Jacks hope to build off strong opening weekend during Snowbird Invitational

Carson Herbert, Sports Reporter

After taking two games out of three in their season opener, the South Dakota State baseball team will participate in the Snowbird Invitational in Port Charlotte, Florida Feb. 22-24.

The Jackrabbits (2-1) will face two opponents in the tournament. The first being Florida International University on Feb. 22 and 23. Northeastern University will face the Jacks in the second half of the weekend Feb. 23 and 24

Pitching was the strength for the Jackrabbits in their opening series. A combined 34 University of Tennessee Martin batters were retired via strikeout during the three-game stretch. Brady Stover struck out nine over five innings pitched on opening day Feb. 15 and freshman right-hander Nic McCay struck out eight in five innings on Feb. 17.

In an interview with gojacks.com, SDSU head coach Rob Bishop was impressed with his starters over the weekend and is looking forward to what they can do for the rest of the season.

“If you can get 5-6 innings out of those starters and hold the other team down a little, you don’t have to be perfect but just don’t give up any big innings, I feel like this will be a really exciting team to watch coming down the stretch,” Bishop said.

Offensively, the Jacks are tied for fourth in all of Division I in home runs hit with six.

“We were a little hot-and-cold all weekend and we just capitalized on big spots,” Bishop said. “There is plenty of work left to do but the guys were really having fun and you never know how you are going to come outside the first weekend and swing the bat.”

Florida International (2-2) finished 2018 with a 26-28 record. The offense has not been an issue for the Panthers as the team has put up six-or-more runs in the four games they’ve played. The lineup is led by senior outfielder Lorenzo Hampton Jr., who currently is batting .563 with one home run and five RBI in 16 plate appearances.

Hampton Jr. hit three doubles in Florida International’s win over Stony Brook on Feb. 17. Five other FIU batters are currently hitting .400 or better.

On the mound, the Panthers have a team earned run average of 8.74.

Northeastern (1-2) is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018 where it earned an at-large bid after winning a program-record 36 games. The Huskies ended their season by losing to Auburn and North Carolina State in the Raleigh Regional.

Before taking on the Jacks, the Huskies will face the University of Missouri Feb. 21 and the Boston Red Sox in a spring training exhibition game in Fort Myers, Florida Feb. 22.

Northeastern’s lineup has centered around three players including sophomore outfielders Corey DiLoreto and Jeff Costello and junior infielder Scott Holzwasser. DiLoreto collected five hits in eight at-bats in their series loss against Houston Baptist while Costello and Holzwasser are currently hitting above .500. Only one home run has been hit by the Huskies so far.

SDSU will go up against a pitching staff with a high ERA once again as Northeastern’s pitching staff currently sits at 7.20.

“Really high-caliber teams with just tremendous depth all over the diamond,” Bishop said on the team’s weekend opponents. “It will be a terrific test for us I think. That’s what we need. We need to be pushed early and really find out just where we’re at truly.”

Games will be played at North Charlotte Regional Park in Port Charlotte, Florida.