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A-State opened at home for the second consecutive season with Illinois State coming for Jonesboro for its third time since the 2014 season. The Redbirds have been the Red Wolves season-opening opponent in two of those trips (2015 and 2018).
The Red Wolves continued what was supposed to be a nine-game home stand to open the 2018 season with a 7-6 midweek win over Southeast Missouri Feb. 20, but the series with UAB, scheduled for Feb. 23-25 was cancelled due to all the rainfall received.
Jacob Jablonski was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give A-State a 7-6 walk-off win over the Redhawks.
Nate Alberius posted a quality start in his first appearance for the Red Wolves with 6.1 innings pitched and four runs allowed (three earned) with two walks and two strikeouts.
Arkansas State won Feb. 16’s season opener 1-0 to give them its second straight shutout to open the season after A-State defeated NYIT 6-0 last year.
A-State vs. Mississippi Valley State In-Depth Series History
A-State and Mississippi Valley State played last season with the Delta Devils coming back to win a 10-9 decision after scoring seven runs in the eighth inning. It’s the only meeting between the two squads.
The Red Wolves and Mississippi Valley State were scheduled to play in 2016, but the game was rained out.
Arkansas State holds an 11-2 record all-time against schools from the SWAC after the loss to the Delta Devils. A-State is 10-1 against UAPB all-time and is 1-0 against Jackson State, but had to vacate the 11-10 win against the Tigers in 2007.
Mississippi Valley State is one of two teams from the state of Mississippi the Red Wolves will play along with Ole Miss.
Notes from SEMO Midweek Game
A-State improved to 38-33 all-time against Southeast Missouri with the 7-6 victory Feb. 20 and the Red Wolves are now 158-120-2 against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Red Wolves fell behind 3-0 after the Redhawks scored one run in each of the first three innings and were down 4-2 before Logan Anderen hit the team’s first triple of the season in the bottom of the fifth to score a run and scored on the play himself after a throwing error by SEMO. Andersen now owns a three-game hit streak.
Tobias Johnson, making his first start of the season at DH, provided a pair of two-out RBI singles in the sixth and eighth innings to give the Red Wolves a 6-4 edge. Johnson had three hits on the night for the team’s second three-hit contest of the season and he also registered the first multiple-RBI game of the season for the team.
Payton Lannon registered his first hold of the season as he recorded the final two outs of the seventh and the first out of the eighth. He struck out two hitters with the tying runs on second and third to end the seventh. Tanner Kirby also picked up a hold while getting two outs.
Nate Alberius registered the team’s second quality start of the season in his A-State debut with 6.1 innings pitched, two walks, two strikeouts, four hits allowed, and four runs (only three earned). He was in line for the win before a blown save. Jesse Kutzke allowed two runs in the ninth, one belonging to Kirby after he issued a walk to start the frame. However, with A-State’s walk-off hit-by-pitch Kutzke earned his first A-State win.
Jacob Jablonski was plunked for the game-winning and walk-off RBI, the first run batted in of his career. Kyle MacDonald led off the inning with a walk, and after another walk and a hit-by-pitch scored the winning run when Jablonski was hit.
Kyle MacDonald was 1-for-4 on the night and has reached base in all four games of the season, while Jeremy Brown and Grant Hawkins have three-game hit streaks.
With Arkansas State’s 7-6 walk-off win over Southeast Missouri, the team now has 27 walk-off victories since Tommy Raffo became head coach in 2009. However, the walk-off HBP was the first of its kind during that time frame.
14 of those walk-offs have been singles, the last coming when Justin Felix knocked in the winning run of A-State’s 9-8 win over Little Rock in 18 innings May 19, 2017. A-State has won on three walk-off wild pitches under Raffo, while errors, sacrifice flies, fielder’s choices, and home runs have happened twice. Only once has the walk-off win occurred on a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
The two home runs were a three-run homer by Zach George against ULM April 6, 2012 for a 7-6 win and a solo shot by Alex Potts to beat FAU March 23, 2013 by a score of 3-2 in 10 innings.
Head coach Tommy Raffo’s first victory was a walk-off win against Texas State in Arlington, Texas against Texas State when Josh DeMoney singled home Cody Pace for a 4-3 win in 10 innings.
Since 2014, the walk-off wins have been less traditional with only five of the 11 being singles. During that time frame, two have been via wild pitch and fielder’s choice, while the other two were on a sacrifice fly and hit-by-pitch.
Five of the walk-off wins have been by scores of 4-3, while four have been by scores of 3-2 and now 7-6, each. A-State has had one walk-off victory by a 1-0 score, which was March 15 vs. SIU in 10 innings when Jack Bakamus scored on a walk-off wild pitch. The highest scoring walk-off win was a 13-12 win May 26, 2016 against Troy. Tanner Ring capped A-State’s comeback in the SBC Tournament game after the team trailed 12-4.
Rain, Rain Go Away
A-State’s weekend series with UAB was cancelled due to heavy rainfall after the series was set to begin Saturday, Feb. 24 with a doubleheader after Friday’s game was moved. However, it didn’t stop raining much throughout the weekend and field conditions were too poor to play.
This is the first entire weekend to be wiped out due to weather since the 2006 season when A-State was scheduled to play ULM and Mississippi Valley State to open the season. However, the whole weekend was cancelled due to weather, but A-State was able to get Henderson State to come play a single game on Sunday for its season opener.
Hopefully this year goes better than 2015 when A-State had 26 games altered in some form to due to weather. That season the team opted to travel to Emerson, Ga., to play No. 7 Louisville (where A-State won two of three) instead of going to Natchitoches, La., to play Northwestern State and Creighton one weekend because of the threat of bad weather. Then the Red Wolves first conference series against UT Arlington was moved from Jonesboro to Jackson, Miss., because of snow and ice in the Northeast Arkansas area.
With the three cancelled games against UAB along with Feb. 17’s Illinois State contest having to be moved to a Sunday doubleheader, the team has already had four games altered due to weather.
A-State in Midweek Openers
A-State is now 3-7 in midweek openers since 2009 when Tommy Raffo took over as head coach. However, only three of those games have been at home (2-1) after the 7-6 win over SEMO Feb. 20 and six of those games have been at Ole Miss, with three of the losses to the Rebels only being by one run.
This was the first time A-State hosted its midweek opener since 2014 and the earliest they have played Southeast Missouri in a season under Raffo.
Since 2000, A-State is now 10-9 in midweek openers with 10 of those games at home. In 2006, the Red Wolves hosted Southeast Missouri in their first midweek game of the season and defeated the Redhawks 4-3.
Notes from Illinois State Series
A-State is now 4-9 against the Redbirds all-time after going 1-2 against them Feb. 16-18.
The Red Wolves won the opener as Bradey Welsh tossed 7.2 innings of shut out baseball to tie his career high. He struck out eight, also tying a career high and walked one, while just allowing one hit. Last season, Welsh made nine starts and allowed three or more hits in all of them.
Kyle MacDonald proved to be the offense in the opener with his first career A-State home run. MacDonald was one of 11 players to make their Red Wolves’ debut over the weekend.
Logan Andersen had a nice debut with a .333 average, while Jeremy Brown hit two doubles and had a RBI.
A-State went 3-of-4 stealing bases with Jeremy Brown and Drew Tipton successfully stealing in their attempt, while Grant Hawkins was 1-of-2.
The Red Wolves were selected to finish fourth in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division with 36 points, ahead of Little Rock (27) and ULM (11). Louisiana was chosen to win the division with 68 points and nine first-place votes, while UT Arlington followed with 56 points and two first-place tallies. Texas State was picked ahead of A-State in third with 51 points and the final first-place vote.
South Alabama was the unanimous choice to win the East Division with 72 points and all 12 first-place votes, while Coastal Carolina followed with 59 points. Georgia Southern was third with 43, followed by Troy (41), Georgia State (20), and Appalachian State (16).
South Alabama’s Travis Swaggerty was chosen as the Preseason Player of the Year, while Troy’s Andrew Crane was the Preseason Pitcher of the Year. No Red Wolves were named Preseason All-Conference.
260 and Counting for Raffo; New Faces on Staff
A-State head coach Tommy Raffo has a career record of 260-258-1 as he is three games into his 10th season at Arkansas State. The 260 wins are the third most at the school behind J.A. “Ike” Tomlinson and Bill Bethea.
Raffo has a completely new staff to assist him this season. Rick Guarno joined the staff as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator with his most recent stint at UT Martin. Guarno played seven seasons of professional baseball before getting into coaching.
Rowdy Hardy is the team’s new pitching coach and comes to A-State from New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M. He played six seasons of professional baseball before getting into coaching.
Volunteer assistant Craig Massoni rounds out the staff and he just concluded his playing days after five seasons of professional baseball.