Jacks set for week in Florida
The South Dakota State University baseball team will be in Florida over the next week, playing six games as part of its annual Spring Break trip.
For the second year in a row, the Jackrabbits, 6-5 overall, will be competing in the Snowbird Invitational in Port Charlotte, Fla. SDSU is scheduled to play six games in as many days, starting with a Friday morning matchup against Presbyterian (S.C.).
A complete Jackrabbit schedule follows, with opponents’ records through March 4 in parentheses:
• Friday, March 7: vs. Presbyterian (S.C) (5-5-1), 11 a.m. ET
• Saturday, March 8: vs. Maine (3-7), 3 p.m. ET
• Sunday, March 9: vs. Maine, 11 a.m. ET; vs. Georgetown (3-6), 3 p.m. ET
• Tuesday, March 11: vs. Georgetown, 3 p.m. ET
• Wednesday, March 12: vs. Baldwin Wallace (Ohio) (2-2), 10 a.m. ET
All SDSU games will be played at North Charlotte Regional Park.
THE SERIES: The Jackrabbits have never faced any of their opponents at the 2014 Snowbird Invitational.
BACK TO FLORIDA: SDSU came away with a split of its four games at the 2013 Snowbird Invitational. The Jackrabbits won both of their meetings against St. Bonaventure (N.Y.), posting 10-5 and 12-7 victories. Both of SDSU’s losses were to Ohio State by scores of 10-2 and 5-2.
PRESEASON POLLS: The South Dakota State University baseball team has been picked to finish second in the Summit League regular season race, according to a poll conducted among the league’s coaches that was announced on Feb. 6
The Jackrabbits, 35-24 overall last year, turned in a runner-up finish during Summit League regular season play during the 2013 season with a 16-12 record. SDSU went on to claim its first Summit League postseason tournament title last season to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time at the Division I level.
Defending regular season champion Omaha received three first-place votes to claim the top spot in the 2014 preseason poll. SDSU received one first-place vote to garner its second-place projection. North Dakota State was third, followed by Western Illinois in fourth despite receiving a first-place vote. Fort Wayne rounded out the five-team field.
Summit League play begins March 28, when the Jackrabbits travel to Western Illinois for a doubleheader. The 24-game league schedule concludes May 17, followed by the four-team Summit League Baseball Championship May 22-24, which SDSU will host in Sioux Falls.
MOORE ON PRESEASON RADAR: Jackrabbit relief pitcher J.D. Moore has been named Summit League Preseason Pitcher of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
A junior from Mississauga, Ontario, Moore set a Jackrabbit single-season school record with 13 saves in helping lead the Jackrabbits to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance at the Division I level in 2013. He struck out 38 batters in 31.2 innings and posted a 1.99 earned run average, while limiting the opposition to a .175 batting average.
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper also named senior first baseman Aaron Machbitz, sophomore outfielder Paul Jacobson and junior pitchers Adam Bray and Chris Anderson as Jackrabbit players to watch this year.
In addition, Moore is one of 50 relief pitchers named to the initial watch list for the 10th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award. He is one of 17 players on the list who tallied at least 12 saves a season ago.
The watch list will be updated the week of April 21, with finalists named on June 4. The winner of the award will be announced during the 2014 College World Series.
LAST WEEK: The Jackrabbits moved to 6-5 overall by winning one of three games in a weekend series at UTSA in San Antonio, Texas. Both teams competed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: South Dakota State swept the weekly Summit League baseball awards on Feb. 24 as infielder Al Robbins was named Player of the Week and Chad Hodges earned Pitcher of the Week honors.
A junior from West Chicago, Ill., Robbins recorded an extra-base hit — three doubles and a triple — in all four games of a weekend series at Alabama A&M, helping lead the Jackrabbits to a 3-1 record. The left-handed-hitting Robbins hit .429 (6-for-14), while compiling a .786 slugging percentage and .556 on-base percentage. He finished the weekend with seven runs scored, three runs batted in, four bases on ball and two stolen bases. Defensively, Robbins made a diving stop up the middle for the final out in the Jackrabbits' 2-1 victory in the second game of a Feb. 22 doubleheader.
Hodges improved to 2-0 with a seven-inning complete game in SDSU's 2-1 victory on Feb. 22. A junior from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Hodges struck out a career-high eight batters, walked only one and gave up four hits. The lone run he allowed in the game was unearned.
Hodges was the second Jackrabbit in as many weeks to earn Summit League Pitcher of the Week honors, joining fellow junior right-hander Adam Bray following the opening week of the 2014 season.
PITCHING PROWESS: Jackrabbit pitchers combined to put up some impressive numbers through the first three weeks of play.
As a staff, SDSU pitchers have compiled a 3.42 team earned run average through eight games, recording five games of allowing two runs or less. Opponents are hitting a mere .229 against SDSU pitchers. In additon, Jackrabbit pitchers have struck out 64 batters in 94 2/3 innings, while walking only 32.
Fourteen different Jackrabbits have seen action on the mound so far this season.
MACHBITZ OFF TO FAST START: Senior first baseman Aaron Machbitz has helped pace the Jackrabbit offense through the first three weeks of the season.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Machbitz has hit safely in 10 of 11 games, carrying a six-game hitting streak into the weekend and posting a .310 batting average (13-for-42). He leads the team with three home runs, 14 runs batted in and a .619 slugging percentage. His first two home runs of the season both came in SDSU’s 10-2 win over Jackson State (Miss.) on Feb. 15, marking the first multi-home run game of his career and first by a Jackrabbit since Daniel Telford hit a pair of home runs in the second game of a doubleheader April 12, 2013, at Fort Wayne.
Machbitz also has not commited an error in 93 total defensive chances, recording 88 putouts and five assists. He upped his career putouts total to 918, moving him into fourth place in program history and past Joel Blake (908 putouts from 2009-11). Chet Meyer, who tallied 1,213 putouts from 1987-90, stands third in career putouts at SDSU.
SHARROW SHINES: Sophomore Cody Sharrow has filled a starting role on the left side of the infield early in the 2014 season and has responded with both the bat and the glove.
The Vermont native is currently batting .333 (10-for-30) with a home run and eight runs batted in. He hit his first collegiate home run and drove in a career-high four runs as part of a 3-for-5 effort at the plate in the Feb. 23 series finale at Alabama A&M. He also drove in a pair of runs with a double in the Feb. 21 series opener.
Seeing action at both shortstop and third base this season, Sharrow ranks third on the team the team with 20 assists and has committed only one error in 32 total chances for a .969 fielding percentage. As a team, the Jackrabbits have committed only nine errors in posting a Summit League-best .977 team fielding percentage.
SUMMIT IN SIOUX FALLS: South Dakota State University Athletics, in conjunction with the Sioux Falls Sports Authority and the Sioux Falls Canaries, has reached an agreement to host the 2014 Summit League Baseball Championship at Sioux Falls Stadium.
“This is a great opportunity for the city of Sioux Falls and The Summit League,” said Wes Hall, executive director of the Sioux Falls Sports Authority. “Sioux Falls is a great sports town and we are excited to play a part in the journey to the College World Series.”
The four-team, double-elimination tournament is scheduled to be played May 22-24. The tournament format consists of opening-round games May 22, three games on May 23 and up to two games to decide the tournament champion on May 24. The winner of the tournament will receive the Summit League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins on May 30.
“Our team is honored to once again host our league championship in a first-class venue,” South Dakota State head coach Dave Schrage said. “We look forward to playing three exciting days of Summit League championship baseball in front of large crowds.”
Sioux Falls Stadium previously hosted the Summit League Baseball Championship in 2011. SDSU also hosted the 2006 Division I Independent Tournament at Sioux Falls Stadium.
COACH SCHRAGE: Veteran baseball coach Dave Schrage (pronounced Schrag) enters his 26th season as a collegiate head coach — and third at South Dakota State University — during the 2014 season. Schrage was hired to take over the reins of the Jackrabbit baseball program on Aug. 8, 2011.
After posting an 18-33-1 record in his first season at South Dakota State, including a 7-14 mark in The Summit League, Schrage directed a big turnaround in 2013, leading SDSU its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level. The Jackrabbits, who ended the season with a 35-24 overall record last season, won four consecutive games to claim their inaugural Summit League postseason tournament title and advance to the Eugene Regional of the NCAA Tournament, where they were edged in a pair of one-run games.
Schrage enters the Snowbird Invitational with a 655-724-2 career mark, including a 59-62-1 record at SDSU.
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 2014 SDSU baseball roster features 36 players from 12 different states plus three Canadian provinces. Of the 36 players, nine are from Iowa, six are from South Dakota, five are from Illinois and four hail from Minnesota. Two Jackrabbit players are from Colorado, while Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Vermontare represented by one player each. In addition, three players are from Canada — one each from Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.
By class, six are seniors, 13 are juniors, eight are sophomores, one is a redshirt freshman and eight are true freshmen.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits are scheduled to wrap up their Spring Break trip with a three-game series March 14-16 at Creighton (Neb.). The series is slated to begin with a 6 p.m. first pitch March 14 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. The March 15 game is set for a 2 p.m. start, with the March 16 series finale slated for 1 p.m.