|Arkansas State at Northwestern State
Feb. 24-26, 2017 | 6:30 p.m.; 2:00 p.m.; 1:00 p.m.
Natchitoches, La. | Brown-Stroud Field
Radio: 95.3 FM The Ticket | TV: None | Video: DemonTV ($)
| Video/Audio | Live Stats | Tickets | Game Notes: A-State | Northwestern State
A-STATE/NORTHWESTERN STATE HISTORY
• A-State trails the all-time series with the Demons by a count of 7-3 with the first seven
meetings occurring between 2000-2004 before last year’s three-game series in Jonesboro. The first meeting happened in 2000 when the Red Wolves and Demons played a single contest as part of the Rice Tournament with Northwestern State winning by a score of 10-3. The Demons made the trip to Jonesboro for a three-game series in 2003 during the third week of the season and won the first two contests by scores of 8-0 and 6-2 before A-State salvaged game three with a 3-2 win. The Red Wolves made the return trip to Natchitoches, La., the following season and opened the 2004 campaign with a three-game series there. Once again, the Demons won the first two games by scores of 13-8 and 8-2 before the Red Wolves earned a 9-5 victory in the series finale.
• Head coach Tommy Raffo is 1-2 against the Demons after Northwestern State won two of three at Tomlinson Stadium a season ago. The Demons won game one 8-3 after starter Adam Oller went 6.1 innings without giving up a hit before an infield single broke it up. A-State’s only other hit came in the bottom of the ninth inning when J.D. Rainwater hit a pinch-hit double. The Red Wolves lost game two 6-3 with Matt Burgess driving in all three runs in the game. Coulton Lee took the loss after allowing five runs in 5.1 innings. A-State was able to salvage game three after Peyton Culbertson went six innings and only allowed one run. Bryan Ayers came in and got the save with three innings of shutout baseball, the only save of his career. Jeremy Brown led the offensive effort with a 2-for-3 performance with two RBI.
• Northwestern State enters the weekend 2-1 after taking its season-opening series against Cincinnati at home. The Demons lost game one 3-2 before winning game two by the same score. Northwestern State won game three by a score of 6-2. The Demons represent the only team from the Southland Conference on A-State’s schedule this year.
NOTES FROM OLE MISS/MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE
• Arkansas State dropped both of its first midweek games of the season, one on the road at Ole Miss Tuesday by a score of 16-4 and then a 10-9 decision to Mississippi Valley State Wednesday night.
• Casey Vaughan hit his first career home run against the Rebels when he cranked a pitch into the Ole Miss bullpen beyond the left-field fence. Justin Felix continued his hot hitting to begin his career with a double and single in the game. Joe Schrimpf hit a two-run double in the game, while Grant Hawkins stole two bases to improve to 7-7 for the year.
• The following night A-State blew a six-run lead in the eighth inning to drop the first meeting in school history to the Delta Devils. A-State did register 15 hits with Joe Schrimpf, Garrett Rucker, and Jeremy Brown picking up three hits each. Austin Powell collected the first two hits of his career and Justin Felix drove in four more runs to bring his total to 13 in six games. Rucker hit his first home run of the season in the game, and also stole a base. Grant Hawkins stole an other base and he is now 8-for-8 on the year. Jake Bakamus was hit by a pitch for the sixth time this season after getting hit twice against Ole Miss. Tyler Zuber threw two innings and struck out all six batters he faced.
NOTES FROM NYIT SERIES
• Arkansas State swept a four-game series from the New York Institute of Technology Feb. 17-19 to open the 2017 season. A-State won 6-0 Friday night before taking a doubleheader Saturday by scores of 11-5 and 5-2. The Red Wolves won the series finale 13-5 on Sunday.
• The 6-0 shutout was the first for the Red Wolves since defeating Southern Illinois 1-0 in 10 innings in Jonesboro on March 15, 2016.
• Bryan Ayers went six innings and struck out 10 batters while only walking one and earning the win Friday night. The 10 strikeouts by an A-State pitcher were the most since Chandler Hawkins struck out 10 on May 21, 2015 against Georgia Southern in the SBC Tournament.
• Catcher Justin Felix had a monster weekend of a collegiate debut as he racked up nine RBI, including a five-RBI performance in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. He hit a two-run homer, the team’s only one so far this season, in the opener on Friday night. He leads the team with a .455 batting average, .647 on-base percentage, and .818 slugging percentage. The Nogales, Ariz., native also tied the school record with four walks against NYIT Sunday. He’s tied with 18 other players, with the last being Zach George, who did it on May 16, 2015 against LR.
• A-State walked 33 times in the series, including 16 walks in Sunday’s series finale, which was two shy of the school-record 18 set against Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in 1994. The Red Wolves had a .442 on-base percentage as a team and won Sunday 13-5 despite only having four hits.
• In addition to the walks, A-State did register 16 hits in the first game of Saturday’s
doubleheader. That was the most since 15 against Louisiana-Lafayette on May 28, 2016 in the team’s final game of the year at the conference tournament.
• The Red Wolves stole 16 bases over the weekend (16-20), which is a third of the way to last year’s total of 48. Seven different players stole a base with Grant Hawkins going a perfect 5-for-5 including three steals in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, marking the first time since March 27, 2015 that an A-State player stole three bases in a game (Ty White). Hawkins also led the team with seven runs scored.
• A-State was hit by eight pitches during the series, a year after setting the school record and finishing fourth in the nation with 98. Jake Bakamus was hit by three pitches after he had the third most in school history in 2016 with 21 HBP’s. The 24 hit-by-pitches in his career ranks in a tie for the eighth most in school history with teammate Jeremy Brown.
• The A-State pitching staff struck out 48 batters during the weekend and only issued 13 walks a year after the team set the school record for walks with 280.
• Tyler Mitzel started the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader and cruised through 3.1 innings before hitting a wall. However, Zachary Patterson came in to throw four scoreless innings out of the bullpen to pick up his first career win. The Cabot, Ark., native struck out a career-high five batters and allowed just two hits with no walks.
• Peyton Culbertson earned the win in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. He tossed three innings after he reached his pre-determined pitch count and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Tyler Zuber came in to throw four shutout innings to earn the save, his seventh career. The White Hall, Ark., native struck out eight, walked two, and allowed just one hit.
• Collin Cahill started Sunday’s contest and the freshman lefty tossed 3.2 innings and struck out seven batters. Tanner Kirby came in to toss 2.2 innings to earn the win on the mound.
• The Red Wolves had 11 newcomers along with all three redshirts from a season ago see action over the weekend. Justin Felix, Grant Hawkins, Alex Howard, and Casey Vaughan started all four games, while Winston Welch and Austin Powell drew one start apiece. Redshirt senior Derek Birginske had a start at DH after missing all of last season due to injury. Redshirt freshmen Drew Tipton and Brandon Stuckenschneider also received playing time. Tipton, a native of Bryant, Ark., got a start at DH and hit a double along with stealing two bases. A native of Poplar Bluff, Mo., Stuckenschneider tossed two perfect innings with two punch outs.
• The 4-0 start is the sixth time in school history the Red Wolves have started 4-0 and the first time since 2013.
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.
234 AND COUNTING FOR RAFFO
• A-State head coach Tommy Raffo is now 234-231-1 in his ninth season. The 233 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.
• 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 made an appearance in the season-opening series against NYIT.
• 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.