Baseball team ready to kick off season

Jake Weber, Sports Reporter

As South Dakota State begins its baseball season Friday, the Jackrabbits look to bounce back this season after finishing with a losing record last year.

The Jackrabbits will be in Texas for a seven-game road trip, a four-game series against Purdue Feb. 18-20 and a three-game series against Incarnate Word Feb. 24-26.

The Jackrabbits finished the 2021 season with a 15-32 overall record and a 9-19 record in the Summit League. And despite last year’s losing record, the Jackrabbits are looking to bounce back with a team that has gained valuable experience.

“There were a lot of teams that were really, really old, and I’d say we were the opposite,” coach Rob Bishop said. “We (now) have a lot more at-bats and a lot more experience.” 

In a newly expanded Summit League conference that welcomes newcomer St. Thomas and affiliate member Northern Colorado, the Jackrabbits hope to build off their fourth-place finish in the conference a year ago.

The Jackrabbits open their conference schedule March 25 in a three-game series against Oral Roberts, and their home opener takes place April 5 against Dakota Wesleyan. They follow up that game with a three-game conference series against Western Illinois at home. 

The Jackrabbits only graduated two players between this year and last. Bishop said team cohesion and experience are very important for the upcoming season. Bishop also mentioned some important players that could have an impact this year. Right-handed pitcher Nic McCay, who was lost to injury the last two years, and shortstop Luke Ira, who finished last season leading his team in hits, doubles and assists, are two players to look out for in 2022. 

The team’s newfound experience was noted by some players on the team as well.

“We were pretty young last year, so I think we’re in good shape to do a lot better this year,” pitcher Ryan Bourassa said. “We do have a lot of freshmen who are going to contribute right away, especially on the mound.”

Bourassa is a junior right-hander that Bishop called one of the best bullpen arms in the league. He is one of the returning pitchers for SDSU as part of a pitching rotation that looks to contribute throughout the season. 

Alongside Bourassa are returning pitchers Bret Barnett, who moved into a fifth-place tie on SDSU’s career saves list with 11, and graduate student Cody Carlson, who finished third on the team in strikeouts last season.

The 2022 SDSU baseball team features a mix of youth and experience that is looking to capitalize on strong performances from its senior players while also giving younger players a chance to contribute during the season as well. The goal for the season is clear as the Jacks hope to win a conference title this year, but Bishop understands the importance of taking the season one week at a time.

“We try to just stay right in the present and on this week’s games,” Bishop said. “From an expectation standpoint, it’s week to week. Obviously, big picture, we want to win the Summit League and have the opportunity to play in a regional tournament.”

SDSU begins its season with a seven-game road trip in Texas in February. They will begin conference play March 25 against regular-season Summit League champs Oral Roberts