Jackrabbits move on to UTSA
Two baseball programs that played in the 2013 NCAA Tournament will square off in a three-game series this weekend as Texas-San Antonio hosts South Dakota State.
Both teams enter the series with 5-3 records so far in 2014. SDSU won three of four games at Alabama A&M Feb. 21-23, while UTSA is 2-2 in its last four games — winning two of three games last weekend at the Kleberg Bank College Classic in Corpus Christi, Texas, followed by a 6-5, 12-inning home loss to Dallas Baptist (Texas) on Feb. 25.
This weekend’s series opens with a 6 p.m. contest on Friday at Roadrunner Field on the UTSA campus. Saturday’s game is slated for a 2 p.m. first pitch, with the series finale set for noon Sunday.
During the 2013 season, UTSA claimed the Western Athletic Conference tournament title to advance to the NCAA Tournament. The Roadrunners competed in the Corvallis Regional, dropping a 5-4 decision to No. 3 national seed and host Oregon State, before being eliminated with a 6-1 loss to Texas A&M to end the season with a 35-25 record. UTSA has since moved to Conference USA.
SDSU, meanwhile, won the 2013 Summit League postseason title to advance to the Eugene Regional of the NCAA Tournament. The Jackrabbits dropped a 3-2 decision to No. 8 national seed and host Oregon in the opening round, then were eliminated after dropping a 4-3, 13-inning decision to San Francisco (Calif.). SDSU ended the 2013 season 35-24 overall.
THE SERIES: This weekend’s games will mark the first-ever contests between the Jackrabbits and UTSA. The Roadrunners also will be the first current Conference USA opponent SDSU has played in the Division I era.
PRESEASON POLLS: The South Dakota State University baseball team has been 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.
Summit League play begins March 28, when the Jackrabbits travel to Western Illinois for a doubleheader. The 24-game league schedule concludes May 17, followed by the four-team Summit League Baseball Championship May 22-24, which SDSU will host.
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.
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.
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.
LAST WEEK: The Jackrabbits came within one pitch of a four-game sweep at Alabama A&M Feb. 21-23. SDSU outscored the Bulldogs, 29-16, in improving to 5-3 overall.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: South Dakota State swept the weekly Summit League baseball awards on Feb. 24 as infielder Al Robbins was named Player of the Week and Chad Hodges earned Pitcher of the Week honors.
A junior from West Chicago, Ill., Robbins recorded an extra-base hit — three doubles and a triple — in all four games of a weekend series at Alabama A&M, helping lead the Jackrabbits to a 3-1 record. The left-handed-hitting Robbins hit .429 (6-for-14), while compiling a .786 slugging percentage and .556 on-base percentage. He finished the weekend with seven runs scored, three runs batted in, four bases on ball and two stolen bases. Defensively, Robbins made a diving stop up the middle for the final out in the Jackrabbits' 2-1 victory in the second game of a Feb. 22 doubleheader.
Hodges improved to 2-0 with a seven-inning complete game in SDSU's 2-1 victory on Feb. 22. A junior from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Hodges struck out a career-high eight batters, walked only one and gave up four hits. The lone run he allowed in the game was unearned.
Hodges was the second Jackrabbit in as many weeks to earn Summit League Pitcher of the Week honors, joining fellow junior right-hander Adam Bray following the opening week of the 2014 season.
PITCHING PROWESS: Jackrabbit pitchers combined to put up some impressive numbers through the first two weeks of play.
As a staff, SDSU pitchers have compiled a 2.49 team earned run average through eight games, recording five games of allowing two runs or less. Opponents are hitting a mere .208 against SDSU pitchers. In additon, Jackrabbit pitchers have struck out 45 batters in 68 2/3 innings, while walking only 18.
Fourteen different Jackrabbits have seen action on the mound so far this season.
MACHBITZ OFF TO FAST START: Senior first baseman Aaron Machbitz has helped pace the Jackrabbit offense through the first two weeks of the season.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Machbitz hit safely in seven of eight games, posting a .310 batting average (9-for-29). He leads the team with two home runs and nine runs batted in, while ranking second with a .621 slugging percentage. Both of his home runs 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.
Machbitz also has not commitedt an error in 74 total defensive chances, recording 71 putouts and three assist.s He upped his career putouts total to 901, good for fifth in program history. Joel Blake, who played from 2009-11, is fourth in career putouts with 908.
SHARROW SHINES AT SHORT: Sophomore Cody Sharrow has filled the starting shortstop role early in the 2014 season and has responded with both the bat and the glove.
The Vermont native is currently batting .316 with a home run and seven runs batted in. He hit his first collegiate home run and drove in a career-high four runs as part of a 3-for-5 effort at the plate in the Feb. 23 series finale at Alabama A&M. He also drove in a pair of runs with a double in the Feb. 21 series opener.
In the field, Sharrow leads the team with 19 assists and has committed only one error in 25 total chances for a .960 fielding percentage. As a team, the Jackrabbits have committed only five errors in posting a .983 team fielding percentage.
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, setting a total attendance record of 5,128 that still stands. SDSU also hosted the 2006 Division I Independent Tournament at Sioux Falls Stadium.
NCAA 6TH FAN: Jackrabbit Athletics has reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA 6th Fan competition.
By reaching the Sweet 16 through fan voting earlier this month, SDSU earned $10,000 for its athletic scholarship fund. The Jackrabbits won their Sweet 16 matchup against UALR by a voting margin of 75 percent to 25 percent.
SDSU is currently in competition with fellow Summit League member Western Illinois. The winner will be determined late Sunday and will advance to the Final Four against either Arkansas State or Bryant (R.I.). The winner receives $100,000 for its scholarship fund.
To vote, register at 6thFan.ncaa.org.
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 654-722-2 career mark, including a 58-60-1 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.
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 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.