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Game Notes: @AStateBaseball Opens SBC Play vs. ULM

By: ArkansasState
Release: 03/16/2017
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ULM at Arkansas State
March 17-19, 2017 | 6:30 p.m.; 6:30 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 | ULM

A-STATE/ULM SERIES HISTORY
• A-State is 35-28 all-time against ULM. The series began in 1973 with the Warhawks taking both games from Arkansas State to open the season by scores of 7-2 and 10-0. The two squads played again in 1974 with A-State winning both contests 2-0 and 8-2.
• After those four initial meetings in the series, the teams didn’t play again until the 1983 season when ULM took five out of six games. A-State posted a 3-2 record against ULM in 1987 for its first winning record against the team since 1974 and also swept two games each season in 1994 and 1997.
• Since the two teams have been in the Sun Belt Conference (ULM joined in 2007), A-State has won seven of the 10 season series and holds a 20-11 advantage with only one matchup coming during the SBC Tournament. That matchup was the 2012 final in which ULM won by a score of 4-2.
• A-State head coach Tommy Raffo is 17-8 against the Warhawks in his career. The team went 2-1 in his first season as head coach in 2009 in Monroe. A-State won the first two games 14-4 and then 6-4 in 11 innings before falling in the finale 10-8 in 10 innings. A-State has swept ULM three times (2010, 2014, 2016) during Raffo’s tenure and has only lost the season series twice in eight chances (2012 and 2015). A-State swept ULM in Jonesboro last season by scores of 8-1, 12-4, and 5-4 April 22-24. Cody Jackson tossed a complete game in the Friday contest with Ty White leading the offense with four hits, including a home run. The Red Wolves scored eight runs in the seventh inning to break a 4-4 tie in the Saturday game. Joe Schrimpf and Austin Baker both homered to get the score to even befor the eight-run explosion. Garrett Rucker drove in three runs, while Coulton Lee got the win out of the bullpen. The Sunday series finale was much closer as Neil Lambert was able to hit a walk-off fielder’s choice in the bottom of the ninth as ULM couldn’t turn two on his slow chopper up-the-middle. Tanner Ring earned the win in the game after throwing 1.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
• ULM enters the weekend 4-14 after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Jackson State in midweek action Wednesday night. The Warhawks were able to win a game against Dallas Baptist in their season opener and took two out of three against Southern Illinois, who just beat the Red Wolves Wednesday, to account for their weekend wins. The team also defeated Jackson State 10-2 in a midweek game earlier in the year. The Warhawks faced some tough luck in their last weekend series against UAB by losing all three games by one run, two coming in extra frames. ULM head coach Bruce Peddie is 2-10 against the Red Wolves.

NOTES FROM SIU GAME
• A-State fell to 23-48 all-time against the Salukis with a 4-2 loss March 15. The loss for the Red Wolves also snapped a six-game winning streak against Southern Illinois.
Jeremy Brown hit his third home run of the season and sixth career round-tripper with a solo shot in the bottom of the first. The Festus, Mo., native also had a single and walked twice in the game.
Collin Cahill made his fourth start of the season, but couldn’t get through the fourth inning. The A-State bullpen of Tanner Kirby, Tyler Mitzel, Zachary Patterson, and Tyler Zuber finished the game and allowed just one run on four hits with six strikeouts against one walk. Kirby and Zuber lead the Red Wolves with seven appearances each.

NOTES FROM LOUISIANA TECH SERIES
• Arkansas State is now 38-79 all-time against Louisiana Tech after splitting the doubleheader March 10. The third game was cancelled due to snow in the Jonesboro area. A-State lost game one 19-3 before bouncing back for a 6-5 victory over the 24th-ranked Bulldogs in game two. The win for the Red Wolves was their first over a ranked opponent this season and first since defeating No. 6 Ole Miss on May 17, 2016. It was the first weekend loss of the season for Louisiana Tech.
Garrett Rucker opened the scoring in game one with a solo homer in the bottom of the first inning for his second of the season and fourth of his career. Grant Hawkins hit his first career triple in the game and drove home a run, while Alex Howard doubled to give him his fifth of the year, second most on the team. Austin Powell had a pinch-hit double in the contest for his first career extra-base hit, but there weren’t too many more positives than that in the 19-3 loss. The 16-run margin of defeat was the most for an A-State team since a 20-2 loss to South Alabama April 13, 2013.
• The second game of the double dip featured A-State falling behind 3-0 and again at 4-3 but coming back to earn the win 6-5. Justin Felix left the yard for the third time this season in the sixth inning to tie the game 4-4 and also gave the Red Wolves the lead 6-5 after grounding into a double play. Felix also hit his team-leading eighth double in the game. Garrett Rucker was 2-for-2 and stole his sixth base of the season along with walking twice to give him a team-high 13 walks. Grant Hawkins stole his 11th base of the season, while Derek Birginske checked in with his first steal of the year. Tanner Kirby gave up one run in two innings of work, but picked up the win to improve to 3-0 on the season. Tyler Zuber worked two scoreless frames to close the game and picked up his third save of the season, which is the most on the team.

THE RUNNIN’ RED WOLVES
• A-State has the 14th most steals nationally with 31 on the year. The Red Wolves are 31-for- 40 on the year after stealing three bases in four chances over the two-game series with Louisiana Tech and going 0-for-1 against SIU March 15.
• 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 an 11-for 12 mark stealing with the 11 steals ranking as fifth most in the country. Garrett Rucker has six steals on the year to rank ninth in the
conference, while Drew Tipton has five steals. Eight different players for the Red Wolves have a steal on the season.

PUNCHING THEM OUT
• The Red Wolves are second in the SBC with 168 strikeouts as a pitching staff in just 140 innings of work this season. That comes out to a 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings ratio that is second in the league to Louisiana-Lafayette’s 10.9 mark and eighth in the country.
Bryan Ayers is second in the conference with 31 punch outs, while Tyler Zuber is tied for 9th with 25 despite only throwing 14 innings so far this season. Additionally, Ayers is second in the Sun Belt Conference with 13 strikeouts looking.
• Ayers ranks 40th in the nation in strikeouts, while Zuber is 140th. Ayers also has a 13.29 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio and ranks second in the league and 23rd in the country, while Tanner Kirby checks in with a 10.47 that is eighth in the league.

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 28 times this season, which is the most in the conference and 11th in the nation. The nation’s leader is Louisiana Tech with 41, who was the opponent for a two-game series March 10. The Red Wolves were hit four times in the two games, while Louisiana Tech was hit three times.
Jake Bakamus has already been hit eight times and ranks fifth 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 is second on the team and second in the conference with five HBP’s with Drew Tipton third on the squad with three. 12 different players have been hit with a pitch for the Red Wolves this season.

239 AND COUNTING FOR RAFFO
• A-State head coach Tommy Raffo is now 239-236-1 in his ninth season. The 239 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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