Jacks top MidAmerica Nazarene, go 1-2 against SFA on roadtrip

The South Dakota State University baseball team returned to action on February 25 in Kansas City after having a tournament canceled due to inclement weather. The Jacks played four games over the past week and won two and lost two. 

The Jacks added a game to their schedule against MidAmerica Nazarene on Feb. 25. SDSU picked up their first victory of the season with a 4-2 win. The Jackrabbits scored two runs in the top of first inning before giving one back in the bottom half of the inning. SDSU scored again in the fourth inning, and held off a comeback attempt in the eighth as MidAmerica Nazarene scored once in the bottom of the eighth inning. Senior catcher Reid Clary led the Jacks, offensively, batting two for four and scoring once. Sophomore pitcher Ryan Froom picked up the win for SDSU and improved his record to 1-1 on the year. Froom threw five complete innings giving up one run on two hits and struck out six batters. 

“Having run support while pitching gives you the advantage of gaining momentum, especially if you shut the opponent down after your offense goes out and has a big inning,” Froom said.

The Jackrabbits then continued on to Nacogdoches, Texas to play a three-game series with Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 27 and 28. All three games in Texas proved to be much different. The first game was a pitchers’ duel, as Stephen F. Austin was victorious by a score of 1-0. Clary and sophomore first baseman Matt Johnson went two for four from the plate in the losing effort. Senior Adam Bray suffered the loss from the pitchers’ mound. Bray threw the complete game and gave up one run on three hits and struck out five batters.

“We have to learn how to win one-run games and close games, that’s got to be our next hurdle as a team,” head coach Dave Schrage said. “We talk about it with our team that every game takes on its own kind of identity, it’s either going to be low scoring or going to be high scoring. We have got to seize the moments that we can in those games and that’s got to be our next hurdle for our team.”

The following day’s first match-up had a much different result, as the Jacks walloped the Lumberjacks, 12-0.  SDSU scored early and often, putting three runs on the board in the first, third, and fourth innings. The Jackrabbits pushed two more runners across the plate in the sixth and added an additional insurance run in the seventh inning. Senior pitcher Chris Anderson earned the victory on the hill as he threw seven innings giving up six hits and striking out three batters.

“Our coach talked to us before the game Saturday about seeing too many pitches, especially fastballs, and hitting when there are guys on base. That was one of the things we have struggled with was once we got guys on base, we didn’t execute and score those runs,” Johnson said. “On Saturday, we were aggressive at the plate and attacked the fastball.”

The final meeting between the two teams turned out to be an offensive battle resulting in an 8-7 triumph for the Lumberjacks. SDSU started the scoring in the top of the second inning by scoring runs. The Lumberjacks answered with two runs in the bottom of the second, before the Jackrabbits scored once in the third and twice in the fourth. The Jacks took a 6-4 lead into the fifth inning and then a 7-6 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. The Lumberjacks scored the two winning runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Junior left-fielder Paul Jacobson, freshman second baseman Tony Kjolsing, freshman third baseman Newt Johnson, and Clary all had two hits and one runs batted in (RBI). Senior Marcus Heemstra suffered the loss for SDSU, as he threw three and a third innings. Heemstra gave up four runs on four hits, struck out two and walked two batters.

“The defense played really well and then … finally our offense came around and it was a matter of we finally were outside a few days in a row, so our hitters could get a little bit comfortable. Some of our freshman got a little bit more comfortable,” Schrage said.

The Jackrabbits, currently sporting a record of 2-5, will continue their non-conference schedule this weekend as they travel to Baton Rouge, La. to take on Southern University on March 6, 7, and 8.