Baseball to play weekend series at Creighton
The South Dakota State University baseball team wraps up its Spring Break trip with a three-game weekend series at Creighton (Neb.).
Friday’s series opener is set for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. Saturday’s game is slated for a 2 p.m. start, with Sunday’s series finale scheduled for 1 p.m.
The Jackrabbits, 9-8 overall, played the first leg of their Spring Break trip at the Snowbird Invitational in Port Charlotte, Fla. SDSU split its six games, recording wins over Presbyterian (S.C.), Maine and Baldwin Wallace (Ohio). The Jackrabbits lost both of their games to Georgetown and also dropped a decision to Maine.
Creighton enters the weekend with a 7-5-1 overall record. Following an 0-4 start, the Bluejays have gone 7-1-1 since Feb. 21, with their lone loss to Arkansas State.
Live stats for all three games can be found at gocreightonstats.com.
THE SERIES: Friday’s series opener will mark the 27th meeting between South Dakota State and Creighton on the baseball diamond — a series that dates back to a 17-16 Bluejay victory on April 17, 1958. Overall, Creighton leads the series, 18-8.
The two squads have met regularly since SDSU joined the Divsion I ranks at the start of the 2005 season, with Creighton holding a 13-3 advantage in the Division I era.
In the lone meeting last season, three Creighton pitchers combined on a one-hitter, leading the homestanding Bluejays to a 7-1 victory over South Dakota State on May 8, 2013, at TD Ameritrade Park.
The Bluejays scored single runs in each of the first two innings to build an early 2-0 lead. Federico Castagnini singled and later scored on a wild pitch for the first-inning run, while Tommy Clouthier plated Brennan Murphy with a single for the second-inning tally.
Murphy made it 3-0 in the fifth-inning with a run-scoring single and the Bluejays extended the lead to 4-0 an inning later on a sacrifice fly by Peter.
Meanwhile, Bluejay starter Matt Warren was cruising. The right-hander surrendered only a fourth-inning single by Scott Splett and faced a mere two batters over the minimum in 7 2/3 innings of work. Warren struck out two and walked three. Two of Warren’s free passes came to the final two batters he faced, leading to the Jackrabbits’ lone run of the game in the top of the eighth.
After reliever Mark Lukowski walked Reid Clary to load the bases, pinch-hitter Michael Finocchiaro reached on an error to allow Daniel Marra to score.
Brad McKewon paced the Bluejays’ 12-hit attack with three hits, while Castagnini, Staehely and Murphy each notched two hits. SDSU’s five pitchers combined to issue seven walks in the game, including five by starter Shane Kraemer in four innings of work.
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.
With two saves this season, Moore has upped his career total to 20 — good for second place on the Jackrabbit career charts. All-American Trever Vermeulen (2008-11) holds the SDSU career saves record with 23.
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.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: The South Dakota State University baseball team has earned its share of weekly Summit League awards in the first month of the 2014 season.
Earlier this week, the Jackrabbits picked up two more awards March 10 as Scott Splett and Adam Bray were for their performances at the Snowbird Invitational. A senior outfielder, Splett shared Summit League Player of the Week honors, while Bray was named co-Summit League Pitcher of the Week.
In four games last week, Splett hit .625 (10-of-16) with three runs batted in. The Apple Valley, Minn., native recorded three multi-hit games, including a 5-for-5 effort against Georgetown on March 9. His other totals for the week included a .750 slugging percentage, four runs scored, a stolen base and a .700 on-base percentage.
Splett shared the award with North Dakota State's Kyle Kleinendorst.
Bray, a junior right-hander from Eden Prairie, Minn., earned his second pitcher of the week honor of the 2014 season after hurling a complete game in the Jackrabbits' 4-1 victory over Presbyterian (S.C.) on March 7 to open play at the Snowbird Invitational in Port Charlotte, Fla. Bray struck out five and did not walk a batter, scattering four hits, in improving to 3-1 this season.
Sharing the pitcher of the week award was Omaha right-hander Tyler Fox.
SDSU 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.
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.
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 14 of 16 games, carrying a five-game hitting streak into the weekend and posting a .338 batting average (23-for-68). He leads the team with three home runs, 15 runs batted in and a .574 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 156 total defensive chances, recording 146 putouts and 10 assists. He upped his career putouts total to 976, 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.
SPLETT ON HOT STREAK: Senior outfielder Scott Splett enters the weekend series at Creighton as the top hitter in the Jackrabbit lineup thanks to a recent hot streak.
A native of Apple Valley, Minn., Splett has hit safely in 10 consecutive games, during which he has compiled a .514 batting average (19-for-37) with a home run and eight runs batted in. He also has scored 10 runs.
Splett moved into the leadoff spot on March 1 and has hit an even .500 (16-for-32) over those eight games. Included in that span was a five-hit game in a losing effort against Georgetown on March 9. It was the most hits in a game by a Jackrabbit player since Eric Cain recorded a Division I-era best six hits in a 2010 game at Dallas Baptist (Texas).
NO FREE PASSES: Jackrabbit pitchers have been stingy against issuing walks so far in the 2014 season. Through games played March 9, SDSU ranked 28th among Division I baseball programs with an average of 2.55 walks allowed per nine innings. For the season, Jackrabbit pitchers have walked 49 batters in 147.2 innings.
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) is in 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 weekend series at Creighton with a 658-727-2 career mark, including a 62-65-1 record at SDSU. He recorded his 600th career victory on March 19, 2012, when the Jackrabbits posted an 11-8 victory at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. Now in his 26th season as a collegiate head coach, he has averaged more than 25 victories per season, including six campaigns with 32 or more wins. He has coached players who have earned all-conference honors 64 times and 40 of his former student-athletes have gone on to play professionally, including Layne Somsen and Stephen Bougher from the Jackrabbits’ 2013 squad.
Prior to South Dakota State, 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 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.
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 Vermont are 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 play their final games before the start of Summit League play with a three-game series March 21-23 at Chicago State (Ill.).