Jacks head south for Spring Break
Games are set for 1 p.m. starts Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Legion Field in Greenville, Miss. The three-game series kicks off an eight-game road trip for the Jackrabbits.
SDSU enters the weekend with a 4-2 overall record after splitting four games last weekend in Florida. The Jackrabbits lost twice to Ohio State, but recorded a pair of victories over St. Bonaventure (N.Y.).
Mississippi Valley State, meanwhile, is off to a 1-8 start to the 2013 season. The Delta Devils were swept in a two-game road series at Central Arkansas earlier this week.
THE SERIES: The Jackrabbits will be playing Mississippi Valley State for the first time in baseball, when the two programs meet this weekend.
South Dakota State has faced only one other team from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, going 2-0-1 at Arkansas-Pine Bluff during the 2012 season. The Jackrabbits won the first two games of the series by scores of 11-0 and 4-2 before ending the series with a 3-3 tie in a game that was called due to darkness after six innings.
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.
MELTON HONORED: South Dakota State University third baseman Andrew Melton was selected as Summit League Player of the Week on Feb. 25 after a successful opening round of games for the Jackrabbits.
A senior from Littleton, Colo., Melton hit safely in all four games of a weekend trip to Florida. He posted three hits in the Jackrabbits' 10-5 win over St. Bonaventure (N.Y.) on Feb. 23, followed by a 4-for-6 effort the next day against the Bonnies, collecting a pair of doubles, two runs scored and three runs batted in.
For the week, which included games against Waldorf (Iowa) and Ohio State, Melton batted .429 (9-for-21) with a .480 on-base percentage and .571 slugging percentage. He scored five runs, drove in four runs and tallied three doubles.
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.
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 222.1, passing Trevor Schulte (218.1 innings pitched from 1991-94) in his last start on Feb. 23. Bougher has started 36 games on the mound during his Jackrabbit career, putting him third behind current Minnesota Twins prospect Caleb Thielbar (44 starts from 2006-09) and Billy McMacken (39 starts from 1987-90).
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 one start this season, Kraemer has upped his career appearances total to 52, putting him in 10th place and one appearance away from tying Sam Pieczynski (53 appearances from 2007-10) for 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 one save in two appearances so far this season, placing him in sole possession of ninth place for career saves with six.
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 618-697-2 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 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 continue their Spring Break trip in Mississippi with two games in Lorman, Miss., at Alcorn State on March 5-6. SDSU will then wrap up the trip with three games in Terre Haute, Ind., March 8-9. The Jackrabbits will square off against Mercer (Ga.) twice and play host Indiana State once.