Cincinnati at Arkansas State
March 3-5, 2017 | 6:00 p.m.; 2:00 p.m.; 1:00 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 | Cincinnati

 

A-STATE/CINCINNATI SERIES HISTORY
• A-State won the only contest between the two schools on April 20, 1962 in Jonesboro by a score of 2-0. Arkansas State went on to finish that season with a record of 10-15, while the Bearcats were 17-11 and a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
• Cincinnati is now a member of the American Athletic Conference and A-State has an all-time record of 58-98-1 against schools currently in the AAC. The vast majority of those matchups are against regional rival Memphis, which A-State is 57-90-1 against all-time. A-State is 0-3 against UCF, 0-1 versus Houston, and 0-4 against Tulane along with a 1-0 mark against Cincinnati. Apart from the yearly home-and-home with Memphis, the last time A-State played one of those schools was in 1991 against UCF.
• Head coach Tommy Raffo is 9-6 all-time against the AAC since he is 9-6 all-time against
Memphis. Cincinnati will be the first opponent from the conference that he’s face that isn’t Memphis. The Bearcats enter the weekend with a 3-4 record after defeating Indiana 6-1 in a midweek clash Wednesday night in their home opener. Cincinnati opened with Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La., this season and won the opener 3-2 in 10 innings against the Demons but lost the next two games 3-2 and 6-2. A-State played Northwestern State last weekend and took two out of three from the Demons.

NOTES FROM MISSOURI STATE GAME
Drew Tipton tied his season high for hits in a game with two, the third time he’s accomplished that this season and also stole a base to improve to 5-for-5 on the year.
Joe Schrimpf hit his third double of the year.
Tyler Zuber tossed a scoreless inning in relief along with Bo Ritter, while Chase Nix tossed two innings and allowed a run with three strikeouts and two walks. The run was the first allowed for the season for the Benton, Ark., native.

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.
• 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 has the most steals nationally with 27 on the year. The Red Wolves are 27-for-31 on the year after going a perfect 6-for-6 in the series against Northwestern State and stealing one base in one attempt against Missouri 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 and Drew Tipton both have five steals on the year to rank in a tie for fourth in the conference and 17th 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 116 strikeouts as a pitching staff in just 86 innings of work this season. That comes out to a 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings ratio that leads the league and is third in the entire country.
Bryan Ayers is second in the conference with 19 punch outs, while Tyler Zuber is tied for third with 17 despite only throwing eight innings so far this season. Tyler Mitzel is also in the top 10 at number nine with 13. Ayer’s number ranks 22nd in the country and Zuber is 40th.
• Zuber got one inning of work in the ninth inning of the Sunday contest against Northwestern State and struck out two batters before getting another inning of work in against Missouri State Wednesday. He struck out one batter against the Bears and has recorded 10 of his last 12 outs via strikeout. 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 third in the nation. The nation’s leader is now Louisiana Tech at 22. The Bulldogs are set to visit Jonesboro next weekend for a three-game series March 10-12.
Jake Bakamus has already been hit six times and ranks fourth in the nation along with first in the conference in the category. He was hit 21 times 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 236-233-1 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.