Jacks baseball goes on hot streak at home

On April 1 the SDSU baseball team opened its home season with a doubleheader sweep of the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers. The Jackrabbits won the first game by a score of 5-1 and were victorious 13-6 in the nightcap.

Zach Coppola and Al Robbins led SDSU offensively in the first game as Coppola went 2-for-3 from the plate and had one run batted in. Robbins went 1-for-3 and added three RBI. Chad Hodges earned the win in the first game as he worked five innings, allowing one run on five hits, one walk and eight strikeouts.

Freshman Luke Ringhofer went 2-for-2 and had three RBI to lead the Jacks in the second game against the Tigers. Paul Jacobson and Matt Johnson each added three RBI as they both went 1-for-2 offensively. All three of Johnson’s RBI came on a three-run homerun to right field in the first inning. Eldon Evans was credited with the pitching win for SDSU as he completed three innings allowing three runs on two hits and one walk, while striking out two batters.

“A lot of the older guys are pretty positive, so it really helps out getting acclimated to the new competition,” Ringhofer said.

Head Coach Dave Schrage expressed some frustrations after the sweep of DWU.

“We pride ourselves on getting better everyday and respecting the game. That day we just didn’t play hard, we just showed up and went through the motions and we had Oral Roberts coming in,” Schrage said. I challenged our guys, ‘… If we play like that we’re not going to be in a game against Oral Roberts.’ I thought they picked it up against Oral Roberts that weekend and ever since that time, we challenged our guys not to have a good season but to have a great season and so far they have responded to that.”   

After the two victories against DWU, the Jacks took a six-game winning streak into a Summit League weekend series with the Summit League best Oral Roberts University. ORU snapped that winning streak on Friday April 3 as they defeated SDSU 5-3. The Jackrabbits came back the next afternoon and topped the Golden Eagles 8-7 in extra innings. Oral Roberts took the rubber match with a 9-2 victory on Sunday.

Senior Reid Clary was one of three Jacks to earn an RBI in the series opener with ORU. Clary went 1-for-3 from the plate as Ringhofer and Tony Kjolsing also had RBI. Adam Bray suffered the loss for SDSU as he worked six innings giving up five runs on nine hits and two walks. Bray also struck out five hitters.

In the 8-7 win over ORU, Robbins, who went 4-for-5 with three RBI, led the Jackrabbits. Jacobson added two RBI on 2-for-4 from the plate. Jacobson blasted a home run during the game. J.D. Moore threw a scoreless 10th inning to earn the pitching win for the Jacks.

Robbins blasted a homer in the series finale as the Jacks fell to 15-13 on the season and 6-6 in the Summit League. Robbins went 2-for-4 and had two RBI. Cody Sharrow also went 2-for-4 offensively and Eric Danforth went 2-for-2. Ryan Froom fell to 2-2 on the season after suffering the loss from the hill. Froom worked seven innings allowing four runs on 11 hits, two walks and five strikeouts.

“We put it in their mind that they are going to have to play well to beat us. They cannot not play well and get a win against us. I think it gave our guys a little confidence to say, ‘OK they were leading the league and we were right there in all three ball games.’ It also gave us an opportunity to see how well we have got to be to beat them,” Schrage said.

The Jacks bounced back after the series loss to Oral Roberts and swept Winnipeg in a doubleheader on April 8 at Erv Huether Field. SDSU won by scores of 6-2 and 11-1. Coppola led the Jackrabbits offensively by going 3-for-3 with one RBI. Ringhofer and Newt Johnson each added one RBI. Andrew Clemen earned the win in the first game after throwing a scoreless third inning.

Kjolsing led the Jacks in the second game by going 1-for-2 with three RBI. Danforth added two RBI on a 3-for-4 effort from the plate. Anthony Schneider went 1-for-5 and chipped in two RBI. Ethan Kenkel earned the pitching win for SDSU after completing two innings allowing no runs on no hits, one walk, and three strikeouts.

“We got off to a little bit of a slow start. It was a really windy cloudy cold day, not a big hitters’ day. We were able to squeak by and get a 6-2 win in the first game and Chad Hodges really stepped up and pitched well for us,” Schrage said. “The second game we kind of took care of business and scored early and left no doubt in that game. I think that gave us momentum for the NDSU series.”

In their most recent Summit League series, the Jacks completed a three-game sweep of the North Dakota State University Bison to move into a tie with Omaha for second place in the Summit League. SDSU won the first game of the series 5-2. The Jacks scored two runs in the bottom of the third inning after allowing one run in the top of the third. The Jacks added three more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Bison made an attempt to narrow the gap in the top of the eighth inning as they scored one run. Clary went 2-for-3 and had two RBI and Matt Johnson went 2-for-4 and also had two RBI. Bray complete all nine innings allowing two runs on four hits, no walks and five strikeouts and earned this week’s Summit League Pitcher of the Week title.

“I just came out and attacked the zone and kept NDSU off balance. They are struggling a little bit this year but I knew it was going to be a big game. I just did what I always do. Fortunately I got Pitcher of the Week and it was a great honor,” Bray said.         

The next day SDSU completed a 5-4 win over the Bison in a game where Schrage got his 100th win at SDSU. NDSU scored one run in the top of the first inning. The Jacks came back in the bottom of the second inning, scoring three runs. SDSU added another run in the bottom of the fifth inning before each team scored a run in the sixth. The Jackrabbits, who led 5-2 after six innings, held off a comeback attempt as NDSU crossed the plate twice in the top of the eighth inning. Matt Johnson hit his second home run of the year and led the Jacks by going 1-for-2 with two RBI. Chris Anderson moved to 4-1 on the season after working five innings allowing two runs on four hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. Moore earned the save.

“It’s important in my career here at South Dakota State to get that, hopefully I get a few more. I would like to get a few more down the road. Those things don’t come unless you have good players. We have been fortunate the last four years, we have had really good kids to coach. I love coming to the field every day. They are fun to coach and that’s what makes it fun,” Schrage said about the benchmark victory.

The Jackrabbits showed some dominance as they completed the sweep with a 13-5 triumph. The Jacks held a 5-2 lead after the first three innings. SDSU scored three more runs in the next two innings before allowing three runs in the top of the seventh inning. The Jacks led 8-5 after seven and a half innings and deliver a knockout punch in the bottom of the eighth by scoring five runs to seal the 13-5 victory. The Jacks had four home runs that came off of the bats of Sharrow, Matt Johnson, Newt Johnson and Clary. Clary went 2-for-6 and had three RBI in the game and Coppola went 3-for-4 and added two RBI, while Newt Johnson also added two RBI. Froom completed six and one third innings allowing four runs on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts to earn the win for SDSU.

“We needed a sweep because we got swept at Omaha and it kind of put us behind the eight-ball. It was the halfway point for us, we’ve won nine out of 15 in the league, we are 9-6. We know what’s ahead of us, so last weekend was important. We’ve talked a lot about defending our home turf. You have got to have a winning record at home,” Schrage said.

On Tuesday afternoon, SDSU maintained their momentum with a 21-7 victory over the NDSU Bison. Newt Johnson and Phil Jacobson each hit home runs in the game as Jacobson went 3-for-3 from the plate and had one RBI and Johnson went 3-for-5 with three RBI. Ringhofer went 2-for-2 with four RBI.  

“We just come and try to keep what we had on the weekend going, just try to build on that for the next weekend. Just try to come out and have good at bats, pitch well,” Ringhofer said about playing in non-conference games.

The Jacks, who hold a mark of 20-13 overall and 9-6 in the Summit League, will play Dakota State University on April 15 at Erv Huether Field at 3 p.m. before going to battle with Omaha in a three-game Summit League series for second place in the conference at 3 p.m. at Erv Huether Field.