the fourth inning. Eric Cain led off with a walk and scored on a groundout by Andrew Phelan. Daniel Telford later scored on a base hit by Zach Briggs and Nick Andrews followed with a two-run home run - his second round-tripper of the season.
Iowa took advantage of an error to tie the game in the home half of the fourth, then took the lead for good with a four-run sixth inning. After the first two batters of the sixth inning were retired, Jackrabbit reliever Blake Fiedelman proceeded to walk the next four hitters to set up Yacinich, who cleared the bases with a triple to the right-center gap off Marcus Heemstra.
The Hawkeyes added a run in the seventh and two more in the eighth, including a run-scoring single by Yacinich, who was 2-for-2 in the game. Keppler was 3-for-3 to pace the Hawkeyes' 13-hit attack.
Andrews was the only Jackrabbit player with more than one hit, going 2-for-3 as SDSU finished with six hits.
GOING HOME: This weekend's trip to Omaha will mark a homecoming of sorts for Jackrabbit head coach Dave Schrage. The first-year skipper was an all-conference outfielder for the Bluejays after batting .400 as a junior and .433 his senior season. He also was an Academic All-America honoree during his senior campaign in 1983, and graduated that spring with a bachelor of science degree in finance. Schrage was honored on the Missouri Valley Conference's Centennial Celebration baseball team and is the only person in league history to earn all-conference honors and be named MVC Coach of the Year in baseball.
In addition, Friday's scheduled starter, Stephen Bougher, is a native of nearby Papillion.
EARLIER THIS WEEK: The Jackrabbits played their first home games of the season, winning a pair of 3-1 games from Mount Marty (S.D.) and Minnesota.
SDSU 3, Mount Marty 1
Freshman Talon Jumper pitched seven scoreless innings and the South Dakota State University baseball team came up with just enough offense to defeat Mount Marty, 3-1, in the Jackrabbits' home opener April 10 at Erv Huether Field.
SDSU improved to 9-17-1 overall, while the Lancers fell to 14-21 on the season.
The Jackrabbits broke into the scoring column with a run in the third inning. After Zach Rhodes reached on a wind-aided infield single, Daniel Marra singled through the left side and Eric Cain loaded the bases with a base hit to right field. Phil Paquette then beat out a potential double-play grounder to plate Rhodes with the first run of the game.
SDSU added a run in the fourth as Andrew Phelan led off with a walk, moved to third on a base hit by Aaron Machbitz and scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Andrews.
Jumper, meanwhile, kept Mount Marty off the board by working out of a jam in the second in which the Lancers placed runners on second and third with one out in which he recorded back-to-back groundouts. He also stranded a pair of runners in the third and fifth innings. Jumper struck out six, walked two and allowed five hits in earning his first collegiate victory.
Lancer starter Derrik Nelson retired 11 batters in a row before surrendering a run with two outs in the eighth on three straight two-out singles by Machbitz, Andrews and Eric Danforth. Marra, Machbitz and Danforth each went 2-for-4 to lead the Jackrabbits' 10-hit attack.
Mount Marty ended the shutout bid with a run in the ninth against Jackrabbit closer J.D. Moore. With one out, Jason Livermont was hit by a pitch and Mike Johnson followed with a single. Two batters later, Justin Kemp singled in Livermont, but Moore got Nelson to ground out to end the game.
Nelson led the Lancers at the plate with a 3-for-5 afternoon as Mount Marty tallied nine hits. On the mound, Nelson hurled a complete game, striking out three and walking three.
SDSU 3, Minnesota 1
Pitching, defense and timely hitting.
Behind a tie-breaking two-run home run by Aaron Machbitz in the bottom of the sixth inning and sparkling late-inning defense, the South Dakota State University baseball team officially christened the newly renovated Erv Huether Field with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota on April 11.
In defeating Minnesota for the fifth time in the last six meetings, the Jackrabbits improved to 10-17-1 overall. The Golden Gophers dropped to 17-17 on the season.
After being held hitless for the first 3 1/3 innings by Minnesota starter Jordan Jess, the Jackrabbits grabbed a 1-0 lead later in the fourth inning against the Golden Gopher bullpen. With two outs, Phil Paquette and Andrew Phelan each reached on infield singles before Zach Rhodes singled to right field to plate Paquette.
Minnesota tied the game with a run in the fifth inning against SDSU reliever Nick Young. David Bettenburg led off with a walk, moved to third on a base hit by Ryan Abrahamson and scored on a groundout by Andy Henkemeyer.
SDSU's game-winning rally started when Eric Cain greeted reliever Kyle O'Shea with a base hit through the right side and Machbitz followed with his second home run of the season, a shot a few feet to the left of straight-away center field.
The Jackrabbit bullpen held the lead the rest of the way as Marcus Heemstra pitched two scoreless innings and Deon Entringer finished off his first save of the season with a perfect ninth inning.
Along the way, the Jackrabbits flashed the leather as Andrew Phelan - normally the team's starting center fielder - started a nifty double play up the middle with a backhand glove flip from his second base position for the first two outs of the eighth and Zach Rhodes made a diving catch in right-center field for the third out of the frame. Left fielder Eric Danforth added a diving catch to rob the Golden Gophers of a hit to open the ninth inning.
In addition, Jackrabbit catcher Zach Briggs threw out two would-be base stealers and picked off another runner at second base.
Machbitz and Phelan each tallied two of the Jackrabbits' eight hits. Bobby Juan and Abrahamson each had two of Minnesota's five hits.
Freshman left-hander Blake Fiedelman earned his first collegiate victory, recording one walk and one strikeout in one-plus innings of work.
ROAD WARRIORS: The South Dakota State University baseball team spent the better part of the first six weeks of the season on the road.
The Jackrabbits played their first 26 games of the season away from Erv Huether Field, culminating with last weekend's trip to IPFW. Indiana marked the eighth different state in which SDSU has played a game this season, joining Kentucky, Arkansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa. The Jackrabbits also are scheduled to play games in North Dakota and Utah this season and would play in Oklahoma should they qualify for the four-team Summit League postseason tournament.
SUMMIT LEAGUE RACE: The South Dakota State University baseball team has been picked to finish third by Summit League coaches, according to a preseason poll released in February.
The Jackrabbits finished behind perennial league champion Oral Roberts and Western Illinois in the poll conducted by the league's coaches. ORU received six of the seven first-place votes for 36 points, with the Fighting Leathernecks finishing second with 27 points. SDSU tallied 25 points, with North Dakota State placing fourth with 21 points.
Southern Utah received the other first-place vote in the balloting, but finished fifth with 19 points. Oakland (11 points) and IPFW (8 points) rounded out the poll.
In all, SDSU is slated to play 24 league games before the Summit League Championships May 24-26 in Tulsa, Okla.
SUMMIT LEAGUE HISTORY: The Jackrabbit baseball team has enjoyed a great deal of success since joining The Summit League at the start of the 2008 season.
In its first four seasons, SDSU increased its win total in league play each year, improving from an 8-10 campaign in 2008 to a 20-8 mark in 2011. Overall, the Jackrabbits have compiled a 66-39 record (.629 winning percentage) in Summit League regular season games.
SDSU has advanced to the championship of the Summit League postseason tournament each of the last three seasons - losing to perennial league power Oral Roberts each time. The Jackrabbits claimed the Summit League regular season title in 2010 with a 19-9 league mark, followed by a runner-up finish to ORU last season despite a 20-8 Summit League record.
PRESEASON ACCOLADES: Four Jackrabbits were named to the 2012 Preseason All-Summit League Team selected by CollegeSportsMadness.com. First-team honors went to shortstop Eric Cain and outfielder Beau Hanowski, while outfielder Andrew Phelan and pitcher Kolton Emery received second-team recognition.
A senior from Littleton, Colo., Cain has led the Jackrabbits in runs batted in each of the last two seasons, tallying a school-record 83 in 2010 and 46 during the 2011 campaign. Cain also recently special mention from Baseball America as one of the top collegiate impact players in the Midwest.
Hanowski earned first-team all-Summit League honors in 2011 after recording team bests of 49 runs scored and a .449 on-base percentage while hitting out of the leadoff spot. The Little Falls, Minn., native batted .349 with a home run and 26 RBI last season.
Hanowski suffered a shoulder injury in the March 4 game at Arkansas State and missed 14 games before returning to the lineup April 3 at Iowa.
Phelan platooned in right field for much of the 2011 campaign before earning all-tournament honors at the Summit League Baseball Championship. Slated to move to center field this season, the Littleton, Colo., native batted .333 with two home runs and 27 RBI, and added a team-high six stolen bases.
Emery solidified the back end of the Jackrabbit starting rotation in 2011, compiling a 7-1 record with a 5.09 earned run average. The Black Hawk native and graduate of Rapid City Stevens High School also ranked among the nation's leaders in fewest walks per nine innings (1.66), issuing only 14 free passes in 76 innings of work.
BOUGHER BLANKING OPPONENTS: South Dakota State right-hander Stephen Bougher has been on a roll of late, compiling a 4-0 record with a 0.87 earned run average over his last four starts.
Bougher began the streak by throwing back-to-back shutouts in March, earning Summit League Pitcher of the Week honors after each outing. A junior from Papillion, Neb., Bougher fired a two-hit, seven-inning shutout in an 11-0 victory at Arkansas-Pine Bluff on March 9. In that contest, he allowed only a pair of singles and two walks, while striking out three.
One week later, March 16 at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Bougher fanned six, walked four and surrendered three singles in a nine-inning, 5-0 Jackrabbit victory.
Bougher ran his winning streak to three games March 23 at Northern Colorado and continued his dominance by throwing eight shutout innings with a career-high eight strikeouts in the series opener April 6 at IPFW.
For the season, Bougher has compiled a 4-2 record with a 3.18 ERA. He has struck out 29 and walked 18 in 39.2 innings.
HEEMSTRA BACK ON THE HILL: Sophomore right-hander Marcus Heemstra suited up in his baseball uniform for the first time in 2012 during the four-game series at Northern Colorado March 23-25 after a successful run on the basketball court that included South Dakota State making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance at the Division I level.
Heemstra pitched two scoreless frames in his last outing, as he held the lead in the seventh and eight innings in a 3-1 Jackrabbit victory over Minnesota on April 11.
A reserve forward, Heemstra played in 29 of the Jackrabbits' 35 games, posting averages of 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
STAFF SUCCESS: The Jackrabbit pitching staff as a whole has put up some impressive numbers over the last week. In its last six games, SDSU has allowed a total of 11 runs for a 1.58 earned run average. The Jackrabbits have not allowed more than three runs in any of those games and have held opponents to a .213 batting average.
During the recent stretch, 13 different pitchers have thrown at least one inning as SDSU hurlers have struck out 43 batters and issued 23 walks in 51.1 total innings. Layne Somsen has fanned 11 batters in the last seven innings he has pitched.
CAIN ON CAREER CHARTS: Jackrabbit shortstop Eric Cain is rapidly moving up the career charts in a number of categories during his senior season, and is adding to one record he set during his junior campaign.
A four-year starter, Cain holds the SDSU career record for assists with 486, surpassing the previous mark of 380 set by Pat Schmidt (1992-95). His 194 games played currently rank sixth.
Cain also ranks in the top 10 of the following seven categories:
• Walks: second with 104 (first place is Dave Lane (1983-86) with 123);
• At-Bats: third with 730 (second place is Nick Adams (2005-08) with 779);
• Hits: fourth with 247 (third place is Greg Geary (2002-05) with 256);
• Triples: tied for fifth with 10 (tied with Nick Adams and Tyson Fisher (2005-08));
• Sacrifice Flies: tied for sixth with 11 (tied with four other players);
• Runs Batted In: eighth with 159 (tie for sixth place between Pat Schmidt (1992-95) and Doug Sehr (1991-94) with 162);
• Total Bases: eighth with 361 (seventh place is Tyson Fisher (2005-08) with 368).
PAQUETTE FILLS IN: With starter Beau Hanowski sidelined by injury, sophomore Phil Paquette took over the duties in left field on a full-time basis.
In the 14 games between Hanowski's injury and his return to the lineup, Paquette batted .400 (22-for-55) with 14 runs batted in and seven runs scored. He went 11-for-16 (.688 average) in the four-game weekend series at Northern Colorado, adding an .813 slugging percentage.
Paquette continues to lead the team with a .344 batting average and stands second on the team with 19 runs batted in.
MARRA AND MELTON: Despite shifting between the second and third base positions throughout the season, infielders Daniel Marra and Andrew Melton have been consistent performers for the Jackrabbits this season.
Melton, a junior from Littleton, Colo., ranks fourth on the team with a .304 batting average (24-for-79) with two home runs and 10 RBI in 25 starts. He has missed the last two games after being injured in pre-game warmups prior to the Mount Marty game on April 10.
Marra, meanwhile, reached base safely in the first 19 games of the season and ranks third on the team with 29 hits. A junior from Toronto, Ont., Marra also is third on the squad with a .305 batting average and has added 13 RBI.
COACH SCHRAGE: Veteran college baseball coach Dave Schrage (pronounced Schrag) was hired to take over the reins of the South Dakota State University baseball program on Aug. 8, 2011.
"Dave Schrage's familiarity with our recruiting area and his success in building programs like ours make him a tremendous addition to the Jackrabbit family," said Jackrabbit Athletic Director Justin Sell in announcing the hire.
Schrage posted his 600th career victory on March 18, when the Jackrabbits defeated Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, 11-8, in the completion of a suspended game. In 23-plus seasons as a collegiate head coach, he has averaged more than 25 victories per season, including five campaigns with 32 or more wins. He has coached players who have earned all-conference honors 58 times and 38 of his former student-athletes have gone on to play professionally.
"I am very humbled and appreciative for this opportunity," Schrage said. "I was so impressed with the quality of people when I visited campus. It is a great time to come to South Dakota State University. There is so much growth and excitement happening on campus. My family and I are looking forward to getting involved in the Brookings community and joining the Jackrabbit family."
Unlike many of his previous stops, Schrage inherits a winning program; SDSU has averaged 38 wins each of the past two seasons, tying the school record for wins with a 39-21 record in 2010, followed by a 37-20 mark in 2011. The Jackrabbits have advanced to the Summit League championship series three consecutive years.
"Coach (Reggie) Christiansen and coach Price did a super job building this program into a winner," Schrage said. "I expect to keep that momentum going and reach even greater heights."
Most recently, Schrage was head coach at Notre Dame for four seasons, leading the Fighting Irish to a 119-104-1 record from 2007-10. After posting a .500 record (28-28) his first season in South Bend, Schrage put Notre Dame back in contention for postseason play with a 33-21-1 record in 2008 and a 36-23 mark in 2009. The Fighting Irish led the BIG EAST Conference in fielding in both 2008 and 2009, while consistently ranking at or near the top in batting, on-base percentage and earned run average.
Schrage has previously found success at the mid-major level, including a four-year stint at Evansville (Ind.) from 2003-06, during which he guided the Purple Aces to a 130-108 record. Evansville improved its win total each of his four seasons, from 24 in 2003 to 43 in 2006. Schrage earned Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors for the third time in 2006 as Evansville won both the regular season and tournament conference titles, earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Purple Aces advanced all the way to the finals of the Charlottesville Regional, knocking off host Virginia before falling to South Carolina in the championship.
A Chicago native, Schrage directed a dramatic turnaround in his home state during a three-year run at Northern Illinois from 2000-02. After inheriting a team that was 4-51 the year before he arrived, Schrage's squad turned in a 20-game improvement with a 24-33 record in his first season and then led the Huskies to a winning season in 2001 with a 28-27 overall mark. He was named runner-up for National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in 2000.
Schrage began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant under his predecessor at Notre Dame, Paul Mainieri, at St. Thomas University (Fla.) in 1984. He later returned to his alma mater, Creighton University (Neb.), as an assistant coach for two seasons.
From 1986-87, Schrage coached the Queensland Rams club team in Brisbane, Australia, before returning stateside as he gained his first head coaching job at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. From 1988-90 he led the junior college program to a 61-66 mark.
Schrage then spent nine seasons as head coach at the University of Northern Iowa, where he was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1997. His teams improved from two league victories in UNI's first season in the MVC in 1992 to 18 during the 1997 campaign.
As a collegiate player, Schrage was an all-conference outfielder at Creighton, batting .400 as a junior and .433 his senior season. He also was an Academic All-America honoree during his senior campaign in 1983, and graduated that spring with a bachelor of science degree in finance. Schrage was honored on the MVC's Centennial Celebration baseball team and is the only person in league history to earn all-conference honors and be named MVC Coach of the Year in baseball.
THE ROSTER: The 2012 SDSU baseball roster features 33 players from eight different states plus three Canadian provinces. Of the 33 players, five are from Colorado and South Dakota, while three are from each of the states of Illinois, Minnesota and Texas. Iowa, Nebraska and Washington feature one player each. In addition, nine players are from Canada - four from Ontario, three from British Columbia and two from Alberta. By class, seven are seniors, eight are juniors, eight are sophomores and 10 are incoming freshmen.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits continue non-conference action by hosting a pair of mid-week games at Erv Huether Field.
SDSU will square off against North Dakota State on Tuesday, April 17, followed by a matchup the next day versus the University of North Dakota. Both games are set for 3 p.m. starts.
The Jackrabbits will then head to Fargo for a key four-game Summit League series against North Dakota State April 20-22.