Jackrabbits host Omaha for four
The stretch run of the Summit League baseball regular season begins this weekend as South Dakota State hosts Omaha in a four-game series at Erv Huether Field.
Both teams are tied for second place in the Summit League standings with .500 marks in league play. The defending Summit League regular season champion, Omaha is 6-6 in league play and 21-17 overall. SDSU, which won the 2013 Summit League tournament title, is 5-5 in league play and 21-21 overall.
Friday’s series opener is scheduled for a 3 p.m. first pitch. A doubleheader Saturday afternoon is slated for a 1 p.m. start, with Sunday’s series finale also scheduled for a 1 p.m. first pitch.
Radio coverage of the entire series will be available on Brookings-based KJJQ 910 AM, as well as through the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com, with J.J. Hartigan calling the play-by-play. Live stats also will be available through GoJacks.com.
THE SERIES: The Jackrabbits’ series with Omaha dates back to 1949, with the two schools regularly competing against each other as members of the Division II North Central Conference. Overall, Omaha holds a 70-61-1 overall series advantage, including a 2-0 mark in the season series.
PRESEASON POLLS: The South Dakota State University baseball team was 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.
The 24-game league schedule concludes May 17, followed by the four-team Summit League Baseball Championship May 22-24, which SDSU will host in Sioux Falls.
MACHBITZ SURGING: Senior first baseman Aaron Machbitz has helped pace the Jackrabbit offense throughout the 2014 season.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Machbitz has hit safely in 33 of the 42 games he has played, posting a .333 batting average (53-for-159). He leads the team with seven home runs, 29 runs batted in, 31 runs scored and a .541 slugging percentage. Machbitz, who also holds the team lead with 12 doubles, has reached base safely in 23 of the last 24 games.
His first two home runs of the season both 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.
Also a solid defensive first baseman, Machbitz has upped his career putouts total to 1,166, moving him into fourth place in program history and past Joel Blake (908 putouts from 2009-11). Chet Meyer, who tallied 1,213 putouts from 1987-90, stands third in career putouts at SDSU.
SPLETT SETTING THE TABLE: Senior outfielder Scott Splett has been one of the Jackrabbits’ top hitter since moving into the leadoff spot in the Jackrabbit batting order at the start of March.
In the 33 games since taking over leadoff duties, Splett has hit .333 (43-for-129) with 14 multi-hit games during that stretch. Included in that span was a five-hit game in a losing effort against Georgetown on March 9. It was the most hits in a game by a Jackrabbit player since Eric Cain recorded a Division I-era best six hits in a 2010 game at Dallas Baptist (Texas).
A native of Apple Valley, Minn., Splett has put together an 11-game hitting streak this season and has reached base safely in 40 of 42 games this season, including a streak of 24 consecutive games to start the season that was snapped in the opening game of the March 30 doubleheader at Omaha.
JACOBSON HEATING UP: When the calendar turned to April, sophomore outfielder Paul Jacobson went on a tear at the plate. In 15 games during the month, Jacobson batted .383 (18-for-47) with three doubles, eight runs batted in and 10 runs scored. He had five multi-hit games during that span, including a 4-for-5 effort against North Dakota on April 15.
During his recent hot streak, Jacobson raised his season batting average from .207 to .286.
MOORE TIES SAVES MARK: With five saves this season, Jackrabbit closer J.D. Moore has upped his career total to 23, tying All-American Trever Vermeulen (2008-11) for the all-time SDSU saves record.
After a rough start to the 2014 season, Moore has allowed only three earned runs in his last 14 appearances, covering a total of 17 1/3 innings. He has compiled a 4-2 record with five saves during that span, including throwing three shutout innings en route to a 5-2, 11-inning victory at Western Illinois on March 28. He also pitched three shutout innings as the Jackrabbits defeated Fort Wayne, 3-2, in nine innings in the opening game of an April 19 doubleheader.
Prior to the start of the 2014 season, Moore was named Summit League Preseason Pitcher of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. He also was named to the initial watch list for the 10th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award.
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.
BRAY TOPS THE ROTATION: Junior right-hander Adam Bray has taken over the top spot in the Jackrabbit starting rotation this season. He has allowed one earned run or less in eight of 11 starts this season, including each of his last six.
A second-team all-Summit League pick last season, Bray enters Friday’s scheduled start against Omaha tied for the team lead in wins with a 5-3 mark. A two-time Summit League Pitcher of the Week in 2014 (Feb. 17, March 10), Bray has struck out 72 batters and walked only 11 in 74 2/3 innings. Bray set a career high with 11 strikeouts in only six innings in an April 6 against Fort Wayne and reached double figures for K’s again in his next outing with 10 versus Air Force on April 11. In his last outing, April 25 at Iowa, Bray fanned nine batters and did not walk a batter over seven innings in a no-decision effort.
Bray, who has posted a 15-8 career record in his three seasons at SDSU, has cracked the Jackrabbit career top 10 in three different categories. His 33 career starts are tied for fifth all-time at SDSU and his 207 innings pitched both rank seventh. Meanwhile, Bray’s 161 career strikeouts rank eighth, and his 72 strikeouts so far in 2014 are tied for seventh most in a single season by a Jackrabbit pitcher.
HEEMSTRA RETURNS: The Jackrabbit pitching staff has been further bolstered by the recent return of Marcus Heemstra.
Heemstra recently completed his basketball career at SDSU, and averaged 5.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game primarily as a reserve forward during the 2013-14 season.
A native of Rock Valley, Iowa, Heemstra made a combined 21 appearances with one start for the Jackrabbit baseball team between the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He sat out the 2013 season to focus solely on basketball, and has made four appearances out of the bullpen so far this season, compiling a 1.80 earned run average in five innings, while striking out fiveand walking four.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: For the third time this season, Jackrabbit right-hander Chad Hodges has been named Summit League Pitcher of the Week.
His most recent award-winning performance was a three-hit shutout at league-leading Fort Wayne on April 19. A junior from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Hodges limited the Mastodons to three singles, while striking out six and walking two.
Hodges also received the award on Feb. 24 and March 24.
The South Dakota State University baseball team has earned its share of weekly Summit League awards during the 2014 season. Four different Jackrabbits have been honored by The Summit League so far this season.
EXTRA, EXTRA: Seven of the Jackrabbits’ 39 games so far this season have been decided in extra innings. SDSU has gone 5-3 in those games, winning one nine-inning game, three 10-inning decisions and an 11-inning contest.
SDSU’s three losses in extra-inning games have all come in series openers: a 5-4, 10-inning loss at Creighton (Neb.) on March 14, followed a week later by a 2-1, 14-inning setback in the first game of a March 21 twinbill at Chicago State.The Jackrabbits’ latest extra-inning loss was a 2-1, 11-inning setback at Iowa on April 25.
The Jackrabbits played only one extra-inning game during the 2013 season, falling 4-3 in 13 innings to San Francisco (Calif.) at the Eugene Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
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. SDSU also hosted the 2006 Division I Independent Tournament at Sioux Falls Stadium.
Tickets for the tournament and pre-tournament banquet are now on sale online at
sfsportsauthority.com or by phone at (605) 373-2041. Fans who order Summit League Baseball Championship tickets online also will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for the 2015 Summit League Basketball Championships at a later date.
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 670-740-2 career mark, including a 74-78-1 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. After posting a .500 record (28-28) his first season in South Bend, Schrage put Notre Dame 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.
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.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits will close out the academic year with final exams next week before closing out the home portion of its Summit League schedule with a four-game weekend series against Western Illinois May 9-11 at Erv Huether Field. The series opener is slated for a 3 p.m. start, with action both Saturday and Sunday starting at 1 p.m. Saturday’s action will consist of a doubleheader.