The South Dakota State University baseball team returns home for a pair of mid-week games against its rivals to the north.
The Jackrabbits will host North Dakota State in non-conference action Tuesday afternoon, followed by a Wednesday matinee against the University of North Dakota. Both games are slated for 3 p.m. at Erv Huether Field.
The Jackrabbits enter the week with an 11-19-1 overall record. SDSU opened the home season with back-to-back 3-1 wins over Mount Marty and Minnesota on April 10 and 11, respectively, and extended its winning streak to a season-best three games with a 5-2 win at Creighton on April 13. The Jackrabbits dropped their final two games over the weekend in Omaha, Neb., falling 6-1 to Iowa on April 14 and 6-5 to Creighton on April 15.
On the strength of a 16-game winning streak from March 10-April 7, NDSU leads The Summit League in overall winning percentage with a 24-9 (.727) record. The Bison feature the league's top three hitters - Nick Colwell (.400), Tim Colwell (.393) and Zach Wentz (.374) - and lead The Summit with a .303 batting average. In addition, NDSU leads the league in team fielding (.978) and ranks second in team pitching with a 3.61 team earned run average.
Tuesday's game serves as a precursor to a four-game Summit League series between the two squads this weekend in Fargo. The series opener is set for a 6:30 p.m. start Friday night at Newman Outdoor Field, followed by a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday. The series finale is slated for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Both teams are 2-2 in Summit League play. SDSU split its first league series of the season April 6-8 at IPFW, while the Bison split their four-game set at Western Illinois this past weekend.
UND comes into the week with a 2-24 overall record, including an 0-8 mark in the Great West Conference. UND will attempt to end a 14-game losing streak as it hosts Minot State (N.D.) Tuesday afternoon.
Both of SDSU's home games this week will be available via audio streaming through the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com.
THE SERIES: Tuesday's game will mark the 143rd meeting between South Dakota State and North Dakota State on the baseball diamond.
The Jackrabbits lead the all-time series, which dates back to 1956, by a 95-47 count. Over the past two seasons, SDSU has won nine of the last 11 meetings, including holding a 6-1 series advantage in 2011.
The Jackrabbits won three of the four games played during the Summit League regular season before winning a non-conference game in Fargo. SDSU then knocked the Bison out of the Summit League Championship with a pair of victories. The second-seeded Jackrabbits opened the tournament with 4-1 victory on May 26 in Sioux Falls, then posted a 13-10 victory two days later to eliminate NDSU.
Against UND, the Jackrabbits hold a 66-56-1 advantage in the series that dates back to 1957. The two squads split their season series a year ago, with each winning on its home field. SDSU posted an 8-2 victory on April 13, 2011, at Erv Huether Field, while UND scored a 5-2 win May 17 in Grand Forks, N.D.
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 5-0 record with a 0.94 earned run average over his last five 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. He followed that by surrendering only one run in 7 1/3 innings at Creighton (Neb.) on April 13.
For the season, Bougher has compiled a 5-2 record with a 2.87 ERA. He has struck out 35 and walked 20 in 47 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.
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 497, surpassing the previous mark of 380 set by Pat Schmidt (1992-95). His 197 games played currently rank in a tie for fifth.
Cain also ranks in the top 10 of the following seven categories:
• Walks: tied for second with Zach Briggs with 104 (first place is Dave Lane (1983-86) with 123);
• At-Bats: third with 744 (second place is Nick Adams (2005-08) with 779);
• Hits: fourth with 250 (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 160 (tie for sixth place between Pat Schmidt (1992-95) and Doug Sehr (1991-94) with 162);
• Total Bases: eighth with 365 (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 .324 batting average and shares the team lead with 20 runs batted in.
MACHBITZ HEATING UP: Sophomore first baseman Aaron Machbitz put together a strong week at the plate last week, batting .350 (7-for-20) with a pair of home runs and three runs batted in. His two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning proved to be the difference in a 3-1 Jackrabbit victory over Minnesota on April 11. Machbitz slugged his third home run of the season to account for the only Jackrabbit run in a 6-1 loss to Iowa on April 14 in Omaha, Neb.
Machbitz enters the game with a hit in five consecutive games and 12 of his last 14.
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., carries a .270 batting average (24-for-89) with two home runs and 10 RBI in 28 starts. He has missed two games last week 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 fourth on the team with 31 hits. A junior from Toronto, Ont., Marra also is fourth on the squad with a .290 batting average and has added 14 RBI.
YOUNG ARMS: The Jackrabbit pitching staff has received some strong performances of late from its newest additions. In wins over Mount Marty and Minnesota last week, five first-year pitchers combined to account for 13 of the team's 18 innings, posting a 1.38 earned run average by allowing two earned runs.
Right-hander Talon Jumper earned his first collegiate victory after pitching seven shutout innings in the win over Mount Marty on April 10, while fellow freshman Blake Fiedelman notched his first collegiate win during a relief appearance April 11 against Minnesota. In addition, J.D. Moore was credited with his second save of the season in the Mount Marty contest as he is in a battle to secure the closer's role.
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: After the two mid-week games, the Jackrabbits will head to Fargo for a key four-game Summit League series against North Dakota State Friday through Sunday.