Jacks to host Western Illinois

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Jacks to host Western Illinois

Carson Herbert, Sports Reporter

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The South Dakota State baseball team will begin the second half of their Summit League schedule when they face Western Illinois April 19 and 20 for the second time this season.

With the second through fifth spots all within two games of each other in the conference standings, the Jacks (16-15, 9-6) remain in second place where they have been for a large portion of the season following a 2-1 series win over North Dakota State April 12-14 in Omaha and a loss against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis April 16.

Western Illinois (14-19, 8-7) is currently tied for third place in a crowded middle part of the standings.

Even though there is still much baseball to be played for both teams, this series has the potential to shake up the league standings.

New series, new boost
It seems like there has been a different hitter to step up and provide a boost to the lineup in every series the Jacks have played in this season.

Last weekend it was junior infielder Braeden Brown, who tallied a four-hit game on April 15, the same game where he recorded the game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th inning. In the Omaha series, Brown had two multi-hit games. His average currently stands at .294.

Freshman infielder Drew Beazley went 4-for-10 with two home runs and five RBI against Omaha April 5-6. Beazley is hitting .340 with a slugging percentage of .702 in league play.

SDSU head coach Rob Bishop said he is satisfied with how the young players have performed at this point in the season.

“I like how we compete,” Bishop said. “I think the situation or the moment is not too big for them. Our guys want to be at the plate in a big spot, they want to be on the mound in a big spot, they want the ball to be hit to them in a big spot. As young as we are, you still have to remember we are freshman-freshman-sophomore at third, first and short and Braeden Brown at second is a first year guy even though he’s a junior.”

After going hitless for seven games earlier in the season, junior outfielder Landon Badger has recorded a hit in seven of his last eight games.

While those players have shown flashes of success, sophomore infielder Gus Steiger and freshman infielder Luke Ira have been consistent all season long.

Catching fire
The Leathernecks come in red-hot after sweeping Oral Roberts and Purdue Fort Wayne. In the month of April, Western Illinois is 6-2 with their only losses coming against a nonconference opponent in Bradley.

Looking at the stats, the numbers haven’t been impressive for the Leathernecks in 2019. The offense is batting just .242 and just one pitcher who has thrown at least 10 innings has an ERA below 4, but much of that is due impart of early season struggles.

Junior outfielder Drew Galassi is batting .362 and has five home runs against Summit League opponents while Jack Carberry is 4-1 with a 3.97 ERA in three games started in conference play.

Previous matchup
The last time these two teams met, the Jacks won two of three March 16-17 in Springfield, Illinois. Western Illinois’ win came on a walkoff grand slam by senior catcher C.J. Schaeffer in the second game of a double header on March 16. The home run was the only long ball Schaeffer has hit this season.

Strong starting pitching by junior right-hander Tyler Olmstead in the first game and freshman right hander Nic McCay in the third with seven runs of support by the offense in both wins helped the Jacks win their first conference series of the season.

It was a close and hard-fought series, according to Bishop following the series back in March.

“Easily could have gone the other way,” Bishop said. “We could have won three or we could have lost three, really any combination. They competed hard, we competed hard.”

“We had leads in both of those games,” he said. “We played at UIS in Springfield and we had 12-15 mile per hour winds blowing straight out. Every ball in the air was really an adventure…It really changed the face of the series I thought.”

It will be the second series in the month of April the Jacks will play in Sioux Falls. After previously playing at Ronken Field on the campus of Augustana University, this upcoming series will be held at Sioux Falls Stadium.

Bishop said in a gojacks.com weekly update that playing on the road should once again have no effect on the team.

“It’s kind of the same old story,” he said. “Driving an hour is better than going farther so there’s no excuse on our end. Western’s hot right now. They’ve won six conference games in a row and we have to do our job and come out and play a good game on Friday and try to get a little momentum in that series.”

The series will begin with a 3 p.m. start on Friday followed by a doubleheader starting at noon Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for K-12 students. SDSU students can get in free with a valid school ID.