Jacks travel to league-leading Fort Wayne
BROOKINGS, S.D. — The South Dakota State University baseball team will attempt to get back in the thick of the Summit League regular season race this weekend as it travels to league-leading Fort Wayne for a four-game weekend series.
The series begins Friday with a 3 p.m. Eastern Time (2 p.m. Central) matchup at Mastodon Field on the IPFW campus in Fort Waynea, Ind. A doubleheader is scheduled for noon Eastern on Saturday, with the series finale also set for a noon ET start on Sunday.
The Jackrabbits enter the weekend 17-17 overall, including a 2-4 mark in The Summit League. SDSU has not played a Summit League opponent since splitting a doubleheader against Fort Wayne on April 6 at Erv Huether Field.
Fort Wayne, meanwhile, is atop the Summit League standings with a 6-2 mark in league play. The Mastodons are 14-20 overall.
Live stats for all four games can be accessed at: www.sidearmstats.com/ipfw/baseball/
THE SERIES: Friday’s games will mark the 37th meeting between SDSU and Fort Wayne in baseball, a series that dates back to 2006 when both programs competed as Division I independents. Both SDSU and the Mastodons joined The Summit League at the start of the 2007-08 academic year.
The Jackrabbits have held the upper hand in the series, holding a 28-8 advantage. SDSU won the first nine meetings.
Dating back to last season, the Jackrabbits won six of eight meetings. Fort Wayne claimed a 1-0 home victory in the first matchup of the 2013 campaign before SDSU won the final five, including a four-game sweep at Erv Huether Field. The two squads split a doubleheader earlier this season, with the Jackrabbits recording a 2-1 victory in the opener, followed by a 9-5 Fort Wayne victory in Game 2.
PRESEASON POLLS: The South Dakota State University baseball team was 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.
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 five saves this season, Moore has upped his career total to 23, tying All-American Trever Vermeulen (2008-11) for the all-time SDSU saves record. After a rough start to the 2014 season, Moore has not allowed an earned run in 11 of his last 12 appearances,
covering a total of 11 1/3 innings. He has compiled a 3-1 record with five saves during that span, including throwing three shutout innings en route to a 5-2, 11-inning victory at Western Illinois on March 28.
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.
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.
MACHBITZ SURGING: 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 27 of the 34 games he has played, posting a .333 batting average (43-for-129). He leads the team with six home runs, 23 runs batted in, 25 runs scored and a .550 slugging percentage. Machbitz, who also shares the team lead with 10 doubles, has reached base safely in 16 straight 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 1,080, 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 SETTING THE TABLE: Senior outfielder Scott Splett has been the Jackrabbits’ top hitter since moving into the leadoff spot in the Jackrabbit batting order at the start of March.
In the 25 games since taking over leadoff duties, Splett has hit .381 (37-for-97) with 12 multi-hit games during that stretch. 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).
A native of Apple Valley, Minn., Splett has put together an 11-game hitting streak this
season and has reached base safely in 33 of 34 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.
JACOBSON HEATING UP: Since the calendar turned to April, sophomore outfielder Paul Jacobson has been on a tear at the plate. In seven games this month, Jacobson has batted .476 (10-for-21) with three doubles, four runs batted in and six runs scored. He has three multi-hit games during that span, including a 4-for-5 effort against North Dakota on April 15.
During his recent hot streak, Jacobson has raised his season batting average from .207 to .278.
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 oly one earned run in six of nine starts this season, including each of his last four.
A second-team all-Summit League pick last season, Bray enters Friday’s scheduled start tied for the team lead in victories with a 4-3 mark. A two-time Summit League Pitcher of the Week in 2014 (Feb. 17, March 10), Bray has struck out 55 batters and walked only 10 in 60 2/3 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.
Bray has posted a 14-8 career record in his three seasons at SDSU.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: The South Dakota State University baseball team has earned its share of weekly Summit League awards during 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.
Honored as players of the week were Al Robbins (Feb. 24) and Scott Splett (March 10).
Honored as players of the week were Al Robbins (Feb. 24) and Scott Splett (March 10).
EXTRA, EXTRA: Six of the Jackrabbits’ 34 games so far this season have been decided in extra innings. SDSU has gone 4-2 in those games, winning three 10-inning decisions and an 11-inning contest.
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.
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.
Tickets for the tournament and pre-tournament banquet are scheduled to go on sale online April 18 at sfsportsauthority.com or by phone at (605) 373-2041. 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.
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 with a 666-736-2 career mark, including a 70-74-1 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.
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 return home briefly to host Dakota State in a 3 p.m. non-conference game on April 23. From there, the Jackrabbits will head to Iowa City, Iowa, for a three-game weekend series April 25-27 against the Iowa Hawkeyes.