Baseball looks to upperclassmen in 2015

By Drew Carroll News Editor

Jacks picked to finish third in Summit League poll

The SDSU baseball team will open its 2015 season by competing in the Governor’s Challenge, hosted by Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn., over Valentine’s Day weekend. Although the Jacks will play on the road for the first two months of their season, they will make their home debut in early April. 

Head coach Dave Schrage, who is beginning his fourth campaign with the Jackrabbits, said the strength of this year’s team will be the pitching staff. The Jacks will return 96 percent of its innings pitched from a year ago, as its top three pitchers in the rotation will return. The Jacks will also have the all-time saves leader in the Summit League back this season, so the bullpen will also be strong. Four starters in the middle infield will return to the Jackrabbit lineup as well. All these components of the team will help the Jacks return to the level of play they achieved last season with a finish of 11-11 in the Summit League, and 28-29 overall. 

“Adam Bray, Chris Anderson, and Chad Hodges all were our top three guys last year in the rotation and they’re all back. J.D. Moore’s back, he’s the all-time saves leader in the Summit League, so he’s back. All our bullpen innings are back, Andrew Clemen a junior, Derringer Huff’s a junior, … we have Blake Fiedelman a senior back, so, our bullpen is definitely our strength,” Schrage said. 

Schrage sees the offense as being an area that needs to be worked on to enable the team to move to an even higher level of competition this season. 

 Schrage said, “We’ve got to be more consistent offensively and we have got to be better in one-run games. We played 23 one-run games last year, and I believe we won nine of them so we need to do a little bit better job in one-run games.”

The upperclassmen are the players that Schrage will look to as leaders of the team. Offensively, he will look to senior catcher Reid Clary, senior second baseman Al Robbins, junior centerfielder Zach Coppola, junior left fielder Paul Jacobson, and junior shortstop Cody Sharrow for leadership. Sophomore first baseman Matt Johnson was named last year’s Summit League Freshman Player of the Year. 

“Those are all juniors and seniors. So usually a good team, the upperclassmen step up, so we need those guys to do well. Matt Johnson returns, he was the freshman player of the year in the Summit League last year, we moved him to first base, so you know, we’re looking for a next step and a big year out of Matt as well,” Schrage said. 

Schrage explained how they have segmented their season into three different sections in order to lay out the team’s goals for the season. The segments Schrage outlined include: non-conference games, tournaments, and conference play. Although the season’s goals are split into three sections, Schrage stated that the ultimate goal for every season is to be competitive and have a chance to win the conference and play in an NCAA Regional game. 

“… We play in two of these preseason tournaments, so our goal is to win one of those, we’re going to play 14 non-league games, and we’ve set a goal to win so many of those leading up to our conference. But, we feel when we get to conference play it’s going to take 20 or 21 wins in your league out of 30 games to win the conference,” Schrage said. 

As the Jacks open the season in Tennessee, Schrage has many things that he wants to see. First, Schrage will look for the team to play a clean game in terms of being in the right spots on cut offs and relays and throwing the ball to the right base in certain situations. This will be a question to be answered as the team moves from practicing inside the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex to playing in outdoor games at full speed. Next, the team will look at how the pitchers compete against opposing batters rather than only throwing to their teammates in the practice atmosphere. Additionally, Schrage is interested to see which players from the lower class levels step up and really bring action in the game setting. 

“Sometimes guys are gamers and you don’t find that out until they actually get into the game,” Schrage said. 

The Jacks are picked to finish third in the Summit League as Oral Roberts University jumps back into the conference. Oral Roberts won the Summit League title 15 straight years that they competed in the Summit League before taking a two-season break from the league. Schrage is excited to have them back because he thinks it will make the league better. He also believes that the league is better than when ORU was previously a member. 

“I think it just inspires us more. Ever since I came here, it’s all ‘ORU ORU’ that’s all we hear so its an inspiration for us to have them back in the conference that we can hopefully prove a message to them that they just can’t come back in and win the league,” Clary said about ORU coming back to the Summit League.