Jackrabbit baseball heads to Windy City
The South Dakota State University baseball team wraps up the pre-conference portion of its schedule with a three-game weekend series at Chicago State (Ill.).
The series kicks off Friday with a 1 p.m. first pitch at Cougar Stadium on the Chicago State campus. Games slated for Saturday and Sunday also are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
The Jackrabbits, 9-10 overall, will seek to get back to their winning ways after dropping both games of a weekend series at Creighton (Neb.) March 14 and 15. SDSU has lost five of its last six games overall.
Chicago State has posted a 6-9 overall record through games played March 19. The Cougars are in their first season as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
Live stats for all three games can be found at www.sidearmstats.com/csu/baseball/
THE SERIES: Friday’s series opener will mark only the second-ever meeting between South Dakota State and Chicago State on the baseball diamond. The Jackrabbits cruised to a 20-2 victory in the inaugural meeting, which was played May 24, 2007, at the Division I Independent Tournament in Orem, Utah.
In that inaugural meeting, Korby Mintken and Tony Martin each hit a pair of home runs as part of an 18-hit Jackrabbit offensive attack. Mintken, who was 3-for-3, hit three-run home runs in back-to-back innings as SDSU tallied eight runs in the second inning and four in the fourth. Cal Lewis also hit a three-run homer in the second inning.
Martin, who also drove in six runs in the game, hit a solo home run to lead off the second inning, then added a grand slam as part of a seven-run sixth inning.
Matt Bowman went the distance for the Jackrabbits, striking out five and walking one while scattering six hits.
Four different Chicago State pitchers combined to walk 17 Jackrabbit batters in the game; SDSU stranded 16 runners in the contest.
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 early going of the 2014 season.
Last 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.
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.
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 15 of 18 games, posting a .329 batting average (25-for-76). He leads the team with three home runs, 15 runs batted in and a .539 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 has committed only one error in 173 total defensive chances, recording 160 putouts and 12 assists. He upped his career putouts total to 990, 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 Chicago State as one of the top hitters in the Jackrabbit lineup thanks to a recent hot streak.
A native of Apple Valley, Minn., Splett hit safely in 11 consecutive games before the streak was snapped March 15 at Creighton (Neb.). During his streak, Splett compiled a .476 batting average (20-for-42) with a home run and eight runs batted in. He also scored 11 runs. Although his hitting streak was snapped, Splett is the only Jackrabbit to reach base in all 19 games this season.
Splett moved into the leadoff spot on March 1 and has hit .425 (17-for-40) over those 10 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 16, SDSU ranked 6t6th among Division I baseball programs with an average of 3.05 walks allowed per nine innings. For the season, Jackrabbit pitchers have walked 56 batters and struck out 119 in 165.1 innings.
PICKING IT: Despite limited practice time outdoors so far this season, the Jackrabbits have more than held their own defensively. SDSU entered the week ranked 10th among Divsioin I baseball programs with a team fielding percentage of .981. The Jackrabbits have committed only 14 errors in 19 games, and have not committed more than two errors in any game.
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 weekend series at Chicago State with a 658-729-2 career mark, including a 62-67-1 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.
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 open Summit League play on Friday, March 28, returning to the Land of Lincoln for a doubleheader at Western Illinois. SDSU will close out the opening weekend of Summit League action with a March 30 doubleheader at Omaha.