The Jackrabbits are scheduled to open their trip Friday afternoon against Ohio State. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. Eastern Time (3 p.m. Central). On Saturday, SDSU is slated to play St. Bonaventure (N.Y.) at 11 a.m. ET, followed by a 2:30 p.m. matchup with Ohio State. Games conclude Sunday, with the Jackrabbits again taking on St. Bonaventure at noon ET.
All games will be played at the Charlotte Sports Complex, which serves as the Spring Training facility for the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Ohio State enters the weekend with a 1-2 overall record. The Buckeyes dropped games to Mercer (Ga.) and Notre Dame last weekend in Sarasota, Fla., before scoring a 3-1 win over St. John's (N.Y.) on Feb. 17.
St. Bonaventure will be playing their season opener Saturday against the Jackrabbits.
THE SERIES: The Jackrabbits will be playing a pair of first-time opponents during their trip to Florida. SDSU has never faced Ohio State, but did play three different Big Ten Conference opponents last season, going a combined 1-5 against Iowa (0-3), Minnesota (1-1) and Nebraska (0-1). The Buckeyes were picked to finish fourth in the Big Ten Conference's preseason poll.
St. Bonaventure, which was picked to finish 11th out of 15 teams in the preseason Atlantic 10 Conference poll, will be the first of two A-10 opponents the Jackrabbits are scheduled to face this season. SDSU is slated to play a three-game series at preseason favorite Saint Louis (Mo.) March 15-17.
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 OPENER: South Dakota State starting pitchers Stephen Bougher and Adam Bray combined to throw 12 scoreless innings as the Jackrabbits opened the 2013 season Feb. 18 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis with a pair of shutout victories over Waldorf (Iowa).
In the opener, Bougher threw a three-hit complete-game shutout as the Jackrabbits won 3-0 in seven innings. Bray closed the twinbill by pitching five scoreless innings en route to a 5-0 SDSU victory in another seven-inning contest.
The Jackrabbits opened the scoring in Game 1 with a two-run second inning. Aaron Machbitz led off with a single, moved to second on a base hit by Tyler Shannon and advanced to third on a walk to Steven Auterieth. Machbitz later scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of Zach Coppola and Shannon crossed home plate after a sacrifice fly by Eric Danforth.
Bougher, meanwhile, was in a groove on the mound. The senior right-hander retired 11 consecutive Warrior hitters in one stretch, including four by strikeout.
SDSU added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth as Shannon singled, moved to second on a walk and scored on a base hit up the middle by Coppola.
Waldorf threatened in the top of the seventh as the first two batters reached on an error and a walk. Bougher set down the next two hitters before Jarvis White delivered an infield single that was knocked down by Shannon, who then threw out a runner at home to end the game.
Bougher struck out seven and surrendered the one base on balls in recording his fourth career shutout.
Machbitz and Shannon recorded two of the Jackrabbits' six hits.
In Game 2, Bray fanned a career-high seven batters and Coppola went 3-for-3 with a pair of stolen bases and three runs scored to lead SDSU to the 5-0 victory.
SDSU took advantage of a Waldorf error to score three times in the top of the second inning. Andrew Melton reached on an error with one out and moved to third after a pair of wild pitches. After a walk to Nick Andrews, Coppola followed with a run-scoring single and took second on the throw back to the infield. Al Robbins then won the battle in his at-bat, fouling off six pitches before plating two runs with a single to center field.
Coppola also factored in the final two runs of the game. The freshman center fielder singled with two outs in the fourth, stole second and scored on Eric Danforth's opposite-field single to left. In the sixth, Coppola led off with a bunt single and stole second. He later advanced to third on Robbins' infield single and scored when the throw to try to get Robbins at first base was errant.
Robbins was 2-for-3 as the Jackrabbits finished with 10 hits.
Waldorf advanced runners to third base in the first and third innings, but failed to come up with a timely hit. Bray struck out the final two batters of the third inning to work out of the jam and also was the beneficiary of two double plays turned behind him.
Layne Somsen struck out a batter in the sixth inning and J.D. Moore added a pair of K's in the seventh to give the Jackrabbit pitching staff 10 strikeouts in the game.
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.
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.
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 616-695-2 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 will embark on their Spring Break trip, opening their eight-game road swing with three games at Mississippi Valley State March 1-3. SDSU also is scheduled to play two games at Alcorn State (Miss.) March 5-6, wrapping up the trip with three games in Terre Haute, Ind., March 8-9. The Jackrabbits will square off against Mercer (Ga.) twice and host Indiana State.