Jackrabbit bats go cold in Iowa, Fargo

By TRENTON ABREGO Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State baseball team lost three of the four games  played last week. 

Against Iowa, the Jackrabbits (14-13, 7-5) found themselves to be up 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, but the Hawkeyes found an offensive spark in Jake Adams hitting into a ground out, but scoring a run that tied the game. Robert Nuestrom then hit a double, putting the Hawkeyes up two, and they never looked back. 

South Dakota State was out-hit 8-5. The Hawkeyes struck out 10 times, compared to just five strike-outs from the Jackrabbits. 

The Jackrabbits headed to Fargo, North Dakota over the weekend to take on the North Dakota State Bison in a Summit League showdown. The Jackrabbits dropped two games to the Bison. 

The Jackrabbits fell 4-1 Friday. Hits were hard to come by, as they only came up with two. The Jackrabbits’ pitching staff came up with 10 strike-outs. 

Saturday the Jackrabbits were defeated again 4-1. It was a better hitting performance for South Dakota State, as they came up with six hits, but couldn’t manage to score enough to come away with the victory. 

“When you look at the last few games, we are definitely not doing enough to give our pitchers a chance to realistically win games,” head coach Ron Bishop said. 

Sunday, the Jackrabbits came away with a 1-0 win over the North Dakota State Bison. Ethan Kenkel went six innings, giving up only two hits. Derek Feige worked two innings in relief and got the Jackrabbits out of a bases-loaded jam. Chris Halbur slammed the door on the Bison and was awarded his fifth save of the season; Halbur has yet to allow a run this year. 

Kenkel was awarded Summit League Pitcher of the week. 

“Last week he was voted internally our Ace Pitcher by the pitching staff,” Bishop said. “He’s been very consistent all year and it’s him taking advantage of being in the starting rotation.”

Kenkel is the probable starter for the Jackrabbits on Sunday. 

The Jackrabbits bullpen has been the emphasis this year according to Bishop, who says that’s the strength of his pitching staff.

“When you get three or four guys — Reimers, Feige, Hanson and Halbur — you trust throwing the ball well late in the game, that’s important,” Bishop said. “Most teams rely on their starting pitchers, but our bullpen has been really solid this season.” 

Despite dropping two games to the Bison, the Jackrabbits still find themselves in second place in the Summit League. 

Now, SDSU is heading to Omaha, Nebraska to take on the Creighton Blue Jays Wednesday at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Creighton (10-16, 2-1) is coming off an impressive series win against the Saint Johns’ Red Storm. 

Creighton is led by Clark Brinkman, who has a batting average of .264, 14 runs batted in and 26 hits. Also for the Blue Jays, Michael Emodi leads them with four home runs and 45 total bases. 

As a team, Creighton has struck out 205 times throughout the season in 850 at-bats. 

“I don’t think they have bad strike-outs, they just try to grind out at-bats,” Bishop said. 

Jeff Albrecht has four wins for the Blue Jays, in nine games with a 2.47 earned run average. Ethan DeCaster has pitched in 11 games for 22 innings with a 1.23 earned run average. 

“Creighton is a good club, they are going to be fired up to play at home and our guys will be fired up to play at TD Ameritrade Park, but offensively we need to make more opportunities,” Bishop said. 

After the Creighton series, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits will head to Macomb, Illinois to take on the Western Illinois Leathernecks (9-20, 6-6) for a two-game weekend series. The Leathernecks will be fresh off a series win against the Omaha Mavericks. 

The Leathernecks are led by Jonathan Fleek, a junior infielder, who has a .352 batting average, and 15 runs batted in. Adam McGinnis also has a high batting average of .337 with 11 runs batted in. 

When it comes to pitching, the Leathernecks’ pitching staff has struggled. The team earned run average is at a lofty 5.53. The pitching staff also gave up 21 homeruns, with Preston Church giving up six of those. 

But, Bishop isn’t going to let the numbers fool his club.

“Looking at their first 10 to 12 games, they have been pitching much better recently and I expect them to be better on the mound than the numbers show,” Bishop said. 

On the year, Western Illinois is being outscored 177-125. The Western Illinois Leathernecks are in fourth place in the Summit League. 

“In baseball, you’re going to have individual guys who go through slumps and hot streaks, it’s just a function of our guys doing it all at one time.” Bishop said. “We just need to show up, be consistent and not get down on ourselves.”