ARKANSAS STATE RED WOLVES (19-15, 8-4)
vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (13-19, 5-7)
April 13-15, 2012 6:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. & 1:00 p.m.
Tomlinson Stadium & Kell Field (1,200) Jonesboro, Arkansas
Radio: 95.3 FM & KNEA 970 AM & AStateRedWolves.com
LiveStats at AStateRedWolves.com
LEADING OFF: The Arkansas State Red Wolves return to Sun Belt Conference action this weekend when they host the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky in a three-game series at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field. The series is set to get underway Friday at 6:00 p.m., with ASU head coach Tommy Raffo going for his 100th career victory when the two teams square off. Saturday’s game is set for 4:00 p.m., and the series will wrap up Sunday at 1:00 p.m. All ASU baseball games may be heard on 95.3 FM and KNEA 970 AM, and through the StateZone portion of AStateRedWolves.com. LiveStats may also be accessed by logging on to AStateRedWolves.com.
THE TEAMS: The Red Wolves will take the field at 19-15 overall and 8-4 in Sun Belt Conference action, and playing for their fourth league series victory of the season. Arkansas State defeated Memphis 4-2 in its only midweek game this week, but will be looking to bounce back from their first weekend series loss of the year, a 2-1 setback last weekend against Louisiana-Monroe. The Red Wolves defeated ULM 7-6 Friday night on a three-run, walk-off home run by first baseman Zach George, but lost the Saturday game 9-0 and the Sunday contest 10-1 to drop to 8-4 in SBC action. Three starters are hitting over .300 for the Red Wolves, led by third baseman Claude Johnson at .375, with a team-high 10 doubles. Freshman right fielder Collin Massanelli is batting .328 and has reached base in all 18 games in which he has played. His 18-game on-base streak is the longest current streak on the team. Center fielder Michael Faulkner is batting .300 and is the Sun Belt Conference stolen base leader with 27 steals on 27 attempts. The Hilltoppers travel to Jonesboro at 13-19 on the season, with a 5-7 SBC mark. With no midweek games on the slate this week, Western Kentucky will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s 2-1 series loss at Louisiana-Lafayette. The Hilltoppers defeated ULL 6-2 in the Friday night game, but the Cajuns came back to edge WKU 1-0 Saturday and 2-1 Sunday. Western Kentucky is led offensively by third baseman Casey Dykes, who is hitting a team-best .306 with six doubles and two home runs. Outfielder Ryan Hutchison adds seven doubles, two triples and a team-high four home runs, while hitting .267. Preseason all-conference right-hander Justin Hageman will be the Friday night starter for the Hilltoppers. Hageman is 2-3 on the season with an ERA of 5.66. He has given up 25 runs on 44 hits on the season, while striking out 41 batters and walking 19 in 35.0 innings. Lefty Tim Bado will be the Saturday starter for WKU. Bado has a team-high 48 strikeouts in 45.0 innings. At 2-4 on the season, Bado brings an ERA of 2.80 into the series after giving up 19 runs on 39 hits.
THE WKU SERIES: Western Kentucky holds a 34-31 edge in the all-time series after winning two of three games last year in Bowling Green. Two of the three games went into extra innings, with WKU winning 3-2 in 13 innings in the Friday series opener. The Hilltoppers clinched the series with a 13-2 win in the Saturday game, but the Red Wolves avoided the sweep with a 4-3, 10-inning victory on Sunday. The last ASU series victory came during the 2010 season, when the Red Wolves took two of three against the then-18th ranked Hilltoppers in Jonesboro.
KOCH TIES RECORDS: Junior John Koch picked up his seventh save of the season in ASU’s 4-2 victory over Memphis April 10, tying the school record set by Randy Walker in 1981. The save also brought his career total to 11, which also ties the school record held by Blake Ring and Tim Egart. Ring played from 2003-05 while Egart played from 2006-07.
FAULKNER TIES SCHOOL RECORD: Junior center fielder Michael Faulkner tied the school record for stolen bases in a game when he swiped four in the Red Wolves’ April 4 game at Missouri State, bringing his season total to 26 at the time. Faulkner picked up his first stolen base after a first-inning single. The second followed up a second-inning single, and the final two came when he stole second and third after a base hit in the seventh. Faulkner began the week ranked third nationally in total stolen bases and second in stolen bases per game at .87, and after stealing another base April 8 against ULM, is now just two short of the ASU season record of 29 stolen bases set by Jerome Miller in 1978. Faulkner is also the Sun Belt Conference leader in stolen bases and his four steals at Missouri State are the most for any player in the league this season. His 27 stolen bases are more than three entire teams have on the season in the Sun Belt. Faulkner has 68 stolen bases in his career and is closing in on the record of 84 set by Miller from 1976-79.
ON THE MOUND FOR ASU: Senior right-hander Jacob Lee will get the start on the mound when the series opens Friday night, making his ninth start of the season. Lee has worked 48.1 innings on the year, striking out a team-high 51 batters. He has given up 19 runs (17 earned) on 48 hits, walked 17 batters and has an ERA of 3.17. Junior right-hander Daniel Wright will get the start on the mound in Saturday’s game two. Wright has made nine appearances on the season, starting in eight games. Wright has given up 32 runs (18 earned) in 43.2 innings of work. He has 35 strikeouts to his credit, has walked 16 batters and given up 51 hits. Wright’s ERA stands at 3.71 heading into the weekend. Arkansas State will go with senior Cory Kyle in the Sunday finale. Kyle has made 12 appearances on the year, starting five times. In 35.0 innings of work Kyle has given up 24 runs (20 earned) on 33 hits, with 35 strikeouts and 23 walks. He will bring an ERA of 5.14 to the mound Sunday.
LEE ON PACE: Senior right-hander Jacob Lee is on pace to become the Red Wolves’ career strikeout leader. With 245 strikeouts in his career and 51 on the season, the 2011 preseason SBC Pitcher of the Year needs seven strikeouts to break the 40-plus year-old record of 251 set by Rusty Bourg in 1967-70. Lee’s 51 strikeouts currently rank third in the Sun Belt.
AMONG THE NATION’S LEADERS: Heading into this week’s action, third baseman Claude Johnson’s .360 batting average ranked 186th in the nation...left fielder Logan Uxa has 23 walks on the season to rank 59th...first baseman Zach George has just six strikeouts on the season to rank 34th, and center fielder Michael Faulkner has just 10 to rank 34th and 102nd in the “toughest to strike out category”...John Koch’s seven saves rank 40th...Jacob Lee’s 51 strikeouts rank 61st.
IMPRESSIVE START: The Red Wolves won their first three Sun Belt Conference weekend series for the first time since the 1996 season. Arkansas State swept UALR in the opening weekend, defeated ULL on the road 2-1 in week two and won at Troy 2-1 in week three to match the effort of the 1996 squad, which defeated Texas Pan-American, Louisiana Tech and Jacksonville in its first three conference weekends, before losing two of three the next week against New Orleans. The 2012 Red Wolves suffered their first weekend series loss on the year when they lost to ULM 10-1 in the rubber match of their series with the Warhawks, and now stand at 5-1 on the year in weekend series action.
CAREER HIGH FOR LEE: Arkansas State senior Jacob Lee struck out a career-high 10 batters in six innings of work March 30 against Troy. Lee went to the dugout having shut out the Trojans through six innings, but Troy got to the ASU bullpen in the final three frames and rallied for a 7-6 win over the Red Wolves.
WALKING OFF: Sophomore Zach George came up with one of the biggest hits of his career April 6 against ULM. With the Red Wolves trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth, George went to the plate with runners at first and second and blasted a towering home run over the right field wall to give the Red Wolves a 7-6 victory.
BREAKOUT GAME: Arkansas State’s 16-8 victory over the Troy Trojans March 31 was the first game this season in which the Red Wolves hit three home runs. The 16 runs scored by ASU in the game was also a season high.
EIGHT IS GREAT: Through 34 games, the eighth inning has been the most productive for Arkansas State, with the Red Wolves scoring 32 runs in the frame, and that productivity has paid off. Arkansas State is 17-0 on the season when leading after eight innings.
STRONG WEEK FOR KYLE: ASU senior Cory Kyle was outstanding in his two appearances during the week of March 26, pitching 9.1 shutout innings with 11 strikeouts over a two-game span. Kyle retired the final 12 batters he faced to earn the save in ASU’s 4-2 victory over UAPB March 28, then came back to shutout Troy for 5.1 innings in his April 1 start against the Trojans.
STREAKING: Right fielder Collin Massanelli is currently riding a streak of 18 games in which he has reached base, the longest streak on the team. Third baseman Claude Johnson and left fielder Logan Uxa currently hold the longest hitting streaks on the team at five.
CAREER DAY FOR WRIGHT: Junior starting pitcher Daniel Wright struck out a career-high nine batters in 6.2 innings to pick up the win in ASU’s 6-4 victory at ULL March 24. Wright, a former walk-on, retired 19 of the first 22 batters he faced, including the first nine. He held the Cajuns to .200 hitting on the day, 78 points below their team batting average, gave up just five hits and did not issue a walk. He threw 103 pitches on the day and his nine strikeouts are the most for any ASU player in a game this year.
STRONG PERFORMANCE BY JOHNSON: Third baseman Claude Johnson hit .538 in the March 23-25 series against ULL. Johnson followed that up by hitting .429 in ASU’s five games last week and heads into the Missouri State series as ASU’s leading hitter at .360 on the season, a figure that climbs to .441 against Sun Belt competition. Johnson’s .360 average currently ranks sixth in the Sun Belt.
McWILLIAMS, KYLE TAME LIONS: After Arkansas State gave up a pair of first-inning runs to visiting UAPB March 28, relievers Seth McWilliams and Cory Kyle came in to shut out the Golden Lions for the final 8.1 innings in the 4-2 ASU victory. McWilliams worked 4.1 innings to pick up his third win of the season, giving up no runs on two hits, with three strikeouts. Kyle worked the final four frames, retiring the final 12 batters he faced to earn his first save of the year. He struck out six batters and allowed just two hits, and neither Kyle nor McWilliams walked a batter on the night.
FIRST ROAD WIN: ASU’s March 24, 6-4 victory over the Cajuns was the Red Wolves’ first true road victory of the season. Arkansas State defeated Dayton 9-3 March 9 on a neutral field at Clarksville, Tenn. for what was previously its only victory away from Jonesboro.
FIRST SAVE FOR WALLACE: Sophomore Bradley Wallace earned his first save of the season in Saturday’s 6-4 victory, working the final 2.1 innings. The save was the third of Wallace’s career.
SECOND STRAIGHT SWEEP: The Red Wolves posted their second straight sweep of in-state and Sun Belt Conference rival UALR March 16-18. Arkansas State opened their 2012 SBC slate against the Trojans and won 7-3, 2-3 and 8-4 to notch their sixth consecutive win against UALR. The Red Wolves also swept the Trojans to close out the 2011 regular season.
SECOND STRAIGHT SWEEP, PART II: The Red Wolves three-game sweep of UALR was the second consecutive weekend sweep when playing the same opponent in all three weekend games. Arkansas State also posted a three-game sweep over South Dakota State March 2-4, whipping the Jackrabbits 15-5, 12-7 and 10-1.
LEE OUTSTANDING AGAINST UALR: Senior Jacob Lee was outstanding in his Friday night start against UALR. Against the top-hitting team in the conference, Lee struck out seven batters and gave up just five hits – four of which were singles – to earn the win in ASU’s 7-3 victory over the Trojans. Lee held the Trojans, who were hitting .328 and leading the Sun Belt in almost every offensive category, to a .200 batting average as a team and carried a shutout into the eighth inning.
ASU PITCHING STAFF SHUTS DOWN UALR: Facing the league leader in almost every offensive category over the weekend, the Arkansas State pitching staff was outstanding in shutting down UALR’s offensive attack. The Red Wolves held UALR to a .194 batting average and just six multiple-base hits on the weekend – and no home runs. The Trojans came into the series with the league’s best batting average at .328. Seven ASU pitchers combined to post an ERA of 2.25 against the Trojans, which had scored 10 or more runs in eight of their last ten games. In the three-game series against the Trojans, the ASU pitchers struck out 26 batters while giving up just 19 hits and nine total runs.
TRIO NAMED ALL-TOURNAMENT: Juniors Michael Faulkner, Ryan Roberts and Logan Uxa were all named to the Austin Peay Riverview Inn All-Tournament team for their performances at the classic March 9-11. Faulkner hit .592 with a triple, Uxa hit .416 with a two doubles and a home run and Roberts hit .428 and from his catcher position threw out two baserunners trying to steal.
EXTRA INNINGS: Arkansas State’s 11-inning game March 11 against Austin Peay was the Red Wolves’ first extra-inning game of the season. The game lasted 4:35 and saw the Red Wolves battle back from a 9-3 deficit after five innings. Arkansas State tied the game in the ninth on an RBI single from first baseman Michael George before falling 10-9 in the 11th to the Governors. The Red Wolves evened their record to 1-1 in extra innings games this season against UALR March 17, posting a 3-2, 10-inning win to clinch the SBC series.
BIG WEEK FOR FAULKNER: Junior Michael Faulkner was outstanding for ASU in its five games during the week of March 6-11. Faulkner hit .417 and was a perfect 9-for-9 on stolen base attempts. Faulkner went 10-for-24 at the plate with a triple, 7 runs scored and a pair of RBIs. He posted a slugging percentage of .500, drew three walks and was hit by a pitch, for an on-base percentage of .500 as well. He was named to the Austin Peay Riverview Inn All-Tournament team after hitting .592 with a triple and stealing six bases in the tournament.
OFFENSE COMES ALIVE: The Arkansas State offense exploded for 37 runs in the Red Wolves’ three-game sweep over South Dakota State March 2-4, blasting 40 hits along the way. The Red Wolves slugged eight doubles, two triples and two home runs in the three games against the Jackrabbits and posted a team batting average of .354. ASU’s 37 runs in the series was the most since the Red Wolves scored 38 against New Orleans in 2010.
KYLE SHUTS DOWN JACKRABBITS: With a 30 mph wind blowing out that had already played a part in five runs through the first four innings for South Dakota State, senior reliever Cory Kyle went to the mound and shut down the Jackrabbits through the final five innings, striking out six in ASU’s 15-5 win March 2. Kyle picked up the win after holding the Jackrabbits to just one hit after SDSU had belted out eight in the first four frames. Kyle allowed just two baserunners in the final five innings, walking one and giving up one single.
EMERY COMES THROUGH: Junior outfielder/designated hitter Ryan Emery led the ASU batting attack during the week of Feb. 20-26, hitting .467 with two game-winning RBI hits to help the Red Wolves to a 4-2 record. With the Red Wolves trailing 4-3 in the eighth inning of game two against Evansville, Emery hit a two-run single to erase the deficit and send home the winning run in ASU’s 5-4 win. He came up big again in the Sunday finale, delivering an RBI single up the middle in the eighth that again proved to be the winning run in a 3-2 victory for the Red Wolves. For the week, Emery went 7-for-15 with four RBIs, a run scored, a walk and a sacrifice.
ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL HOME DEBUT: With their 11-3 victory over Murray State Feb. 22, Red Wolves extended their winning streak in home openers to 22 games, a run that dates back to the 1991 season.
4-K INNING FOR FARLEY: Arkansas State senior right-hander Brandon Farley notched a rare four-strikeout inning in the Red Wolves’ 11-3 victory over Murray State Feb. 22. After Murray State’s Ty Stetson reached on a dropped third strike to lead off the seventh inning, Farley proceeded to mow down the next three batters to close out the frame with four strikeouts. Farley faced seven batters on the afternoon, striking out five without giving up a hit or issuing a walk.
FIRST WIN FOR SHORDON: True freshman Levi Shordon made the most of his first career start against Murray State Feb. 22, picking up the win in ASU’s 11-3 victory. In four innings of work, the lefty from Simi Valley, Calif. gave up just three hits and one run, while striking out one. Shordon gave up the run in the first, then settled in and pitched three and one-thirds innings of shutout baseball to earn his first win.
CAREER HIGH FOR FAULKNER: Arkansas State junior Michael Faulkner drove in a career-high four runs in the Red Wolves’ 11-3 victory over Murray State Feb. 22. Faulkner’s previous career high was three runs, set in 2001 against Memphis and again against Louisiana-Lafayette.
MOTHER NATURE UNKIND: The Red Wolves came up on the short end of a 2-1 score against Lamar in the season opener, with both the Cardinals and Mother Nature playing a role in the loss. Trailing 2-1 in the top of the ninth, Arkansas State was poised to tie the game or take the lead when the game was called due to weather. The Red Wolves had runners at first and second with just one out when heavy rainfall forced officials to call the game, giving Lamar the win.
STRONG DEBUT FOR LEE: Arkansas State senior Jacob Lee was outstanding in the season opener for the Red Wolves, striking out five batters in six shutout innings of work on the road at Lamar. Lee walked just one batter and surrendered just five hits – all singles.
FIRST HOME RUN: Arkansas State sophomore Claude Johnson slugged his first career home run during the Red Wolves’ opening weekend at Lamar. Johnson went 1-for-2 in Sunday’s finale to notch the home run. As a freshman last year, Johnson hit .220, going 11-for-50 with three doubles and two RBIs.
NEWCOMERS SHINE: Newcomers Stuart Levy and Drew Burks both enjoyed solid outings in their first two games as Red Wolves during opening weekend, each hitting .333 in a pair of games against Lamar. Burks, a junior transfer from Coffeyville CC, started at DH and went 2-for-6 with a double and a walk to post an on-base percentage of .429. Levy, a true freshman from Little Rock, drew one start at catcher and went 1-for-3 and was hit by a pitch to record an on-base percentage of .500.
ASU IN SEASON OPENERS: The Red Wolves are 32-32 all-time on opening day. Arkansas State dropped its season opener Feb. 17, falling 2-1 on the road at Lamar. The Red Wolves are 2-2 in season openers under head coach Tommy Raffo, defeating Texas State 4-3 in 2009 and Southern Illinois 14-5 in 2010.
SUCCESS UNDER RAFFO: Arkansas State has won two games at the Sun Belt Conference tournament each of the past two seasons under fourth-year head coach Tommy Raffo. Prior to Raffo’s coming to Jonesboro, Arkansas State had not won a game at the SBC Tournament since the 1997 season. The Red Wolves advanced to the tournament semifinals in 2010 and went 2-1 in pool play a year ago - with the only setback being a 13-inning loss to eventual runner-up Florida International.