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Game Notes: @AStateBaseball Hosts No. 24 Louisiana Tech

By: ArkansasState
Release: 03/09/2017
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No. 24 Louisiana Tech at Arkansas State
March 10, 12, 2017 | 2:00 p.m. (DH); 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 | Louisiana Tech

 

A-STATE/LOUISIANA TECH SERIES HISTORY
• A-State is 37-78 all-time against Louisiana Tech in series history with the first meetings
between the two schools happening in 1956. A-State dropped both games that season by scores of 10-4 and 3-1. The two teams didn’t meet again until 1959 when Arkansas State and the Bulldogs met for a three-game set that saw Louisiana Tech take the first two games before A-State picked up a 7-2 win in the series finale. The Bulldogs swept a three-game series in 1960 to represent the last nonconference meeting of the two teams.
• The two teams began meeting as Southland Conference foes in 1972 and A-State was 10-8 against the Bulldogs through the 1977 season and took four of the six three-games series between the two teams with neither team sweeping the other. However, from 1978 to the end of the two teams’ tenure in the Southland Conference in 1987 Louisiana Tech compiled a 38-7 record over A-State and didn’t lose a series.
• The two teams were in the American South Conference from 1988-1991 with A-State going 3-10 against the Bulldogs. Both teams joined the Sun Belt in 1992 and Louisiana Tech stayed there until the 2001 season. The Red Wolves held a 16-15 advantage over the stretch of both teams being in the Sun Belt, including a 10-3 mark from 1993-1998. A-State’s only three-game series sweep in history over the Bulldogs occurred in 1995. Arkansas State won the last series between the two teams in 2001 in Jonesboro. A-State won the first two games by scores of 9-1 and 8-1, but dropped the series finale 3-0.
• Louisiana Tech enters the series 12-1 and is ranked 24th in the USA Today Coaches Poll along with 25th in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ Association Poll.

NOTES FROM CINCINNATI SERIES
• A-State improved to 3-1 all-time against Cincinnati by taking two of three from the Bearcats March 3-5. A-State won Friday 5-4 and 5-1 Saturday, but lost the series finale 11-4 Sunday. Prior to the three meetings the two teams had just played once. It was a 2-0 A-State win in 1962.
• The Red Wolves won Friday’s game in come-from-behind fashion after trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the seventh inning. Cincinnati walked in a run to bring the score to 4-3 and Joe Schrimpf delivered a two-out, two-run single to right field to put A-State on top 5-4, which would be the final. Jeremy Brown hit his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to left field, but his first over the fence as his first homer was an inside-the-parker. Tanner Kirby picked up the win in relief to improve to 2-0 on the year after tossing the final three innings in relief of Bryan Ayers. The Maumelle, Ark., native didn’t give up a run on two hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Kirby hasn’t allowed a run in his last seven innings.
Peyton Culbertson and Tyler Zuber quited the Cincinnati bats in game two as A-State won 5-1. Culbertson tossed his first quality start of the year and second for the team this season after lasting six innings and allowing no runs on six hits with one walk and five punch outs. The Collierville, Tenn., native improved to 2-1 on the year. Zuber earned his second save of the season by throwing the last three innings, but he did allow his first run of the year. A-State was led at the plate by Garrett Rucker, who was 2-for-3 with four RBI. Rucker hit his third triple of the season and the second of the third inning after Drew Tipton hit his first career three-bagger earlier in the frame. The four RBI were a new career high, while the three triples put him first in the conference and tied for fifth in the nation in the category. Jeremy Brown added another triple in the game to give the team seven for the year, tops in the SBC and second in the nation.
Tobias Johnson registered the first hit of his career in his first career game for the Red Wolves in the Sunday contest, while Rucker added a couple of more hits and scored three times. Tyler Mitzel threw a career-high 5.2 innings and retired 10 straight at one point, but gave up five runs.

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.

THE RUNNIN’ RED WOLVES
• A-State has the fifth most steals nationally with 28 on the year. The Red Wolves are 28-for- 35 on the year after struggling against Cincinnati by only converting one out of four chances.
• 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 10-for 11 mark stealing with the 10 steals ranking as third most in the country. Garrett Rucker and Drew Tipton both have five steals on the year to rank in a tie for sixth in the conference and 69th 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 140 strikeouts as a pitching staff in just 113 innings of work this season. That comes out to a 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings ratio that is second in the league to Louisiana-Lafayette’s 11.4 mark and fifth in the country.
Bryan Ayers is second in the conference with 26 punch outs, while Tyler Zuber is tied for fifth with 21 despite only throwing 11 innings so far this season. Additionally, Ayers is tied for the most strikeouts looking in the league with 12.
• Ayers ranks 27th in the nation in strikeouts, while Zuber is 81st.

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 22 times this season, which is the most in the conference and ninth in the nation. The nation’s leader is now this weekend’s opponent, Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have been hit 35 times already this season.
Jake Bakamus has already been hit eight times and ranks second 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.
Joe Schrimpf and Drew Tipton are second on the team with three HBP’s each, while 11 different players have been hit by a pitch this year for the Red Wolves.

238 AND COUNTING FOR RAFFO
• A-State head coach Tommy Raffo is now 238-234-1 in his ninth season. The 238 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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