Jacks go for title at Omaha
With a Summit League title still in its sights, the South Dakota State University baseball team will close the regular season with a four-game series at league-leading Omaha Thursday through Saturday.
The series opener is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at The Ballpark at Boys Town in Omaha, Neb. Action continues at 1 p.m. Friday with a doubleheader, followed by the series finale at 1 p.m. Saturday. Radio coverage for all four games will be on Brookings-based KJJQ 910 AM and via the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com, with Tyler Merriam calling the play-by-play. Broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to first pitch each day.
The Jackrabbits enter the week two games behind Omaha for the lead in the Summit League standings, 15-7 against Summit League foes and 30-18 overall. With three wins, SDSU would earn a share of its second Summit League baseball title, joining the 2010 squad that finished 19-9 in league play. The Jackrabbits would win the regular season title outright by sweeping the series.
Omaha currently leads The Summit League with a 17-5 mark in league play and stands 24-21 overall. However, the Mavericks are still in their transition phase to full Division I status and are not eligible for the conference tournament, meaning SDSU has secured the top seed for the four-team, double-elimination Summit League Baseball Championship May 23-25 in Rochester, Mich. The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
30-WIN SEASONS: The Jackrabbits have turned in their third 30-win season in the last four years and fourth at the Division I level, recording the milestone win with a 6-5 victory at North Dakota State in the second game of a May 14 doubleheader.
SDSU posted its first 30-win season as a Division I member with a 34-19 campaign in 2007. The Jackrabbits then posted back-to-back 30-win campaigns in 2010 and 2011 with respective marks of 39-21 and 37-20, reaching the Summit League tournament title game each season. The 2010 squad tied the record for most wins in a season, which was previously set in both 1993 and 1994.
The Jackrabbits won 30 or more games seven times as a member of NCAA Division II. The 1993 and 1994 squads were part of a string of five consecutive 30-win seasons under coach Mark Ekeland from 1992-96.
THE SERIES: Thursday’s game will mark the first time South Dakota State and Omaha have met on the baseball diamond since 2004, when both schools competed as members of the now-defunct North Central Conference. The Jackrabbits and Mavericks split a four-game series in Omaha, with the Jackrabbits winning the series finale, 8-5, on April 10, 2004. Both of Omaha’s victories were by shutout — 5-0 and 2-0 in a 14-inning marathon.
Overall, the two squads have played 126 times since their first meeting in 1949. Omaha leads the all-time series 65-60-1.
The two squads had a doubleheader that was originally scheduled for April 19 in Brookings canceled due to inclement weather and unplayable field conditions at Erv Huether Field.
SUMMIT LEAGUE RACE: The South Dakota State University baseball team was picked to finish second in the 2013 Summit League standings, according to a poll conducted among the league’s six head coaches and revealed in February.
North Dakota State received five first-place votes to be tabbed as the preseason favorite with 25 points. The Jackrabbits were second with 17 points, followed by Oakland with 16 points, including the other first-place vote.
Rounding out the poll were Western Illinois (15 points), Fort Wayne (nine) and Summit League newcomer Omaha (eight).
The Jackrabbits are coming off a 2012 season in which they finished fifth in Summit League play with a 7-14 conference record. SDSU missed out on the postseason tournament for the first time after making three consecutive tournament championship series appearances from 2009-11.
BIG INNING: South Dakota State’s 10-run second inning in the first game of a May 14 doubleheader at North Dakota State marked the first time since 2010 that the Jackrabbits posted a double-figure run total in a single inning.
The last time the Jackrabbits scored 10 or more runs in an inning was in the first game of a doubleheader against North Dakota on April 28, 2010, at Erv Huether Field, when SDSU scored 11 runs in the sixth inning en route to a 21-10 victory. It marked the fourth time that month the Jackrabbits tallied at least 10 runs in an inning.
HOME SWEEP: The Jackrabbits swept a four-game home series from a Summit League opponent for the first time since May 2009, winning all four games over Fort Wayne May 10-12 at Erv Huether Field.
SDSU turned in solid performances in all three areas — pitching, defense and hitting — in reaching its high-water marks of the season at 12 games (29-17) above .500 overall and eight games (14-6) over the break-even point in league play.
Jackrabbit starters logged 29 of the pitching staff’s 34 innings, with each starting pitcher throwing at least seven innings in winning efforts. Layne Somsen opened the series by striking out nine and limiting Fort Wayne to two hits over eight innings.
Stephen Bougher remained undefeated in Summit League play this season after allowing only two runs, while striking out seven in a seven-inning complete game in the first game of a doubleheader on May 11.
Kolton Emery shrugged off some early struggles to pitch seven innings of three-run
baseball in the second game of the May 11 twinbill. A junior, Emery struck out four.
Adam Bray completed the weekend by allowing only one run and five hits in a seven-inning outing on May 12. The sophomore right-hander struck out two and did not walk a batter, throwing 18 consecutive strikes in one stretch of the game as he improved to 6-2.
As a staff, SDSU compiled a 2.38 earned run average in the four-game series and limited the Mastodons to a .203 team batting average. Jackrabbit pitchers combined to strike out 26 batters and walk only 11.
Defensively, the Jackrabbits committed only one error in 142 defensive chances, posting a fielding percentage of .993 in the four-game series. Meanwhile, Fort Wayne committed nine errors, leading to 12 unearned runs.
SDSU also got the bats going, compiling a .331 team batting average (42-for-127) in the four games. Nick Andrews led the way at the plate by going 5-for-10 with three runs batted in. Daniel Marra tied a career high with three hits in the Sunday series finale to end the weekend at .400 (6-for-15) with a pair of RBI.
Junior outfielder Scott Splett came up with the biggest hit of the weekend, delivering a bases-clearing, three-run double that capped a five-run sixth inning and gave SDSU a 5-2 lead in the first game of the May 11 doubleheader.
TELFORD NAMED ATHLETE OF THE MONTH: South Dakota State designated hitter Daniel Telford added to his list of awards this week by being named Summit League Male Athlete of the Month for April.
A two-time Summit League Player of the Week selection this season, Telford was on a tear at the plate throughout April. The senior from Newmarket, Ontario, batted .528 (19-for-36) with 16 runs batted in, reaching base in all 11 games he played. He recorded a hit in 10 contests, including six mult-hit and four-multi-RBI games, totaling four doubles, four home runs and a .972 slugging percentage. He ended the month leading The Summit League with five home runs and 28 RBI for the season, and continues to share the lead in home runs with five despite missing a series at Western Illinois May 3-5 due to injury.
Telford returned to the lineup May 11, but had his 12-game hitting streak end in a pinch-hitting appearance. He again filled the designated hitter role May 12, going 2-for-5 with a run batted in, and ended the day hitting .494 (39-of-79) for the season. Telford would be in the top two of The Summit League in all three triple crown categories, trailing teammate Aaron Machbitz by two in the runs batted in race, 32-30, but is about 20 at-bats shy of qualifying for the batting title.
During his recent 12-game hitting streak, which began with a four-hit game at Northern Colorado on March 30, Telford batted .556 (25-for-45) with four home runs and 21 runs batted in. He had eight multi-hit games in the span, including two four-hit games and a three-hit game. He collected a career-high six RBI in an April 12 win at Fort Wayne and had five other multi-RBI games during his hitting streak.
For the season, Telford has slugged .753 as 14 of his 40 hits have gone for extra bases. He was honored as Summit League Player of the Week on both April 1 and April 15.
MELTON ALSO HONORED: South Dakota State University third baseman Andrew Melton was honored as Summit League Player of the Week each of the first two weeks of the Jackrabbits’ 2013 season.
A senior third baseman from Littleton, Colo., Melton batted .429 (9-for-21) with a .480 on-base percentage and .571 slugging percentage in two-game series against Waldorf (Iowa), Ohio State and St. Bonaventure (N.Y.). He scored five runs, drove in four runs and tallied three doubles.
Melton followed those performances by batting .500 (5-for-10) as the Jackrabbits won two of three games in a weekend series at Mississippi Valley State. He recorded three hits in the series opener on March 1, then added doubles in both games of a doubleheader on March 3. He scored four runs, drove in one run and posted a .643 on-base percentage with a .700 slugging percentage.
For the season, Melton is batting .265 (41-for-155) with seven doubles and 33 runs scored, the latter of which ranks in a tie for second on the team.
BACK-TO-BACK SHUTOUTS: With their 3-0 and 5-0 wins over Waldorf (Iowa) to open the season Feb. 18, the Jackrabbits posted consecutive shuouts for the first time in seven years.
The last time SDSU blanked an opponent in back-to-back games was May 2, 2006, when the Jackrabbits defeated Bemidji State (Minn.) 6-0 in both games of a doubleheader at Bob Shelden Field.
The shutouts also propelled the Jackrabbits to their first 2-0 start to a season since 2002, when SDSU swept a twinbill from Dakota Wesleyan. The last time the Jackrabbits began a season with three straight wins was 1999.
FIELDING MARKS: The Jackrabbits’ starting corner infielders have each moved into the SDSU all-time top 10 in fielding categories in recent weeks.
Senior third baseman Andrew Melton has moved into sole possession of fifth place for career assists with 362, passing both Doug Sehr (352 assists from 1991-94) and Jesse Sawyer (353 assists from 2009-11) in the series versus Fort Wayne.
Next on the list is Pat Schmidt, who tallied 380 assists from 1992-95.
Junior first baseman Aaron Machbitz has vaulted into eighth place for career putouts with 752. In the past couple weeks, he passed Chris Studer (648 putouts from 1999-2002) for ninth place and then surpassed Josh Guse (663 putouts from 1997-2000) for eighth place in the May 1 game versus Winnipeg.
Seventh place for career putouts currently belongs to Zach Briggs, who tallied 798 putouts from 2009-12.
SOMSEN IN A GROOVE: South Dakota State right-hander Layne Somsen ranks among the elite pitchers in all of Division I in three different statistical categories. A senior from Yankton, Somsen begins the week ranked eighth nationally in fewest hits allowed per nine innings with an average of 5.5. In 70 1/3 innings so far this season, Somsen has allowed only 43 hits. He is limiting the opposition to a .180 batting average and only four of the 43 hits he has allowed have been for extra bases.
In addition, Somsen ranks 24th with a 1.54 earned run average and 37th in walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) with an average of 0.97.
Somsen has recorded a quality start of at least six innings and three runs or fewer in all 10 starts this season.
In a March 1 start against Mississippi Valley State, Somsen became the fourth Jackrabbit pitcher in the Division I era to tally a dozen strikeouts in a game — and the second to need only seven innings.
Other 12-strikeout performances were turned in by:
• Robby Apo, 12 K’s in nine innings, at North Dakota State, 5-5-2006;
• Caleb Thielber, 12 K’s in nine innings, vs. North Dakota State, 4-19-2009;
• Blake Treinen, 12 K’s in seven innings, vs. Oral Roberts, 5-18-2010 (Game 1).
Somsen turned in another strong outing March 15 at Saint Louis, pitching 8 2/3 shutout innings in a 3-0 Jackrabbit victory. He struck out six batters and walked only one to earn Summit League Pitcher of the Week honors.
Somsen currently ranks in Jackrabbit career top 10s in three categories: starts (fourth, 35); strikeouts (tied for seventh, 157) and innings pitched (eighth, 194.0).
As a team, the Jackrabbit pitching staff began the week ranked 41st nationally with a 3.28 team earned run average. SDSU also ranked 59th in fewest hits allowed per nine innings with an average of 8.53.
BOUGHER BREAKS RECORDS: Senior right-hander Stephen Bougher established a pair of new Jackrabbit career pitching standards in his May 11 start against Fort Wayne.
A native of Papillion, Neb., Bougher broke both the career starts (45) and innings pitched (276.1) records in a complete-game effort. Both marks were previously set by current Minnesota Twins prospect Caleb Thielbar, who logged 44 career starts and 274 inninng from 2006-09.
In improving to 7-1 this season, Bougher also moved into a tie for second place in career victories (21) and third in career strikeouts (182). He has a career record of 21-14 in his four years as a Jackrabbit.
Bougher leads the Jackrabbits during the Division I era with five career shutouts, including two this season. He earned Summit League Pitcher of the Week honors following wins over Oakland on April 14 and April 27. In his last start, Bougher surrendered only two hits in six shutout innings against Western Illinois on May 4 — a game that was suspended by rain in the middle of the seventh. Bougher has won all five starts in Summit League play thus far, compiling a 1.69 ERA and holding the opposition to a .188 batting average.
OTHER PITCHERS MOVE UP: Two Canadian members of the Jackrabbit pitching staff also have moved up the career charts during the 2013 season.
A senior from Vancouver, British Columbia, Shane Kraemer has split his time between a starting role and the bullpen throughout his days as a Jackrabbit. With five starts this season and seven outings out of the bullpen, Kraemer has upped his career appearances total to 63, putting him in eighth place on the Jackrabbit career charts.
J.D. Moore, a sophomore from Mississauga, Ontario, earned the closer’s role midway through the 2012 season and responded with a team-high five saves. He has recorded a single-season school-record 11 saves in a team-high 20 appearances so far this season, placing him in second place on the SDSU career saves chart with 16. His 11 saves in 2013 broke the Jackrabbit single-season mark of 10 set by All-American Trever Vermeulen in both 2010 and 2011.
Moore has allowed only three runs this season in 22 1/3 innings over his 20 appearances — a 1.21 earned run average. He has struck out 27 batters and is holding the opposition to a .155 batting average.
JACOBSON STREAK ENDS: Freshman outfielder Paul Jacobson had his team-best 13-game hitting streak end when he went 0-for-4 in a March 30 game at Northern Colorado.
During his streak, which dated back to Feb. 23 against Ohio State, Jacobson batted .340 (16-of-47) with four doubles, eight runs batted in and 14 runs scored. He hit his first career home run as part of a 2-for-4 effort in the series finale at Saint Louis (Mo.) on March 16.
Jacobson, who also had a streak of reaching base safely in 18 consecutive games, is 10-for-12 on stolen base attempts this season to lead the team in steals.
The longest hitting streak by a Jackrabbit player during the Division I era is 19 games by Tyson Fisher in 2006.
COACH SCHRAGE: Veteran baseball coach Dave Schrage (pronounced Schrag) enters his 25th season as a collegiate head coach during the 2013 season. Schrage was hired to take over the reins of the South Dakota State University baseball program on Aug. 8, 2011.
Schrage recorded his 600th career victory on March 19, 2012, when the Jackrabbits recorded an 11-8 victory at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. 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 enters the weekend with a 644-713-2 career mark. In 24 full seasons as a collegiate head coach, he has averaged more than 25 victories per season, including five campaigns with 32 or more wins. He has coached players who have earned all-conference honors 59 times and 38 of his former student-athletes have gone on to play professionally.
THE ROSTER: The 2013 SDSU baseball roster features 36 players from 10 different states plus three Canadian provinces. Of the 36 players, seven are from South Dakota and five are from Iowa. Colorado, Illinois and Minnesota are represented by four players each. Two Jackrabbit players hail from Nebraska, while Oklahoma, Texas, Vermont and Washington are represented by one player each.
In addition, six players are from Canada — three from Ontario, two from British Columbia and one from Alberta.
By class, eight are seniors, six are juniors, 12 are sophomores and 10 are freshmen.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits will open the Summit League Baseball Champoinship on Thursday, May 23 in Rochester, Mich., against the No. 4 seed. SDSU is tentatively scheduled to play its opening-round game at noon Eastern Time, with the other first-round matchup set for 3 p.m.