Jackrabbits head west to UNC
The South Dakota State University baseball team will attempt to get back on the winning track Friday as it opens a three-game weekend series at Northern Colorado.
First pitch Friday is slated for 3 p.m. Mountain Time (4 p.m. Central) at Jackson Field on the UNC campus in Greeley. Games Saturday and Sunday are scheduled for noon starts local time.
The Jackrabbits enter the road series with a 10-8 overall record following a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Minnesota Wednesday night in Minneapolis. UNC, meanwhile, comes into the weekend with a 7-11 overall record. The Bears have won their last three games, including a 14-6 victory over Adams State (Colo.) on Tuesday.
THE SERIES: Friday’s game against Northern Colorado will mark the 46th meeting between the two baseball programs, dating back to a 10-1 UNC victory at the 1973 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional in Maryville, Mo.
The two programs renewed their rivalry as members of the North Central Conference before both joined the Division I ranks in the last decade. With the exception of the 2009 campaign, the two squads have faced each other every year since 2005, with SDSU holding a 17-7 advantage.
The Jackrabbits hold an overall lead in the series of 27-18. SDSU and UNC split a four-game series last season in Greeley, with the Jackrabbits opening the series with a 10-5 victory. The Bears won the first game of a doubleheader by an 8-7 count before SDSU recorded a 7-3 victory in the nitecap. UNC earned a split of the series with a 15-13 victory in the finale.
SUMMIT LEAGUE RACE: The South Dakota State University baseball team has been picked to finish in the 2013 Summit League standings, according to a poll conducted among the league’s six head coaches and revealed on Feb. 8.
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 (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. Overall, the Jackrabbits ended the 2012 campaign with an 18-33-1 record under first-year head coach Dave Schrage.
The 2013 season will feature a revamped Summit League schedule in which teams will play 30 league contests, starting on April 5. Each team will play the other five programs six times — a four-game series at one location and a doubleheader at the other site. The top four teams will advance to the Summit League Championship, which is scheduled to be played May 23-25 in Rochester, Mich. The winner of the postseason tournament will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
LAST TIME OUT: Andy Henkemeyer went 3-for-4 with a pair of runs batted in and five Minnesota pitchers combined to limit South Dakota State to four hits as the Golden Gophers scored a 5-1 victory in non-conference baseball action Wednesday night at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Minnesota improved to 15-11 on the season, while the Jackrabbits dropped to 10-8.
The Golden Gophers opened the scoring with a run in the second inning. Ryan Abrahamson began the frame with a single and moved to third on a double by Bobby Juan. Abrahamson later scored on a groundout by Matt Halloran.
Minnesota added a run in the third inning as Henkemeyer tripled with one out and scored on Connor Schaefbauer’s two-out single through the left side. The Golden Gophers broke the game open with a three-run fourth inning highlighted by an RBI single by Halloran and two-run single by Henkemeyer.
Golden Gopher starting pitcher Ty McDevitt pitched four scoreless innings in earning the victory. He allowed one hit, walked one and struck out five.
The Jackrabbits put a pair of runners on base in both the sixth and seventh innings before breaking into the scoring column in the top of the ninth. Pinch hitter Nick Andrews reached by being hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and took second on a passed ball. Reid Clary then delivered SDSU’s lone run of the game with a triple.
SDSU starter Kolton Emery took the loss, allowing three runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings. The junior right-hander struck out one and did not walk a batter.
Jackrabbit freshman outfielder Paul Jacobson had one of SDSU’s four hits, a seventh-inning single that extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
MELTON 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 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 .354 (23-for-65) with team highs of six doubles and 17 runs scored. He also leads the team’s regular starters with a .477 slugging percentage.
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.
SOMSEN TIES MARK: Senior right-hander Layne Somsen tied a Division I-era single-game record when he notched 12 strikeouts in only seven innings of work March 1 against Mississippi Valley State.
Somsen became the fourth Jackrabbit pitcher 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.
For the season, Somsen entered the week ranked 16th nationally among NCAA Division I pitchers with a 0.94 earned run average. He also ranks among the top 100 in the country for fewest hits allowed per nine innings (46th, 5.65) and strikeouts per nine innings (94th, 9.42).
PITCHERS MOVE UP: Jackrabbit pitchers Stephen Bougher, Shane Kraemer and J.D. Moore figure to further etch their names into the South Dakota State career top-10 pitching lists this season.
A senior from Papillion, Neb., Bougher has moved into second place for career innings pitched with 238.2, trailing current Minnesota Twins prospect Caleb Thielbar, who logged 274 innings from 2006-09. Bougher has started 39 games on the mound during his Jackrabbit career, putting him in a tie with Billy McMacken (39 starts from 1987-90) for second place and five behind Thielbar (44 starts from 2006-09).
Kraemer, a senior from Vancouver, British Columbia, has split his time between a starting role and the bullpen throughout his days as a Jackrabbit. With three starts this season and outing out of the bullpen, Kraemer has upped his career appearances total to 55, putting him in ninth place.
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 four saves in seven appearances so far this season, placing him in a tie with Ryan Sauter (nine saves from 2000-03) and Jacob Kougl (nine saves in 2007) for fifth place on the Jackrabbit career charts.
Moore has yet to allow a run this season in 9 1/3 innings over his eight appearances. He has struck out 11 batters and is holding the opposition to a .133 batting average.
POWER OUTAGE: Although the Jackrabbits have hit only three home runs as a team on the offensive end, their pitching staff has done an even better job of keeping the ball in the park so far this season.
Through 150 2/3 innings so far in 2013, SDSU pitchers have allowed only one home run — a three-run home run by Derrick Workman of Mercer (Ga.) the first inning of a March 9 contest at Terre Haute, Ind. Jackrabbit pitchers logged 100 1/3 innings before giving up their first long ball of the season and are currently working on a streak of 50 1/3 innings heading into this weekend.
JACOBSON STREAKING: Freshman outfielder Paul Jacobson has been on a hot streak of late at the plate and brings a 12-game hitting streak into Friday’s game at Northern Colorado.
During his streak, which dates back to Feb. 23 against Ohio State, Jacobson is batting .357 (15-of-42) with four doubles, seven runs batted in and 12 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 also is 3-for-3 on stolen base attempts this season.
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.
“Dave Schrage’s familiarity with our recruiting area and his success in building programs like ours make him a tremendous addition to the Jackrabbit family,” Jackrabbit Athletic Director Justin Sell said in announcing the hire.
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 week with a 624-703-2 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.
Most recently, 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 back 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.
A Chicago native, Schrage directed a dramatic turnaround in his home state during a three-year run at Northern Illinois from 2000-02. After inheriting a team that was 4-51 the year before he arrived, Schrage’s squad turned in a 20-game improvement with a 24-33 record in his first season and then led the Huskies to a winning season in 2001 with a 28-27 overall mark. He was named runner-up for National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in 2000.
Schrage began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant under his predecessor at Notre Dame, Paul Mainieri, at St. Thomas University (Fla.) in 1984. He later returned to his alma mater, Creighton University (Neb.), as an assistant coach for two seasons.
From 1986-87, Schrage coached the Queensland Rams club team in Brisbane, Australia, before returning stateside as he gained his first head coaching job at Waldorf College (Iowa). From 1988-90 he led the junior college program to a 61-66 mark.
Schrage then spent nine seasons as head coach at the University of Northern Iowa, where he was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1997. His teams improved from two league victories in UNI's first season in the MVC in 1992 to 18 during the 1997 campaign.
As a collegiate player, Schrage was an all-conference outfielder at Creighton, batting .400 as a junior and .433 his senior season. He also was an Academic All-America honoree during his senior campaign in 1983, and graduated that spring with a bachelor of science degree in finance. Schrage was honored on the MVC’s Centennial Celebration baseball team and is the only person in league history to earn all-conference honors and be named MVC Coach of the Year in baseball.
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, five players are from Canada — three from Ontario, one 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: SDSU’s home opener is tentatively scheduled for next Wednesday (April 3) versus Minnesota. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. at Erv Huether Field.
The Jackrabbits are then slated to open Summit League play with a four-game home series April 5-7 against North Dakota State. The series opener is set for a 3 p.m. start on April 5, followed by a noon doubleheader on April 6. The series finale is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start on Sunday, April 7.
All games of the North Dakota State series are scheduled to be broadcast on KJJQ 910 AM and and streamed online via the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com.