Jackrabbits prepare for Summit opener
The South Dakota State University baseball team opens the Summit League portion of its schedule with a doubleheader Friday at Western Illinois.
First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. at Alfred D. Boyer Stadium on the Western Illinois campus in Macomb. Game 2 will immediately follow. Video of both games will be available through Rocky Vision at wiuathletics.com
The Jackrabbits, the defending Summit League tournament champions, enter league play with an 11-11 overall record. Western Illinois is 2-15 overall.
Following Friday’s games at Western Illinois, the Jackrabbits will travel to Omaha for a Sunday twinbill against the defending regular season champion Mavericks. Start time Sunday is noon at the Ballpark at Boys Town. Audio broadcasts of both games of Sunday’s doubleheader will be streamed through the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com.
Omaha enters the weekend with a 10-9 overall record.
THE SERIES: South Dakota State has held the upper hand in the all-time series against Western Illinois, posting a 17-8 record against the Fighting Leathernecks since the teams first met in 2006.
The two squads played six times during the 2013 season, with SDSU winning four of the six matchups. The Jackrabbits won three of four games during a regular season series May 4-5 in Macomb, then split two games at the Summit League Baseball Championship later in the month in Rochester, Mich. Western Illinois won the opening game of the tournament, 4-2, on May 23, before SDSU eliminated the Fighting Leathernecks with a 5-4 win two days later en route to the tournament title.
The Jackrabbits’ series with Omaha dates back to 1949, with the two schools regularly competing against each other as members of the Division II North Central Conference. Overall, Omaha holds a 68-61-1 series advantage.
Last season, Omaha clinched the Summit League regular season title by winning three of four games against the Jackrabbits on the final weekend of league play.
2013 Series Results
• vs. Western Illinois: W, 4-1 (May 4); W, 5-0 (May 4); L, 1-2 (May 5); W, 3-2 (May 5); L, 2-4 (May 23); W, 5-4 (May 25)
• at Omaha: L, 0-6 (May 16); L, 4-6 (May 17); W, 12-5 (May 17); L, 2-8 ) May 18
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 Leagueregular 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 and North Dakota State travels to Fort Wayne. 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 three saves this season, Moore has upped his career total to 21 — 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.
HODGES HONORED: For the second time this season, South Dakota State University right-hander Chad Hodges has been named Summit League Pitcher of the Week.
A junior from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Hodges was the winning pitcher in the Jackrabbits' 2-1 victory over Chicago State (Ill.) in the second game of a doubleheader on March 21. The lone run he allowed in seven innings was unearned as he gave up five hits — all singles — and struck out five while walking two.
Hodges, who improved to 3-2 on the season, also earned the weekly league award on Feb. 24 following a victory at Alabama A&M.
MORE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: The South Dakota State University baseball team has earned its share of weekly Summit League awards in the pre-league portion of the 2014 season. Four different Jackrabbits have been honored by The Summit League so far this season, including two-time pitcher of the week honorees Adam Bray and Chad Hodges.
Following are the Jackrabbit player of the week honorees:
Date Pitcher of the Week Player of the Week
Feb. 17 Adam Bray —
Feb. 24 Chad Hodges Al Robbins
March 10 Adam Bray Scott Splett
MACHBITZ OFF TO STRONG START: Senior first baseman Aaron Machbitz has helped pace the Jackrabbit offense through the first month of the season.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Machbitz has hit safely in 18 of 21 games, posting a .341 batting average (25-for-76). He leads the team with three home runs, 15 runs batted in and a .527 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 213 total defensive chances, recording 197 putouts and 15 assists. He upped his career putouts total to 1,027, 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 Summit League play as the top hitter 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 11runs. Although his hitting streak was snapped, Splett is the only Jackrabbit to reach base in all 22 games this season.
Splett moved into the leadoff spot on March 1 and has hit .400 (22-for-55) over those 16 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).
EXTRA, EXTRA: Four of the Jackrabbits’ 13 games during the month of March have gone into extra innings. SDSU is 2-2 in those games, winning 10-inning decisions at Texas-San Antonio on March 1 (7-6) and in the series finale at Chicago State (Ill.) on March 22 (10-6).
SDSU’s two losses in extra-inning games were both in series openers: a 5-4, 10-inning loss at Creighton (Neb.) on March 14, and a 2-1, 14-inning setback in the first game of a March 21 twinbill at Chicago State.
The Jackrabbits played only one extra-inning game during the 2013 season, falling 4-3 in 13 innings to San Francisco (Calif.) at the Eugene Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
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 14th among Divsioin I baseball programs with a team fielding percentage of .979. The Jackrabbits have committed only 18 errors in 22 games, and have committed two or more errors in a game only three times.
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 weekendwith a 660-730-2 career mark, including a 64-68-1 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.
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 begin home action April 4, hosting North Dakota State in a Summit League doubleheader at Erv Huether Field. First pitch for the matchup featuring the 2013 Summit League tournament finalists is slated for 1 p.m.