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Game Notes: @AStateBaseball Set to Host Missouri State in Midweek Clash

By: ArkansasState
Release: 02/28/2017
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Missouri State at Arkansas State
March 1, 2017 | 4:00 p.m.
Jonesboro, Ark. | Tomlinson Stadium/Kell Field

Radio: 95.3 FM The Ticket | TV: None | Video: Red Wolves Digital Network ($)
Video/Audio |  Live Stats | Tickets Tickets | Game Notes: A-State | Missouri State

 

A-STATE/MISSOURI STATE HISTORY
• A-State trails the all-time series with Missouri State 22-41 after the two teams began playing in 1964. A-State took three of the four meetings that year. A-State won 5-3 and 16-3 to open the season in Jonesboro before splitting with the Bears in Springfield later in the year with A-State winning 3-2 before falling 2-0 in the second game. However, the two teams didn’t play again until the 1982 season, when Missouri State won two meetings in Jonesboro.
• The two schools took another hiatus before playing again in 1990 and have played every year since then except for 1998. MSU won nine straight meetings in the series counting the last game in 1964, both games in 1982, and six games between 1990-91. A-State’s most successful stretch in the series was from 1994-1997 when the Red Wolves won seven of the 10 games.
• Head coach Tommy Raffo is 3-9 against Missouri State all-time with the two schools playing against each other every season since he was named head coach. MSU won three straight after Raffo took over, but A-State won two in row in 2010 and 2011. However, since the 2012 season, A-State is only 1-6 against the Bears. The Red Wolves traveled to Springfield, Mo., last season and dropped a 15-11 contest to Missouri State, who was ranked No. 10 in the nation at the time. Ty White had two hits and drove in five runs, while Tanner Ring blasted his third home run of the season and drove in three. A-State used nine different pitchers in the game with Collin Nord taking the loss. The Bears starter was Austin Knight, who will start Wednesday’s game. He allowed five runs (all earned) on four hits and a walk with no strikeouts in two innings of work.

NOTES FROM NORTHWESTERN STATE SERIES
• The Red Wolves took two of three from Northwestern State Feb. 24-26 in Natchitoches, La., to avenge last season’s series loss to the Demons in Jonesboro. A-State won game one 3-2 before falling in game two 9-5. The Red Wolves tied a season high with 16 hits, six of which were for extra bases, in the rubber game Sunday as A-State won 12-3. The Red Wolves improved to 5-8 all-time against Northwestern State and Coach Raffo is now 3-3 against the Demons.
Bryan Ayers improved to 2-0 on the season after lasting five innings in the Friday night contest. He allowed two runs on seven hits and walked five, but struck out nine batters. Tanner Kirby pitched the final four innings to register his first save of the season and the second for the team after allowing no runs on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Joe Schrimpf had two hits and two RBI, including the team’s first triple of the season. Drew Tipton was hit by two pitches and stole two bases.
• Game two saw A-State out hit the Demons 9-7 but fall by a score of 9-5. Jeremy Brown led the offensive effort when he finished a double shy of the cycle with his home run coming on an inside-the-parker when he hit a shot to right-center field that caromed back towards the infield after it hit the wall. It was the first inside-the-park home run since Joe Schrimpf’s last year on Feb. 27 in the first game of a doubleheader against Saint Louis in Emerson, Ga. Junior J.D. Rainwater picked up his first career RBI with a run-scoring single in the top of the ninth. Chase Nix pitched a scoreless inning in relief and hasn’t allowed a run in three innings.
• A-State had an outburst at the plate with 12 runs, second most the team has scored this
season, in a 12-3 victory over the Demons to claim the series. Garrett Rucker and Jake Bakamus both tallied three hits each with two of Rucker’s being triples. The two triples marked the first time an A-State player hit two triples in one game since May 26 of last season against Troy when Ty White accomplished the feat. Prior to that the last person to do it was Pete Davis in 1970 against Alabama. Alex Howard hit two doubles and drove in two runs, while Justin Felix hit his second home run of the season against the wind to right-center field. Collin Cahill earned his first career win after allowing three runs (all earned) on three hits with seven walks and four strikeouts. Tyler Mitzel tossed three innings out of the bullpen and recorded seven of the nine outs via strikeout.

FELIX FLEXES HIS MUSCLE
• Junior catcher Justin Felix, a junior college transfer from New Mexico Military Institute has had a remarkable start to the 2017 campaign. So far he’s put together a triple-slash line of .433/.553/.833 with team highs in hits (13), doubles (6), home runs (2), RBI (16), and total bases (25) along with his average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage all rank atop the team.
• The 16 RBI lead the league, while the six doubles and 25 total bases are tied for the best in the league. His batting average ranks seventh in the league, while his slugging percentage is second and on-base percentage is fifth. Nationally, his six doubles and 16 RBI both rank as third best in the nation.

THE RUNNIN’ RED WOLVES
• A-State is tied with Michigan for the most steals nationally with 26 on the year. The Red Wolves are 26-for-30 on the year after going a perfect 6-for-6 in the series against Northwestern State.
• A-State only had 48 steals a season ago and the school record is 91, which was done twice in 1982 and 1983. The Red Wolves stole 63 bases in the 2014 season, which is the most in the Tommy Raffo era.
Grant Hawkins leads the way with a perfect 9-for-9 mark stealing with the nine steals ranking as tied for the most in the country with Campbell’s Drew Butler. Garrett Rucker has five steals to rank in a tie for third most in the Sun Belt Conference and 13th most in the nation. Seven different players for the Red Wolves have a steal on the young season.

PUNCHING THEM OUT
• The Red Wolves lead the SBC with 104 strikeouts as a pitching staff in just 77 innings of work this season. That comes out to a 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings ratio that leads the league and is fifth in the entire country.
Bryan Ayers is second in the conference with 19 punch outs, while Tyler Zuber is tied for third with 16 despite only throwing seven innings so far this season. Tyler Mitzel is also in the top 10 at number seven with 13. Ayer’s number ranks 19th in the country and Zuber is 51st.
• Zuber got one inning of work in the ninth inning of the Sunday contest and struck out two
batters to give him eighth strikeouts in the last nine outs he’s recorded. Tyler Mitzel almost out did him in three innings prior to that but only struck out seven in his nine outs.

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT
• A-State set the school record for hit-by-pitches a season ago with 98 and has already been hit 18 times this season, which is the most in the conference and second in the nation to New Mexico State’s 19.
Jake Bakamus has already been hit six times and ranks second in the nation along with first in the conference in the category. He was hit 21 last season, which was the third most in a single season in school history and fourth most in the country in 2016.
Drew Tipton got hit three times over the weekend at Northwestern State and now ranks second on the team and is tied for third in the conference and 41st in the nation. Nine different players have been hit with a pitch for the Red Wolves.

NOTES FROM OLE MISS/MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE
• Arkansas State dropped both of its first midweek games of the season, one on the road at Ole Miss Tuesday by a score of 16-4 and then a 10-9 decision to Mississippi Valley State Wednesday night.
Casey Vaughan hit his first career home run against the Rebels when he cranked a pitch into the Ole Miss bullpen beyond the left-field fence. Justin Felix continued his hot hitting to begin his career with a double and single in the game. Joe Schrimpf hit a two-run double in the game, while Grant Hawkins stole two bases to improve to 7-7 for the year.
• The following night A-State blew a six-run lead in the eighth inning to drop the first meeting in school history to the Delta Devils. A-State did register 15 hits with Joe Schrimpf, Garrett Rucker, and Jeremy Brown picking up three hits each. Austin Powell collected the first two hits of his career and Justin Felix drove in four more runs to bring his total to 13 in six games. Rucker hit his first home run of the season in the game, and also stole a base. Grant Hawkins stole an other base and he is now 8-for-8 on the year. Jake Bakamus was hit by a pitch for the sixth time this season after getting hit twice against Ole Miss. Tyler Zuber threw two innings and struck out all six batters he faced.

236 AND COUNTING FOR RAFFO
• A-State head coach Tommy Raffo is now 236-232-1 in his ninth season. The 236 wins are the third most in school history behind Bill Bethea and J.A. “Ike” Tomlinson.
• Coach Raffo’s 200th win came back in the 2015 SBC Tournament and tied him with Richard Johnson for third most wins, while his 201st victory, that also came in the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Tournament moved him ahead of Johnson.

BYE, BYE, BYE
• A-State lost six seniors from last year’s team along with a handful of other letter winners.
• Four of the six were position players with Tanner Ring, a first-team All-SBC selection last season, leading the way. Ring led the team in doubles (16), homers (8), RBI (46), total bases (114), and slugging percentage (.496). Ty White led the team with a .318 batting average, six triples, and 12 steals in 2016, while Matt Burgess saw a productive career come to an end with a .265 batting average to go along with 11 doubles, seven home runs, and 41 RBI. He ended his career tied for fourth-most doubles in school history with 44 and third-most RBI with 136. Austin Baker was the other senior position player as he experienced an injury-plagued campaign. He hit .248 with eight doubles, two triples, a homer, and 19 RBI. He ended his career with the sixth-most runs scored (126), sixth-most walks (102), tied for fourth-most triples (8), seventh- most total bases (287), and sixth-most RBI (112).
• The two senior pitchers that departed were Cody Jackson and Adam Grantham, both who spent most of the 2016 campaign in the team’s starting rotation. Jackson pitched to a 2-4 record with a 4.80 ERA in 69.1 innings, while Grantham tallied a 2-3 mark with a 4.97 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 67 innings.

NEWCOMERS GALORE
• The A-State baseball team welcomes 16 newcomers to the 2017 team as they join 15 returning letter winners and three redshirts.
• Seven of the newcomers are from junior colleges, while nine of the kids are high schoolers.
• Freshman left-handed pitcher and Sunday’s scheduled starter Collin Cahill was listed as the fifth-best freshman in the league by D1Baseball.com (full article:
https://d1baseball.com/analysis/2017-conference-previews-sun-belt/ with a paid subscription)
• The preview from D1Baseball.com also mentions transfer catcher Justin Felix and says, “He is their most projectable pro prospect, a 6.85 runner, with home run power who handles pitchers well.”
• 11 of the 16 newcomers have made an appearance this season.

PRESEASON PROJECTIONS
• Arkansas State was picked to finish fifth in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division with 27 points. Louisiana-Lafayette was picked atop the West Division, while SBC newcomer and defending national champion Coastal Carolina were chosen to win the East Division crown.
• 2017 marks the 40th season of Sun Belt baseball and the first year since 1994 the league will play a divisional (East/West) format.
• A-State was also chosen fifth in the West Division by D1Baseball.com, but said “the Red Wolves could be one of the surprise teams in the league.” Friday’s starter Bryan Ayers was also listed as the 10th-best MLB draft prospect for 2017, while sophomore Peyton Culbertson, Saturday’s game two starter was listed as the sixth-best 2018 MLB draft prospect.
• The 2017 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Tournament will be seeded with the division winners as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, with the No. 1 seed being awarded to the divisional winner with the best conference winning percentage. Seeds No. 3- No. 10 will be selected based off winning percentage in conference play, regardless of division.
• Also new for 2017, the number of teams playing in the conference championship will increase from eight to ten. This would cause two additional games to be played. The first round games would include the No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed and the No. 7 seed vs. the No. 10 seed, with both contests conducted as single-elimination games on Tuesday of tournament week.

BREAKING DOWN THE RED WOLVES
• The 2017 version of the Red Wolves features 19 players from Arkansas with four apiece coming from Missouri and Tennessee. There are two players each from Arizona and Washington, with one player from each of Colorado, New Mexico, and South Dakota.
• A-State has five seniors, 15 juniors, three sophomores, and 11 freshmen.
• There are three redshirts from a season ago with RS-Senior Derek Birginske returning from an injury he suffered last season. The Russellville, Ark., native has pitched and played in the outfield at A-State, but is expected to only play outfield this season. The other two redshirts were pitcher Brandon Stuckenschneider and Drew Tipton, who were both true freshmen a season ago.
• A-State added two sets of brothers in freshmen Chase and Colten Nix (Benton, Ark.) and
Conrad and Cullen Ray (Germantown, Tenn.). The Rays are the son of former A-State football player Mike Ray, while Chase and Colten give A-State three players from Benton along with Coulton Lee.
• Speaking of three’s, A-State added three true freshmen from Star City, Ark., in Garry Hill, Austin Powell, and Blake Wynn. The trio led the Bulldogs to a 2015 4A State Championship. The Red Wolves also picked up three junior college transfers from New Mexico Military Institute in Justin Felix, Alex Howard, and Winston Welch. That trio was coached by former A-State assistant coach Chris Cook.

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