The South Dakota State University baseball team opens the 2013 season with a President's Day doubleheader against Waldorf College (Iowa).
Action begins at 7:30 a.m. Monday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The two teams are scheduled to play a seven-inning game, followed by a nine-inning contest. Due to a number of other games scheduled to be played at the Metrodome that day, play between the Jackrabbits and Warriors is scheduled to wrap up at 12:30 p.m.
The Jackrabbits enter their second season under head coach Dave Schrage looking to improve upon an 18-33-1 overall record in 2012. Waldorf finished last season 25-20.
Links to live stats from each game will be available through GoJacks.com.
THE SERIES: Monday's games against Waldorf will mark only the second and third meetings on the diamond between the two programs.
The Jackrabbits won the only other meeting, 8-0, on April 18, 2006, at Bob Shelden Field in Brookings. The game was limited to six innings, with SDSU starter Christian Larson pitching a one-hit shutout. Chris Iverson was 3-for-3 with two runs batted in and Nick Adams drove in four runs. Korby Mintken was 2-for-2 with a solo home run and three runs scored.
BACK TO THE DOME: South Dakota State has made regular appearances in the Metrodome since becoming a Division I baseball program in 2005.The Jackrabbits have played a game under the teflon skies in six of the last seven years, posting a combined 4-11 record.
SDSU's best run of success at the Metrodome came in the 2010 season. After dropping a 4-2 decision to Creighton (Neb.) in the opening game of a tournament, the Jackrabbits rallied for a 7-4, 10-inning win over Harvard (Mass.) and followed with a 6-4 win over Minnesota. The Jackrabbits returned to the Metrodome a month later and again defeated the Golden Gophers, 5-3.
The Jackrabbits opened the 2007 season at the Metrodome under unusual circumstances. SDSU and Kansas were scheduled to play a three-game series in Lawrence, Kan., but unplayable field conditions forced the series to be moved to Minneapolis at the last minute. The Jackrabbits and Jayhawks threw the first pitch of the season at 1:42 a.m. on Feb. 10, with SDSU prevailing 6-5. The second game of the twinbill began at 5:03 a.m., with Kansas winning 3-2. The two teams wrapped up their season with a 4:20 a.m. start time on Feb. 11, with Kansas winning the rubber match of the series, 4-1.
THE WALDORF CONNECTION: South Dakota State head coach Dave Schrage began his career as a collegiate head coach at Waldorf College, leading the Warriors to a combined 61-66 record over three seasons from 1988-90. Waldorf, located in Forest City, Iowa, was a junior college at the time and has since become a four-year institution while competing at the NAIA level.
Current Jackrabbit assistant coach Brian Grunzke succeeded Schrage as head coach at Waldorf and guided the Warriors for 16 seasons (1991-2006). Grunzke compiled a 388-344-1 record in leading Waldorf to eight appearances in the NJCAA Region 11 finals.
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.
SEASON PREVIEW: Heading into the 2013 season, the mantra for the South Dakota State University baseball team is, "Grind."
"We're really focusing on doing all the little things right," said head coach Dave Schrage, who enters his second year in charge of the Jackrabbit program and his 25th season as a collegiate head coach. "We have to overcome a lot of things to be successful, but we're going to find a way to bring the Summit League title back to Brookings."
A tough non-conference slate, a revamped Summit League schedule and finding the right mix of youth and experience are some of the challenges that await Schrage's squad in 2013.
"There's going to be a couple of great stories to come out of this year's team because we have a lot of pieces," Schrage said.
After a subpar 2012 season in which the Jackrabbits finished 18-33-1 overall and missed out on the Summit League postseason tournament following a 7-14 record in league play, Schrage expects this year's squad to be better equipped to work matchups into their favor.
"Two of the biggest changes are our overall depth, especially pitching depth, and the fact that we are a lot more athletic," Schrage said. "We'll be able to do more things running-wise, speed-wise, and we added some power."
All four regular weekend starters from last season return, along with several young arms poised to pitch meaningful innings in 2013.
Senior right-hander Stephen Bougher anchored the starting rotation for much of the 2012 season, leading the team in wins (6), earned run average (4.01), innings pitched (76.1) and shutouts (2), while ranking second with 50 strikeouts. A durable starter throughout his career, Bougher is on track to set SDSU career records for starts and innings pitched.
Adam Bray settled into a starting role during his freshman season in 2012, finishing with a 3-3 record and 4.31 ERA in 11 starts. Bray is likely to again be in the top half of the weekend rotation after a strong collegiate summer season in California.
Also returning are senior Layne Somsen and junior Kolton Emery, both of whom won only one start last season. Somsen led the staff with 53 strikeouts in 55.1 innings after missing two seasons due to Tommy John surgery. Emery posted a 7-1 mark as a freshman in 2011, but was hampered by injury in 2012, going 1-2 in 10 appearances (8 starts).
In line to be mid-week starters or candidates to move into the weekend rotation if needed are senior Shane Kraemer and sophomore Nick Young.
A left-hander, Kraemer started games his first two seasons while working exclusively out of the bullpen in 2012.
Young, meanwhile, made two mid-week starts last season and pitched in seven games overall.
"We feel like we have six rotation starters," Schrage said.
Young and Bray are part of a group of seven sophomore pitchers who Schrage says have all made great strides since last spring. Right-handers Chad Hodges, Talon Jumper and Aaron Klatt all were impressive during fall practice and could see action either as additional spot starters or as setup men out of the bullpen.
Blake Fiedelman is likely to expand his role as a situational left-hander out of the bullpen with J.D. Moore returning to the role of closer. Moore emerged as the team's top reliever late last season, finishing with a team-high five saves while recording 18 strikeouts in 17.1 innings.
True freshmen Andrew Clemen, Joe Erickson and Kenton Welbig also are expected to see mound duties out of the bullpen this season.
The pitching depth is expected to be a ncecessity during Summit League play. The league has adopted a 30-game schedule, 20 of which will be part of doubleheaders. In addition, the Jackrabbits are scheduled to play their final 10 league games in an eight-day span.
"Heading into that final stretch we're going to have to be healthy and we're going to have to be playing our best baseball," Schrage said.
The Jackrabbits enter the season two deep at every infield position, including returning three regular starters from a season ago.
Returning on the right side of the infield are junior first baseman Aaron Machbitz and
senior second baseman Daniel Marra. A right-handed hitter, Machbitz surged at the end of the 2012 season to hit .302 and a team-high 11 doubles. He also shared the team lead with four homre runs and ranked fourth with 27 run batted in.
Providing the Jackrabbits with a left-handed hitting option at first base is junior college transfer Jake Ratz, who played his first two seasons at Ellsworth Community College (Iowa). Ratz is expected to provide additional power to the lineup and will likely fill the role of designated hitter when not in the field.
Primarily an outfielder, senior Daniel Telford also could see some action at first base as he returns from injury. Telford has been a clutch hitter throughout his career and will also be counted on for at-bats as both a designated hitter and top pinch-hitter off the bench.
Marra enjoyed his best season at the plate in 2012, batting .290 with two home runs and 22 RBI despite splitting time between second and third base. Al Robbins, a left-handed-hitting sophomore, will also see duty at second base after sitting out last season after transferring from Illinois-Springfield.
The shortstop position will be up for grabs between newcomers Tyler Shannon and Cody Sharrow. Shannon also is a transfer from Ellsworth Community College, while Sharrow was Vermont's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2012.
At third base, Andrew Melton is the incumbent after also sharing time at second with Marra last season. Melton has started 100 games during his career.
Also at third base is sophomore Jordan Varga, who gives the Jackrabbits yet another left-handed option at the plate.
Freshman Zach Holt will be used in a utility role and could see action at three different infield spots or in the outfield.
The Jackrabbits can boast of a wealth of depth at the catching position. Seniors Nick Andrews and Steven Autenrieth both return, while transfers Reid Clary and Sam Pack will make their Jackrabbit debuts.
Andrews, who hit .274 in 33 games last
season, also saw action at first base and as a designated hitter against left-handed pitching.
Autenrieth and Pack are both solid defensive receivers, while Clary is the top offensive player in the group and possesses the strongest throwing arm.
SDSU faces the task of replacing its entire starting outfield from a season ago.
Freshman Zach Coppola is expected to take over the reins in center field and has the ability to hit at the top of the order although he will likely begin the season lower in the lineup.
Fellow newcomer Scott Splett will be the Opening Day right fielder after an impressive fall campaign. Splett, who is a gap-to-gap hitter, will likely bat third in the order.
Sophomore Eric Danforth is penciled in as the starting left fielder and Opening Day leadoff hitter. Danforth gained valuable experience as an understudy to all-Summit League performer Beau Hanowski, hitting .224 in 14 starts.
Another freshman, Paul Jacobson, can play all three outfield positions and has the potential to hit in the middle of the lineup.
"We'll be a little bit inexperienced out there, but awfully athletic," Schrage said.
Also vying for playing time in the outfield are freshmen Michael Finochiarro and Austin Black, both of whom could also contribute in pinch-running situations.
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 2013 campaign with a 614-695-2 career mark. In 24 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 2012 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: The Jackrabbits depart for Florida to play two games each against Ohio State and Saint Bonaventure (N.Y.) Feb. 22-24. Games will be played at the Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training complex in Port Charlotte, Fla.