Jackrabbit baseball moves on to Iowa
The South Dakota State University baseball team will play its final games before the start of the conference season, traveling to the University of Iowa for a two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tuesday's series opener is set for a 6:05 p.m. first pitch at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City, Iowa. The series finale is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. Wednesday.
The Jackrabbits enter the week with a 6-13-1 overall record following a 9-3 loss at Minnesota on March 28. Iowa, which lost two of three games in a Big Ten series against Indiana over the weekend, is 10-14 overall.
Audio streaming of both is scheduled to be available via the Jackrabbit Extra subscription service at GoJacks.com.
THE SERIES: Tuesday's game against Iowa will mark only the fifth meeting between the two baseball programs. The series began in 2010, with the Jackrabbits and Hawkeyes splitting a two-game series. SDSU took a 3-1 series lead by winning both matchups during the 2011 campaign.
Last season, the Jackrabbits recorded a 7-4, 14-inning victory in the opening game of the series, and carried that momentum through
In the opener, Eric Cain cleared the bases with a three-run double to the right-center gap with two outs in the top of the 14th to lift the Jackrabbits to victory. Alex Oberle struck out two batters in the bottom of the 14th to end the game and his three-inning stint of scoreless relief. Oberle struck out three, walked one and allowed three hits in earning the victory.
Jackrabbit starter Blake Treinen struck out 10 Iowa batters and did not walk a batter as he surrendered three runs and nine hits in 7 1/3 innings of work. SDSU's four pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts.
SDSU made it a series sweep with a 10-5 win on March 30. The Jackrabbits took advantage of shaky Hawkeye defense in sending 10 batters to the plate in a six-run top of the second inning. Zach Rhodes opened the inning by being hit by a pitch and moved to third after an errant throw on a play at second base one batter later. Rhodes scored the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Eric Cain. The Jackrabbits then strung together three consecutive singles, the last by Zach Briggs that plated Jesse Sawyer. With two outs, Andrew Phelan came through with a two-run single and the final two runs of the frame scored when Joel Blake reached on the Hawkeyes' third error of the inning.
Beau Hanowski was 4-for-4 for the Jackrabbits, who out-hit Iowa, 16-10. Stephen Bougher worked into the sixth inning to earn the victory.
The two squads are also scheduled to play April 14 in Omaha, Neb. Game time has been changed to 10 a.m.
STADIUM IMPROVEMENTS: Work has begun on improvements to the Jackrabbits' home park, Erv Huether Field.
Thanks to a donation from former Jackrabbit standout Dave Lane, as well as gifts from other baseball alumni and friends of the program, a permanent grandstand and press box will be constructed behind home plate. The seating project, which is slated to accommodate approximately 600 fans, is expected to be completed in time for SDSU's home opener on April 10.
SUMMIT LEAGUE RACE: The South Dakota State University baseball team has been picked to finish third by Summit League coaches, according to a preseason poll released earlier this month.
The Jackrabbits finished behind perennial league champion Oral Roberts and Western Illinois in the poll conducted by the league's coaches. ORU received six of the seven first-place votes for 36 points, with the Fighting Leathernecks finishing second with 27 points. SDSU tallied 25 points, with North Dakota State placing fourth with 21 points.
Southern Utah received the other first-place vote in the balloting, but finished fifth with 19 points. Oakland (11 points) and IPFW (8 points) rounded out the poll.
Conference play begins April 6-8, when the Jackrabbits travel to IPFW for a four-game series. In all, SDSU is slated to play 24 league games before the Summit League Championships May 24-26 in Tulsa, Okla.
PRESEASON ACCOLADES: Four Jackrabbits were named to the 2012 Preseason All-Summit League Team selected by CollegeSportsMadness.com. First-team honors went to shortstop Eric Cain and outfielder Beau Hanowski, while outfielder Andrew Phelan and pitcher Kolton Emery received second-team recognition.
A senior from Littleton, Colo., Cain has led the Jackrabbits in runs batted in each of the last two seasons, tallying a school-record 83 in 2010 and 46 during the 2011 campaign. Cain also recently special mention from Baseball America as one of the top collegiate impact players in the Midwest.
Hanowski earned first-team all-Summit League honors in 2011 after recording team bests of 49 runs scored and a .449 on-base percentage while hitting out of the leadoff spot. The Little Falls, Minn., native batted .349 with a home run and 26 RBI last season.
However, Hanowski suffered a shoulder injury in the March 4 game at Arkansas State and has not played since. He could return to the lineup this week at either Iowa or during the opening of Summit League play Friday at IPFW.
Phelan platooned in right field for much of the 2011 campaign before earning all-tournament honors at the Summit League Baseball Championship. Slated to move to center field this season, the Littleton, Colo., native batted .333 with two home runs and 27 RBI, and added a team-high six stolen bases.
Emery solidified the back end of the Jackrabbit starting rotation in 2011, compiling a 7-1 record with a 5.09 earned run average. The Black Hawk native and graduate of Rapid City Stevens High School also ranked among the nation's leaders in fewest walks per nine innings (1.66), issuing only 14 free passes in 76 innings of work.
BOUGHER BLANKING OPPONENTS: South Dakota State right-hander Stephen Bougher threw back-to-back shutouts in March, earning Summit League Pitcher of the Week honors after each outing.
A junior from Papillion, Neb., Bougher fired a two-hit, seven-inning shutout in an 11-0 victory at Arkansas-Pine Bluff on March 9. In that contest, he allowed only a pair of singles and two walks, while striking out three.
One week later, March 16 at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Bougher fanned six, walked four and surrendered three singles in a nine-inning, 5-0 Jackrabbit victory.
Bougher ran his winning streak to three games March 23 at Northern Colorado and has compiled a 3-2 record with a 3.98 earned run average this season. He has struck out 21 and walked 15 in 31.2 innings.
HEEMSTRA BACK ON THE HILL: Sophomore right-hander Marcus Heemstra suited up in his baseball uniform for the first time in 2012 during the four-game series at Northern Colorado March 23-25 after a successful run on the basketball court that included South Dakota State making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance at the Division I level. A reserve forward, Heemstra played in 29 of the Jackrabbits' 35 games, posting averages of 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
CAIN ON CAREER CHARTS: Jackrabbit shortstop Eric Cain is rapidly moving up the career charts in a number of categories during his senior season, and is adding to one record he set during his junior campaign.
A four-year starter, Cain holds the SDSU career record for assists with 472, surpassing the previous mark of 380 set by Pat Schmidt (1992-95).
Offensively, Cain ranks in the top 10 of the following six categories:
• Hits: fifth with 239 (fourth place is Nick Adams (2005-08) with 244);
• At-Bats: fourth with 706 (third place is Tyson Fisher (2005-08) with 722);
• Walks: sixth with 94 (fifth place is Zach Briggs (2009-present) with 96);
• Runs Batted In: tied for eighth with 156 (tied with Nick Adams (2005-08));
• Total Bases: tied for eighth with 348 (tied Russ Langer (1998-2001) and Korby Mintken (2005-08));
• Sacrifice Flies: tied for 10th with 10 (tied with two other players).
PAQUETTE FILLS IN: With starter Beau Hanowski sidelined by injury, sophomore Phil Paquette has taken over the duties in left field on a full-time basis.
In the 14 games since Hanowski's injury, Paquette has batted .400 (22-for-55) with 14 runs batted in and seven runs scored. He went 11-for-16 (.688 average) in the four-game weekend series at Northern Colorado, adding an .813 slugging percentage and raising his overall batting average to a team-best .375.
MARRA AND MELTON: Despite shifting between the second and third base positions throughout the season, infielders Daniel Marra and Andrew Melton have been consistent performers for the Jackrabbits this season.
Melton, a junior from Littleton, Colo., ranks second on the team with a .350 batting average (21-for-60) with two home runs and nine RBI in 18 starts. Marra, meanwhile, has reached base safely in all 19 games he has played this season and shares the team lead with 24 hits. A junior from Toronto, Ont., Marra is third on the squad with a .324 batting average and 13 RBI.
COACH SCHRAGE: Veteran college baseball coach Dave Schrage (pronounced Schrag) was hired to take over the reins of the South Dakota State University baseball program on Aug. 8, 2011.
"Dave Schrage's familiarity with our recruiting area and his success in building programs like ours make him a tremendous addition to the Jackrabbit family," said Jackrabbit Athletic Director Justin Sell in announcing the hire.
Schrage posted his 600th career victory on March 18, when the Jackrabbits defeated Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, 11-8, in the completion of a suspended game. In 23-plus seasons as a collegiate head coach, he has averaged more than 25 victories per season, including five campaigns with 32 or more wins. He has coached players who have earned all-conference honors 58 times and 38 of his former student-athletes have gone on to play professionally.
"I am very humbled and appreciative for this opportunity," Schrage said. "I was so impressed with the quality of people when I visited campus. It is a great time to come to South Dakota State University. There is so much growth and excitement happening on campus. My family and I are looking forward to getting involved in the Brookings community and joining the Jackrabbit family."
Unlike many of his previous stops, Schrage inherits a winning program; SDSU has averaged 38 wins each of the past two seasons, tying the school record for wins with a 39-21 record in 2010, followed by a 37-20 mark in 2011. The Jackrabbits have advanced to the Summit League championship series three consecutive years.
"Coach (Reggie) Christiansen and coach Price did a super job building this program into a winner," Schrage said. "I expect to keep that momentum going and reach even greater heights."
Most recently, Schrage was head coach at Notre Dame for four seasons, leading the Fighting Irish to a 119-104-1 record from 2007-10. After posting a .500 record (28-28) his first season in South Bend, Schrage put Notre Dame back in contention for postseason play with a 33-21-1 record in 2008 and a 36-23 mark in 2009. The Fighting Irish led the BIG EAST Conference in fielding in both 2008 and 2009, while consistently ranking at or near the top in batting, on-base percentage and earned run average.
Schrage has previously found success at the mid-major level, including a four-year stint at Evansville (Ind.) from 2003-06, during which he guided the Purple Aces to a 130-108 record. Evansville improved its win total each of his four seasons, from 24 in 2003 to 43 in 2006. Schrage earned Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year honors for the third time in 2006 as Evansville won both the regular season and tournament conference titles, earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Purple Aces advanced all the way to the finals of the Charlottesville Regional, knocking off host Virginia before falling to South Carolina in the championship.
A Chicago native, Schrage directed a dramatic turnaround in his home state during a three-year run at Northern Illinois from 2000-02. After inheriting a team that was 4-51 the year before he arrived, Schrage's squad turned in a 20-game improvement with a 24-33 record in his first season and then led the Huskies to a winning season in 2001 with a 28-27 overall mark. He was named runner-up for National Coach of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in 2000.
Schrage began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant under his predecessor at Notre Dame, Paul Mainieri, at St. Thomas University (Fla.) in 1984. He later returned to his alma mater, Creighton University (Neb.), as an assistant coach for two seasons.
From 1986-87, Schrage coached the Queensland Rams club team in Brisbane, Australia, before returning stateside as he gained his first head coaching job at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. From 1988-90 he led the junior college program to a 61-66 mark.
Schrage then spent nine seasons as head coach at the University of Northern Iowa, where he was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1997. His teams improved from two league victories in UNI's first season in the MVC in 1992 to 18 during the 1997 campaign.
As a collegiate player, Schrage was an all-conference outfielder at Creighton, batting .400 as a junior and .433 his senior season. He also was an Academic All-America honoree during his senior campaign in 1983, and graduated that spring with a bachelor of science degree in finance. Schrage was honored on the MVC's Centennial Celebration baseball team and is the only person in league history to earn all-conference honors and be named MVC Coach of the Year in baseball.
THE ROSTER: The 2012 SDSU baseball roster features 33 players from eight different states plus three Canadian provinces. Of the 33 players, five are from Colorado and South Dakota, while three are from each of the states of Illinois, Minnesota and Texas. Iowa, Nebraska and Washington feature one player each. In addition, nine players are from Canada - four from Ontario, three from British Columbia and two from Alberta. By class, seven are seniors, eight are juniors, eight are sophomores and 10 are incoming freshmen.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits move on to Fort Wayne, Ind., to open Summit League play with a four-game series at IPFW April 6-8.
The league opener is set for a 3 p.m. Eastern Time start Friday, followed by a noon ET doubleheader on Saturday. The series finale is slated for a noon ET start on Sunday.