Southern Illinois at Arkansas State
March 15, 2017 | 4:00 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 | Southern Illinois


• A-State is 23-47 against the Salukis all-time in a series that began back in 1948 with A-State taking both meetings that season by scores of 3-2 and 8-6. Arkansas State went on to win the first meeting in 1949 before SIU claimed its first victory in the second meeting that year 6-3. The two teams played yearly from 1948 through 1957 with SIU holding a 13-6 advantage despite A-State winning the first three meetings. The Salukis won all four games between the two schools in 1953.
• The two schools played each other fairly frequently through the 1978 season with SouthernIllinois holding a 24-2 advantage after opening 13-6 against A-State from 1948-57. However, the series has been more even lately with the Red Wolves holding a 15-10 edge in meetings since 1989, including a 6-1 mark in the last seven contests.
• Speaking of those last seven contests, all of them have come under Coach Raffo’s watch and are the only seven times he’s faced the school. The Red Wolves lost the first time the two teams met under Raffo in 2009 by a score of 10-3 in Carbondale. Since then, A-State has won six straight including last season’s 1-0 and 7-1 wins. The Red Wolves won in Jonesboro March 15 of last year with Jake Bakamus scoring the only run of the game on a walk-off wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th inning. Tanner Ring picked up the win on the mound in an offensively- challenged game due to the wind blowing straight in the entire night at a good clip. The second game in Carbondale on April 19 featured more offense for the Red Wolves with Ring leading the team with three hits, three RBI, and a home run. Matt Burgess also had three hits, while Joe Schrimpf and Ty White had two apiece along with White driving in two runs.
• SIU enters the game at 8-7 on the season and has played seven games against opponents the Red Wolves will face this season. The Salukis lost a midweek contest to Austin Peay and lost two out of three at fellow Sun Belt Conference member ULM. Last weekend, Southern Illinois traveled to Memphis and lost two out of three contests to the Tigers.

• 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.

• A-State improved to 3-1 all-time against Cincinnati by taking two of three from the Bearcats March 3-5. A-State won Friday 5-4 and 5-1 Saturday, but lost the series finale 11-4 Sunday. Prior to the three meetings the two teams had just played once. It was a 2-0 A-State win in 1962.
• The Red Wolves won Friday’s game in come-from-behind fashion after trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the seventh inning. Cincinnati walked in a run to bring the score to 4-3 and Joe Schrimpf delivered a two-out, two-run single to right field to put A-State on top 5-4, which would be the final. Jeremy Brown hit his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to left field, but his first over the fence as his first homer was an inside-the-parker. Tanner Kirby picked up the win in relief to improve to 2-0 on the year after tossing the final three innings in relief of Bryan Ayers. The Maumelle, Ark., native didn’t give up a run on two hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Kirby hasn’t allowed a run in his last seven innings.
Peyton Culbertson and Tyler Zuber quited the Cincinnati bats in game two as A-State won 5-1. Culbertson tossed his first quality start of the year and second for the team this season after lasting six innings and allowing no runs on six hits with one walk and five punch outs. The Collierville, Tenn., native improved to 2-1 on the year. Zuber earned his second save of the season by throwing the last three innings, but he did allow his first run of the year. A-State was led at the plate by Garrett Rucker, who was 2-for-3 with four RBI. Rucker hit his third triple of the season and the second of the third inning after Drew Tipton hit his first career three-bagger earlier in the frame. The four RBI were a new career high, while the three triples put him first in the conference and tied for fifth in the nation in the category. Jeremy Brown added another triple in the game to give the team seven for the year, tops in the SBC and second in the nation.
Tobias Johnson registered the first hit of his career in his first career game for the Red Wolves in the Sunday contest, while Rucker added a couple of more hits and scored three times. Tyler Mitzel threw a career-high 5.2 innings and retired 10 straight at one point, but gave up five runs.

Drew Tipton tied his season high for hits in a game with two, the third time he’s accomplished that this season and also stole a base to improve to 5-for-5 on the year.
Joe Schrimpf hit his third double of the year.
Tyler Zuber tossed a scoreless inning in relief along with Bo Ritter, while Chase Nix tossed two innings and allowed a run with three strikeouts and two walks. The run was the first allowed for the season for the Benton, Ark., native.

• A-State has the 11th most steals nationally with 31 on the year. The Red Wolves are 31-for- 39 on the year after stealing three bases in four chances over the two-game series with Louisiana Tech.
• 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 third 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.

• The Red Wolves are third in the SBC with 160 strikeouts as a pitching staff in just 131 innings of work this season. That comes out to a 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings ratio that is second in the league to Louisiana-Lafayette’s 11.2 mark and fifth in the country.
Bryan Ayers is second in the conference with 31 punch outs, while Tyler Zuber is tied for 11th with 24 despite only throwing 13 innings so far this season. Additionally, Ayers is second in the Sun Belt Conference with 13 strikeouts looking.
• Ayers ranks 39th in the nation in strikeouts, while Zuber is 149th. Ayers also has a 13.29 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio and ranks second in the league and 22nd in the country.

• A-State set the school record for hit-by-pitches a season ago with 98 and has already been hit 26 times this season, which is the most in the conference and 10th in the nation. The nation’s leader is Louisiana Tech with 38, 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 third 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 fourth in the conference with four 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.

• A-State head coach Tommy Raffo is now 239-235-1 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.

• 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 (full article: with a paid subscription)
• The preview from 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.

• 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, 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.

• 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.