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Photo by: Jose Juarez

Jackrabbits to defend title in Sioux Falls

Courtesy: SDSU Sports Info
Release: 05/21/2014 09:03:43

The South Dakota State University baseball team will begin defense of its postseason tournament title as it opens the 2014 Summit League Baseball Championship, presented by First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, Thursday night in Sioux Falls against North Dakota State.
First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Sioux Falls Stadium.
The top-seeded Jackrabbits enter the tournament with a 27-27 overall record, including an 11-11 mark in league play. NDSU, which is seeded fourth, is 22-24 overall after completing the league regular season with a 10-12 record. SDSU and the Bison met for the 2013 Summit League Baseball Championship title in Rochester, Mich., with the Jackrabbits winning twice to win the tournament title and secure their first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level. 
The winner of Thursday’s game will face either second-seeded Western Illinois or third-seeded Fort Wayne at 3 p.m. Friday. First-round loser
A complete schedule for the double-elimination tournament follows:
Thursday, May 22
• Game 1: #3 Fort Wayne (19-34, 11-13) vs. #2 Western Illinois (19-30, 11-13), 2 p.m.
• Game 2: #4 North Dakota State (22-24, 10-12) vs. #1 South Dakota State (27-27, 11-11), 7 p.m.
Friday, May 23
• Game 3: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 11 a.m.
• Game 4: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 3 p.m.
• Game 5: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 24
• Game 6: Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 1 p.m.
• Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 4:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Radio coverage of Jackrabbit tournament games will be available on Brookings-based KJJQ 910 AM and also streamed online free of charge through the Jackrabbit Extra at GoJacks.com, with Tyler Merriam calling the play-by-play. Free live streaming video and live stats also will be available at GoJacks.com.
Saturday’s championship game will be televised on Midco Sports Net. The winner of the tournament will advance to the NCAA Tournament, which begins May 30 at campus sites.
Sioux Falls Stadium previously hosted the Summit League Baseball Championship in 2011. SDSU also hosted the 2006 Division I Independent Tournament in Sioux Falls.
Tickets for the tournament are now on sale online at eventbrite.com or by phone at (605) 373-2041. Tickets also will be available at Sioux Falls Stadium throughout the tournament. Fans who order Summit League Baseball Championship tickets online also will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for the 2015 Summit League Basketball Championships at a later date.

THE SERIES: South Dakota State has compiled a 10-8 record against the rest of the tournament field during the 2014 campaign. The Jackrabbits posted a 4-2 record against Fort Wayne during the regular season, while posting 3-3 records against both Western Illinois and North Dakota State.
All-time series records are as follows:
• vs. North Dakota State: 102-57 — series began in 1956
• vs. Western Illinois: 20-11 — series began in 2006
• vs. Fort Wayne: 31-9 — series began in 2006

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: The Jackrabbits have found success at the Summit League Baseball Championship, advancing to the title series each of the four previous times they have qualified for the four-team tournament. Overall, SDSU holds a 10-7 record in Summit League Baseball Championship games.
2009 at Tulsa, Okla.
• Southern Utah 11, SDSU 8
• SDSU 7, Centenary (La.) 3 [10 inn.]
• SDSU 9, Southern Utah 4
• Oral Roberts 6, SDSU 2
2010 at Tulsa, Okla.
• SDSU 6, Oakland 5 [10 inn.]
• Oral Roberts 21, SDSU 6
• SDSU 20, Oakland 6
• Oral Roberts 12, SDSU 2
2011 at Sioux Falls
• SDSU 4, North Dakota State 1
• Oral Roberts 7, SDSU 1
• SDSU 13, North Dakota State 10
• Oral Roberts 5, SDSU 4 [11 inn.]
2013 at Rochester, Mich.
• Western Illinois 4, SDSU 2
• SDSU 8, Oakland 4
• SDSU 5, Western Illinois 4
• SDSU 2, North Dakota State 0
• SDSU 1, North Dakota State 0

LAST WEEK: The Jackrabbits wrapped up the regular season by splitting a four-game Summit League series at North Dakota State.

MACHBITZ SOLID: Senior first baseman Aaron Machbitz has helped pace the Jackrabbit offense throughout the 2014 season.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Machbitz has hit safely in 41 of the 54 games he has played, posting a team-best .312 batting average (64-for-205). He also leads the team with seven home runs, 33 runs batted in, 38 runs scored, 13 doubles and a .478 slugging percentage. Machbitz has reached base safely in 32 of the last 36 games.
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.
Also a solid defensive first baseman, Machbitz has upped his career putouts total to 1,268, moving him into second place in program history and past Tyson Fisher, who tallied 1,267 putouts from 2005-08. Greg Geary, who played for the Jackrabbits from 2002-05, holds the career putouts record with 1,346.

SPLETT SETTING THE TABLE: Senior outfielder Scott Splett has been one of the Jackrabbits’ top hitters during the 2014 season.
Splett, who has handled the leadoff duties much of the season, leads the team with 18 multi-hit games and ranks second on the team with 63 total hits, three home runs and 25 runs batted in. He recorded a five-hit game in a losing effort against Georgetown on March 9, recording 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.
A native of Apple Valley, Minn., Splett has put together an 11-game hitting streak this season and has reached base safely by either a hit or a walk in 52 of 54 games this season, including a streak of 24 consecutive games to start the season that was snapped in the opening game of the March 30 doubleheader at Omaha. He is currently working on a streak of 14 consecutive games reaching base safely.

JOHNSON HEATING UP: Freshman Matt Johnson has been a regular in the Jackrabbit lineup since the calendar turned to April, playing in 25 of the team’s last 27 games at either third base or designated hitter, with 20 starts.
Starting with a 4-for-4, four-RBI effort against Mount Marty on April 8, Johnson has posted a .320 batting average (24-for-75) with 17 runs batted in during that span. The Ankeny, Iowa, native hit his first collegiate home run April 25 at Iowa and has hit safely in 13 of his last 16 games, including a 10-game hitting streak that was snapped in the second game of a May 16 doubleheader at North Dakota State. His 10-game hitting streak was the second longest by a Jackrabbit player this season.
Johnson enters the Summit League Baseball Championship ranked in a tie for third on the team with 23 runs batted in and is fourth in doubles with nine. He recorded three doubles in a four-game series May 9-11 against Western Illinois.

COPPOLA COMING UP BIG: Sophomore outfielder Zach Coppola has provided additional punch in the Jackrabbit lineup over the course of the last month.
A native of Windsor Heights, Iowa, Coppola has boosted his batting average 64 points from .230 on April 6 to .294 entering play this weekend. Starting with a 2-for-2 afternoon against Mount Marty on April 8, Coppola has batted .354 (28-for-79) over his last 24 games, posting nine multi-hit games during that span. He currently leads the team with 11 stolen bases in 14 attempts.

MOORE SETS SAVES MARK: With eight saves this season, Jackrabbit closer J.D. Moore has upped his career total to 26, setting a new SDSU career saves record. The previous record of 23 was set by All-American Trever Vermeulen from 2008-11.
Moore recorded his record-breaking 24th save with a perfect ninth inning in a 3-0 Jackrabbit victory in the second game of a May 3 doubleheader against Omaha at Erv Huether Field. He also ranks in a tie for fifth place in career appearances with 65.
After a rough start to the 2014 season, Moore has allowed only three earned runs in his last 19 appearances, covering a total of 24 1/3 innings. He has not allowed a run — earned or unearned — in Summit League play, compiling a 2-0 record with three saves in eight appearances, covering 14 innings. He threw three shutout innings en route to a 5-2, 11-inning victory at Western Illinois on March 28. He also pitched three shutout innings as the Jackrabbits defeated Fort Wayne, 3-2, in nine innings in the opening game of an April 19 doubleheader.
Prior to the start of the 2014 season, Moore was named Summit League Preseason Pitcher of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. He also was named to the initial watch list for the 10th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award.

BRAY TOPS THE ROTATION: Junior right-hander Adam Bray has taken over the top spot in the Jackrabbit starting rotation this season. He has allowed one earned run or less in eight of 14 starts this season, including a streak of six in a row that ended in a May 2 start  versus Omaha.
A second-team all-Summit League pick last season, Bray enters Thursday’s scheduled start against North Dakota State second on the team in wins with a 5-6 mark. A two-time Summit League Pitcher of the Week in 2014 (Feb. 17, March 10), Bray has struck out 87 batters and walked only 16 in 95 1/3 innings. Bray set a career high with 11 strikeouts in only six innings in an April 6 against Fort Wayne and reached double figures for K’s again in his next outing with 10 versus Air Force on April 11. In an April 25 start at Iowa, Bray fanned nine batters and did not walk a batter over seven innings in a no-decision effort.
Bray, who has posted a 15-11 career record in his three seasons at SDSU, has cracked the Jackrabbit career top 10 in three different categories. His 36 career starts are fifth all-time at SDSU and his 227 2/3 innings pitched are third. Meanwhile, Bray’s 176 career strikeouts rank sixth, and his 87 strikeouts so far in 2014 are fourth most in a single season by a Jackrabbit pitcher.

HEEMSTRA RETURNS: The Jackrabbit pitching staff has been further bolstered by the recent return of Marcus Heemstra.
Heemstra recently completed his basketball career at SDSU, and averaged 5.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game primarily as a reserve forward during the 2013-14 season.
A native of Rock Valley, Iowa, Heemstra made a combined 21 appearances with one start for the Jackrabbit baseball team between the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He sat out the 2013 season to focus solely on basketball, and has made seven appearances out of the bullpen so far this season, compiling a 1.64 earned run average in 11 innings, while striking out nine and walking six

HODGES HONORED AGAIN — AND AGAIN: South Dakota State University right-hander Chad Hodges earned his league-leading fourth Summit League Pitcher of the Week award following a standout performance May 3 against Omaha.
A junior from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Hodges threw eight shutout innings in the second game of a doubleheader against the Mavericks, one SDSU won by a 3-0 score. Hodges allowed five hits, struck out three and walked two batters in recording his team-leading sixth win of the season.
Hodges shared the weekly honor with North Dakota State left-hander Parker Trewin. Hodges’ four Summit League Pitcher of the Week honors have come in four different months: Feb. 24, March 24, April 24 and May 5.

CLEMEN IN COMMAND: The Jackrabbit pitching staff has been bolstered in recent weeks by the emergence of Andrew Clemen.
In his last three outings, covering a combined total of 12 innings, Clemen has not allowed a run — earned or unearned — while giving up only seven hits. He has struck out 10 batters and walked only one in that span as both a reliever and spot starter.
Clemen has recorded a win in each of his last two appearances. A right-hander from Des Moines, Iowa, Clemen pitched five shutout innings in his first career start, limiting Western Illinois to three hits while striking out three and walking one in the first game of a May 10 doubleheader against Western Illinois. He was later named Summit League Pitcher of the Week.
In his last outing, May 16 at North Dakota State, Clemen came out of the bullpen to shut out the Bison over the final 4 2/3 innings. He scattered three hits, struck out six and did not walk a batter.

PACK HONORED: South Dakota State University catcher Sam Pack was named Summit League Player of the Week May 19 after a strong performance at the plate in a series at North Dakota State to wrap up the regular season.
A senior from Newcastle, Okla., Pack hit an even .500, going 6-for-12 overall. Pack recorded two hits in each of the three games he played, scored two runs and drove in two runs as the Jackrabbits secured the top seed in this weekend's Summit League Baseball Championship in Sioux Falls.

EXTRA, EXTRA: Eight of the Jackrabbits’ 54 games so far this season have been decided in extra innings. SDSU has gone 5-3 in those games, winning one nine-inning game, three 10-inning decisions and an 11-inning contest.
SDSU’s three losses in extra-inning games have all come in series openers: a 5-4, 10-inning loss at Creighton (Neb.) on March 14, followed a week later by a 2-1, 14-inning setback in the first game of a March 21 twinbill at Chicago State.The Jackrabbits’ latest extra-inning loss was a 2-1, 11-inning setback at Iowa on April 25.
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.

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 Summit League Baseball Championship with a 676-746-2 career mark, including a 78-82-1 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 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: Should the Jackrabbits win the Summit League Baseball Championship, they will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins May 30 at campus sites.
Tournament pairings will be announced May 26.

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