AState vs. Creighton Preview

An un-expected road trip for a neutral site matchup is in store for the Arkansas State Red Wolves this weekend as they play "host" to the Creighton Bluejays at Team USA Field in Millington, Ten. Red Wolves fans can thank Winter Storm Titan for the time and venue changes with Red Wolves baseball this weekend.

Creighton enters the matchup at 4-4 with an RPI of 45 having won 2 of 3, with the three being a curfew shortened tie on Sunday, at the Charlotte 49ers last weekend. The Bluejays started the season being swept by Red Wolves' rival UALR Trojans in a three game set. Creighton is a band of road warriors having not yet played a home game. Creighton has 2-1 a series win against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Offensively, Creighton averages five runs a game and is hitting .259 as a team. The Bluejays strike out 8.2 times a game and draw a walk half as often. They have only been successful on half of their steal attempts while averaging at least one attempt per game.

Lead-off man Brad McKewon is hitting .390 and leads the team in runs scored with eight and in steals with two on four attempts. McKewon has a .419 OBP with two walks and 22 total bases and a home run. Shutting down Creighton must begin with keeping McKewon off base. When McKewon gets on base the power bats carried by Jake Peter and Mike Gerber become dangerous. Peter is hitting .333 with a home run and eight RBI. Gerber is hitting .231 with two home runs and 10 RBI.

Creighton's starting pitching has struggled to this point in the season as only two starters have lasted five innings with an ERA of 8.80. The Bluejays team ERA is 4.78 and they average 5.6 strike outs a game. Opponents are hitting .258 against Creighton with four home runs and five runs scored a game.

Out of the bullpen Creighton has a few solid relievers. Bryan Sova has a 1.29 ERA on seven relief appearance with a .200 OBA. John Oltman has also been solid with a 1.69 ERA on six appearances and a .125 OBA. Matt Warren has pitched well from both the pen and as a starter with a 2.25 ERA on 16 innings pitched with a .217 OBA.

Arkansas State is coming of their first road trip of the season that was unsuccessful, losing 2 of 3 to the UAB Blazers. The Red Wolves started the season with a sweep of the Miami (OH) Red Hawks only to lose the next three home games, one to Division II UA Monticello and the other three to the Illinois State Redbirds. Arkansas State would dominate the Sunday game with Illinois State to avoid the four game sweep.

Arkansas State is 6-6 with an RPI of 88 and had an offensive struggle last weekend being held scoreless for 17 consecutive innings, scoring their first run of the series in the ninth inning of game two. Unfortunately, the Red Wolves will be without Zach George who has been a key element of the offense leading the Red Wolves with 13 runs scored and 10 walks for a team high .532 OBP. George is hitting .382 and has stolen three bases on three attempts.

Looking to fill in the gap will be Austin Baker and Ty Michelotti who add the elements of hitting consistency and running speed to the offense. Baker is hitting .279 with three triples and six stolen bases on six attempts. Michelotti is hitting .360 with three steals on three attempts. Matt Burgess is the power bat with a .357 average and a home run with a .500 slugging percentage.

The Red Wolves are averaging 6.2 runs a game with a .286 average and a .384 OBP. Arkansas State has 14 steals on 16 attempts on an offense that is running successfully.

Arkansas State pitching is doing ok with the weekend starters setting the tone with a 4.60 ERA and averaging 7.95 strike outs per nine innings.

The staff has a 3.98 ERA and averages 7.7 strike outs a game. Opponents are hitting .270 against the Red Wolves with one home run. Coulton Lee has been effective from the pen with a 2.25 ERA. Tanner Gaines has a 2.70 ERA over five appearances. Colton Kibler hasn't surrendered a run in seven appearances with opponents hitting .118 against him, filling the role of a one-out specialist from the pen. Cody Woodhouse is solid with a 1.17 ERA and a .218 OBA.

Let's take a look at the pitching match-ups for this weekend's series.

Game 1 Saturday 6:30 PM
Creighton Senior left-handed pitcher Matt Warren (2-0) is making his second start of the season. In his last start at the Charlotte 49ers he allowed one earned run while striking out five over six innings. In a relief appearance against the Minnesota Golden Gophers Warren lasted 6.2 innings with two strike outs and two earned runs. Warren pitched 3.1 innings in relief against the UALR Trojans allowing one earned run with four strike outs. Warren has a 2.25 ERA with a 1.06 WHIP averaging 6.2 strike outs per nine innings against 2.25 walks/hit batsmen over nine innings.

Arkansas State Senior right-handed pitcher Bradley Wallace (1-2) takes the mound looking to get back to opening night form in which he pitched six scoreless innings while striking out five Miami (OH) Red Hawks. Wallace lasted only four innings the following Friday night against the Illinois State Redbirds allowing four earned runs while striking out five. Last Friday night Wallace against lasted four innings, allowing only an earned run but surrendering six hits and four walks with three strike outs against the UAB Blazers. Wallace' ERA is 3.21 with a 1.71 WHIP striking out 8.4 over nine innings and walking 5.1 over nine innings.

Game 2 Sunday 1:00 PM
Creighton Sophomore right-handed pitcher Austin Groth (1-1) gets his second start of the season. His only start was at the UALR Trojans in which he lasted 2.1 innings while allowing six earned runs. Groth has two relief appearances, the first against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, pitching two scoreless innings. His next relief appearance was against the Charlotte 49ers in which he pitched 3.2 scoreless innings. Groth has a 6.74 ERA, a 1.63 WHIP with 2.3 strike outs per nine innings and 3.4 walks per nine innings.

Arkansas State Junior left-handed pitcher Chandler Hawkins (1-2) is making his fourth start of the season. He pitched four innings allowing four earned runs with four strike outs against the Miami (OH) Red Hawks. Facing the Illinois State Redbirds he had his best outing allowing only two earned runs over 5.1 innings with six strikeouts. Hawkins had an efficient outing against the UAB Blazers allowing two earned runs while striking out three in four innings of work. Hawkins has a 5.40 ERA and a 1.95 WHIP while striking out 8.8 per nine innings and walking 5.4.

Game 3 Monday 5:30 PM

Creighton has not determined their starting pitcher for this game.

Arkansas State Sophomore right-handed pitcher David Owen (2-0) looks to build on his 10 strike-out performance last Sunday. Taking on the Miami (OH) Red Hawks Owen pitched five innings allowing two earned runs with a strike out. Owen struggled against the Illinois State Redbirds allowing six earned runs over five innings pitched with a strike out. However, on a road trip against the UAB Blazers struck out 10 while allowing one earned run in 5.2 innings pitched. Owen has an ERA of 5.40 with a 1.60 WHIP, striking out 6.9 and walking 5.2 over nine innings pitched.

I will be covering the Red Wolves action for College Baseball Central
Mark West
College Baseball Central
Twitter: @MarkWestCBC