Red Wolves Hitting
The Red Wolves offense is rolling, leading the Sun Belt in runs (114), walks (79) and on base percentage (.404); while being second in average (.293), hit batsmen (27), sacrifices (25) and steals (25). Arkansas State is averaging 7.1 runs per game and has lost three games by one run and three more by two runs, which indicates that the Red Wolves are a handful of timely at bats away from being 14-2, which is the same mark held by the No. 7 Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns.
The Red Wolves offensive leader to this point in the year, helped by a historic performance Tuesday night, is Austin Baker (So., CF) who leads the team in several offensive categories. Baker leads the team with 18 runs scored, three home runs, nine walks, seven steals, a .613 slugging percentage and a 1.040 OPS.
Stealing the way
Baker contributes to team success in a category that is quite different from last season. Arkansas State stole a total of 28 bases last season which is an average of a half a steal a ballgame. Yet, the Red Wolves are now four steals away from passing that mark, averaging 1.5 steals a game. Every Red Wolves starter has attempted to steal a base this season with all but Stuart Levy (Jr., C) having a swipe. Several Red Wolves have multiple steals with Ty Michelotti (Jr., LF) at four, Zach Maggio (Sr., 2B) at three, Kevin Fitzpatrick (So., RF) at two and Zach George (RJr., 1B) at three before his season ended with an injury.
The Red Wolves have done an excellent job of setting up opportunities to score runs this season but struggles in late-game, runner-in-scoring position at bats must turn around if the Red Wolves are going to take this opening conference series.
Other Leaders on offense
Lucas Feddersen (Jr., 2B) leads Arkansas State with a .346 average, Matt Burgess (So., 1B) holds the RBI lead at 19 while Levy is the on base king with nine walks and a .431 on-base-percentage.
The Red Wolves staff is having problems protecting the plate with a 4.24 ERA that is ninth in the Sun Belt while allowing 4.5 runs per game. Arkansas State is holding opponents to a .253 average with a 1.50 WHIP and a 1.5-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio. The Red Wolves are third in the conference in strike outs with 119 behind the Cajuns and Texas State Bobcats on a pace of 7.7 per nine innings pitched. However, the Red Wolves are issuing a lot of free passes with 61 which is sixth in the Sun Belt at a clip of 3.9 per nine innings pitched.
We'll discuss the weekend starters below so let's take a look at some of the pitchers you will see out of the pen.
Red Wolves Pen
Three relievers have really stood out in this young season for the Red Wolves led by Cody Woodhouse (Sr., RHP) who has made five appearances with 9.0 innings pitched with a 1.00 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP while allowing opponent a .219 average. Woodhouse is usually a long relief guy, pitching about two innings per appearance.
Tanner Ring (So., RHP) has pitched 5.2 innings in five appearances with a 0.00 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP while allowing opponents to hit only .158. Rounding out the trio is Colton Kibler (Jr., RHP) who leads the team in appearances with nine and has a 1.04 ERA over 8.2 innings of work with a save. Kibler has held opponents to a .133 average with a 0.48 WHIP while striking out 11 and walking no one for a 12.1 strike outs per nine innings average.
Two youngsters have seen a lot of work in the pen. Coulton Lee (Fr., LHP) has been a one-batter specialist this season, but had a rough outing against Creighton in Millington, Ten. that has elevated his numbers. Lee has pitched four innings in eight appearances with a 4.50 ERA, 2.25 WHIP and 2-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio. Tyler Zuber (Fr., RHP) has pitched 7.1 innings in five appearances posting a 4.91 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP while holding opponents to a .179 average.
Tanner Gaines (Jr., RHP) has six relief appearances for 13.2 innings pitched with a 4.61 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP. Adam Grantham (So., RHP) has a save on five relief appearances.
The UALR Trojans (9-5, 0-0 Sun Belt, 21 RPI, 12 SOS) enter this series on a different trajectory. UALR was 8-2 before being swept at No. 13 Ole Miss Rebels and then defeating the UAPB Golden Lions this week. The Trojans success relies on the success of their starting pitching which had been rolling until the Ole Miss series. The Trojans swept the Creighton Bluejays at home to start the season while the Red Wolves lost two out of three with the two losses coming in Millington and one of them being of the one-run variety in which the Red Wolves loaded the bases in the ninth inning with one out and couldn't get the tying run across.
UALR is hitting .237 which is last in the Sun Belt with 71 runs scored (5.1 per game) with eight home runs and 19 stolen bases. The key cog in the offensive gears for the Trojans is Ben Crumpton (Sr., 3B) who leads the team with 12 runs scored and 10 stolen bases (which is more than half the team total). Crumpton hits in the lead-off spot and sets the tone for the offense in quite the same way that Brad McKewon (Sr., CF) did last week for Creighton except with the additional speed element.
Tanner Rock Well (Jr., LF) is the slugger of the offense, leading the team with a .320 average, two home runs, 16 RBI and a .520 slugging percentage. If Crumpton gets on base, Rockwell knocks him in. Bryson Thionnet (Sr., CF) is tied for the home run lead at two.
Justin Steelmon (Jr., 1B) has been a lift to the Trojans' offense leading the team with 11 walks, a .458 on-base-percentage and a .905 OPS.
The Trojan staff is the heart and soul of the team with an ERA of 3.31 and allowing only 58 runs (4.1 per game). UALR has 108 strike outs versus 52 walks for a 2.1-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio averaging 7.6 strike outs and 3.7 walks per nine innings pitched. The Trojans are holding opponents to a .241 average with a 1.44 WHIP. The numbers for the Trojans and Red Wolves are similar with the exception that the Red Wolves are getting hit while the Trojans haven't been until the Ole Miss series.
Jess Harbin (So., RHP) has been the glue that holds the starters solid performance over for the save. In seven appearances, Harbin has pitched 12.2 innings with a 2.13 ERA with 11 strike outs against four walks. Opponents are hitting .214 against Harbin as he has posted a 1.11 WHIP.
Brent Mason (So., RHP) has been the closer with three saves in six appearances. Over 6.2 innings of work Mason has posted a 2.70 ERA with a 1.65 WHIP and a .308 opponent average. He has been hittable, just stingy with the plate.
Tanner Rockwell (Jr., RHP) has five appearances with 5.2 innings pitched and an ERA of 3.18 while allowing opponents to hit only .167 against him while posting a 1.41. Dyllon Brownmiller has six appearances working 5.2 innings with a 4.76 ERA and a .278 opponent average while posting a WHIP of 1.41.
Let's take a look at the pitching match-ups for this weekend's series.
Game 1 Friday 6:00 PM Starting Pitchers
UALR – Travis McDonald (Sr., LHP)
McDonald has been the staff ace at 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. In 22 innings of work McDonald has struck out 22 hitters while walking 10 and allowing a .213 opponent average. He's been solid all season but tends to alternate starts with a great start followed by a solid start. He has two quality starts on the year, but sandwiched in between them was a struggle against the Illinois Chicago Flames. His last start at Ole Miss was a quality start, pitching 6.1 scoreless innings with six strike outs.
Arkansas State – David Owen (So., RHP)
Owen is moving into the Friday night starter role from the Sunday role and is making his first career Friday night start. He pitched Monday night against Creighton with two scoreless innings with two strike outs. Owen is 2-0 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. Owen has 14 strike outs in 17.2 innings pitched with five walks for a 2.8-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio, averaging 7.1 strike outs and 2.5 walks per nine innings pitched. Three of his four outings on the year have been solid, getting rouged up by Illinois State.
Game 2 Saturday 4:00 PM Starting Pitchers
UALR – Chad Bradford (So., RHP)
Bradford is 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 15.2 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .193 against Bradford and he has struck out 13 against only five walks. Bradford is averaging 7.5 strike outs and 1.7 walks every nine innings pitched with a 4.3-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio. Bradford hadn't allowed an earned run in two starts until Ole Miss scored five on him in his last start.
Arkansas State – Chandler Hawkins (Jr., LHP)
Hawkins is 1-2 with a 5.12 ERA in 19.1 innings of work. Hawkins has 17 strike outs and eight walks for a 2.1-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio, averaging 8.0 strike outs and 3.7 walks per nine innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .273 against him as his WHIP is 1.40. Hawkins is coming off his best outing of the year against Creighton in which two big hits did all the damage. Hawkins has yet to pitch and leave the Red Wolves without an opportunity to win on Saturday.
Game 3 Sunday 1:00 PM Starting Pitchers
UALR – Cameron Allen (Jr., RHP)
Allen is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA while allowing opponents a .242 average and posting a 1.20 WHIP. In 16.2 innings pitched Allen has 10 strike outs and four walks for a 2.5-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio. Allen averages 5.4 strike outs and 2.2 walks per nine innings pitched. Allen's first start of the season was a quality start but his returns have been declining ever since allowing four runs in each of his last two starts.
Arkansas State – Bradley Wallace (Sr., RHP)
After struggling through a few Friday night starts Wallace (1-3) moves back into the Sunday start where he excelled last season. Wallace ERA is 5.00 over 18.0 innings pitched with a 1.83 WHIP and opponents hitting .306 against him. Wallace is still doing well in the strike out category with 17 but he has issued nine walks and those hurt. Wallace is striking out 8.5 over nine innings but is walking 4.5 over the same measure. His strike-out-to-walk ratio is 2-1. Wallace looks to put his last three starts behind him and return to locating pitches where the batters can't hit them.
I think the series will be one on a handful of key at bats or plays in the field and I'm hoping those are going in Arkansas State's favor this weekend.
I will be covering the Red Wolves action for College Baseball Central at http://collegebaseballcentral.com/sun-belt/arkansas-state/
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