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Game Notes: @AStateBaseball Set to Open 2017 Season

By: ArkansasState
Release: 02/16/2017
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NYIT at Arkansas State
Feb. 17-19, 2017 | 4:00 p.m.; 1:00 p.m. (DH 9-inning/7-inning); 10:00 a.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: NYIT | A-State

 

A-STATE/NYIT HISTORY
• A-State and NYIT have never met in baseball so this weekend’s series will mark the first matchups between the two schools.
• The universities have a strong academic connection. The NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine is located in Wilson Hall on the Jonesboro campus of Arkansas State University. It is dedicated to patient-centered, population-based osteopathic medical care and began in August of 2016. It is the first osteopathic medical school in the state.
• The New York Institute of Technology is located in Old Westbury, N.Y., which is on Long Island. The Bears play as a Division I independent and are the only independent team in DI baseball. All other sports compete in Division II in the East Coast Conference.
• NYIT was 17-26 a season ago and are coached by Bob Malvagna. They took two of three from Coppin State in Washington, D.C. to open the season a year ago and were 17-18 before suffering an eight-game losing streak to end the season.
• A-State has played three teams from the state of New York with the team holding a 1-0 record against Long Island with the lone meeting occurring in 1968. Arkansas State has also played St. John’s (1990) and most recently, Siena (2009), with losses to both schools.

NOTES FROM 2016
• The Red Wolves registered a 29-29 record a season ago with a 13-17 mark in SBC games that placed A-State eighth in the league. The eighth-place finish put the Red Wolves in the SBC
Tournament, where the team went 2-2 with wins over Troy and host Texas State and both losses to Louisiana-Lafayette. A-State is the only team in the conference to win at least two games in each of the last seven conference tournaments.
• A-State posted a 16-12 mark in nonconference games a season ago with a 2-2 record in the SBC Tournament. The Red Wolves were 16-11 at home, including an 8-4 mark at home in nonconference games.
• The Red Wolves set a couple of school records last season on the offensive side with 98 hit-by-pitches and 22 triples.
• The 98 HBP’s eclipsed 2015’s mark of 94 with all 15 players that stepped in the batter’s box getting hit by at least one pitch. Jake Bakamus was hit by 21 pitches to rank as the third most in school history, while Jeremy Brown’s 13 tied for 12th most in school history in a single season. Garrett Rucker (12) and Matt Burgess (10) were also in double-digit HBP totals for the season. The 98 HBP’s ranked third in the nation a season ago, while Bakamus’s total was fourth most in the country.
• The 22 triples broke the previous school record of 20, set back in 1949. Ty White hit six triples of his own, which tied for the third most in school history and ranked first in the league and 22nd in the nation. Jeremy Brown and Joe Schrimpf each hit three apiece.
• The A-State pitching staff also set a record last season, but not a good one with 280 walks on the season, breaking the 2015 team’s mark of 260.

230 AND COUNTING FOR RAFFO
• A-State head coach Tommy Raffo is now 230-229-1 as he enters his ninth season. The 230 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.

A-STATE IN SEASON OPENERS
• Arkansas State is now 35-33 in season openers after last year’s 14-5 victory at UAB. Coulton Lee got the win on the mound after coming in to pitch from the bullpen, while Matt Burgess and Tanner Ring each contributed four-RBI performances in the victory. The two teams played a Saturday doubleheader to beat a rainy Sunday forecast with the Blazers winning the first game 5-0 and A-State claiming the series with a 5-2 win in the second game.
• Last year’s win improved head coach Tommy Raffo to 5-3 in season openers with the wins coming against Texas State (2009), Southern Illinois (2010), Bradley (2013), and Miami (Ohio) (2014). The three losses came from Auburn (2011), Lamar (2012), and Illinois State (2015).
• Arkansas State will open at home for the first time since the 2015 season when the squad dropped a 3-0 decision to Illinois State. That loss snapped a 24-game home opener winning streak.
• The Red Wolves are 15-4 in home season openers since 1974. The team only opened at home in 1974 and 1984 before hosting the season opener 17 times since the 1990 season. The Red Wolves lost the first three, but won 15 straight prior to the 2015 loss to Illinois State.

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.”

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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