Baseball Preview Texas State

The Arkansas State Red Wolves are preparing for a battle for second place in the Sun Belt Conference as the Texas State Bobcats come to town with both teams having similar 5-1 records in the Sun Belt. The series could even be for first place in the Sun Belt if the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers can manage a series win, or even just a win down at the No. 7 Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns.

In conference series Arkansas State swept UALR at home and then won 2-of-3 at UT Arlington. Texas State also pulled a home sweep, but it was UT Arlington they beat, then won 2-of-3 at Western Kentucky.

The Bobcats roll into Jonesboro with a 15-9 record, 5-1 in the Sun Belt and a 3-5 record on the road. A-State is 14-11 and 5-1 in the conference with a 10-6 home record. Texas State has won six of their last nine games while the Red Wolves have won eight of their last 11 games.

A little history comes with this series as Texas State head coach Ty Harrington was an assistant coach at Arkansas State under Bill Bethea from 1992 to 1994. The Indians made the NCAA Regionals in Harrington's last season.

Putting it in a language that matters to the Arkansas State faithful, the last time Harrington was in town, we went to the playoffs. Maybe we can do the same again this season!

In 2009, Coach Tommy Raffo cut his teeth as the head coach at Arkansas State at the Arlington Invitational, going 1-1 against Texas State. The win against Texas State was the first "Red Wolves" victory.

Comparisons
Texas State's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .254 average and 4.7 runs a game while Arkansas State is hitting .281 and is scoring 6.6 runs a game. The Bobcats have given up 50 extra-base hits on the year including 10 home runs while the Red Wolves have hit 65 extra-base hits with six home runs.

Arkansas State's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .260 average and 4.4 runs a game as Texas State is hitting .245 and scoring 5.1 runs a game. The Red Wolves have allowed 50 extra-base hits, twelve of which are long balls while the Bobcats have hit 44 extra-base hits with 11 home runs.

Bobcats Impression
Texas State has a stingy pitching staff and an offense that prides itself on doing just enough in a couple of at bats a game to win. The lineup boasts of only one .300 hitter in Matt Smith (So., 2B) who is used quite often in the lead-off spot. Garrett Mattlage (Jr., SS) and Tyler Pearson (Sr., C) are two of the key hitters in the lineup.

Mattlage leads the team in hits (25), RBI (21) and walks (19) while being second on the team in runs (15), total bases (33), steals (6) and on base percentage (.405). Mattlage is having a comeback sort of season hailing from West, Texas the place where the fertilizer plant explosion devastated the community. Mattlage was "personally affected" by the tragedy but it has made him an, "unbelievable player and person."

Pearson leads the team in runs (16 tie), total bases (36) and slugging percentage (.439) and is tied for the home run lead with three. Pearson has been around the program and his leadership has made a big impact on the team.

Texas State has gotten a surprising spark from freshman left-fielder Granger Studdard who leads the team in on base percentage (.414), is tied for the team lead in runs (16) and home runs (3). Studdard is also second on the team in hitting (.292), slugging percentage (.417) while being third in RBI (11) and total bases (30).

The Bobcats strength is in their pitching staff, especially if they can keep the game in control. We'll discuss the starting staff below. Their starting pitching usually gets deep into ballgames allowing their bullpen to rely on two main relievers.

Cory Geisler (So., LHP) is the bridge guy for the team. The starters have a good habit of getting to the sixth or seventh inning. Geisler comes in to get the game to the closer. Geisler has 11 appearances for 20 innings pitched with 16 strike outs. Opponents are hitting .182 against him and his ERA is 1.35.

Once Geisler works the Bobcats hand the ball to the submariner Hunter Lemke (Sr., RHP) who has 15 appearances for 20 innings of work with 6 saves. He has 13 strike outs with an opponent average of .256 and an ERA of 3.60. Lemke's game isn't as much about his stuff as it is about his unconventional delivery and being physically and emotionally competitive tend to give him an edge.

If you're looking for more info, just check out Texas State Baseball: Building a Winning Culture Key to Impressive Start

Red Wolves Impressions
Arkansas State is finding different ways to win ballgames and that has been making a difference. Whether in a pitching duel or a slugfest the Red Wolves have found a way to come out on top since conference play began. This young team really seems to be coming together just in time for the games that make or break a season.

Lucas Feddersen (Jr., 2B) leads the team in hitting (.322) and is tied for the lead in hits (29) while showing himself to have been a good addition to the team. Matt Burgess (So., 1B) leads the team in RBI (26) while hitting .286.

Stuart Levy (Jr., C) enters the series having reached base safely in 22 straight games. Levy leads the team in doubles (9) and on base percentage (.415) while he's second on the team in total bases (37) and slugging percentage (.457). Levy has been solid on the defensive end have thrown out 11 baserunners on 30 steal attempts. This ought to play to our advantage with Texas State not being a real speed team.

However, Austin Baker (So., CF) has continued to pace the Red Wolves offense playing some part in a lot of Arkansas State's scoring opportunities this week. Baker is tied for the team lead in hits (29), leads the team and the entire Sun Belt Conference in triples (4) and leads the team in runs (26), home runs (5), total bases (55), slugging percentage (.567), walks (16) and steals (8).

Dustin Jones (Sr., SS) continues to be a consistent and tireless player having 127 consecutive starts. Jones is hitting .262 and is second on the team in runs (19) and doubles (8) and seems to have a knack for getting quality at bats in clutch situations.

Arkansas State will need to continue to show the ability to use their speed on the bases while working quality at bats to get on base against Texas State's pitching staff.

The Red Wolves' bullpen seems to have gotten a short in the arm this last week as a couple of live young arms had great midweek outings with freshman Bryan Ayers (RHP) pitching five scoreless on Tuesday night with Tyler Zuber (Fr., RHP) pitching four scoreless on Wednesday.

Cody Woodhouse (Sr., RHP) and Morgan Croft (Sr., RHP) are experienced and versatile pitchers with the ability to put quality on the bump in whatever circumstance they happen to find themselves in. At this point, Woodhouse has been the bridge guy and Croft is the closer.

Woodhouse has pitched 22.1 innings on 10 appearances with a 1.61 ERA and a .232 opponent average. Croft has three saves and has posted a 2.57 ERA with 16 strike outs and a .194 opponent average. Croft is on a streak of 11.2 scoreless innings.

Colton Kibler (Jr., RHP) has been effective out of the pen on 15 appearances he's posted a 3.15 ERA over 20 inning pitched with 16 strike outs and a .208 opponent average.

If you're looking for more info just check out Arkansas State Baseball: Following the Plan, Creating an Identity

Game 1, Friday 6:30 PM
Arkansas State – David Owen (So., RHP) 4-0, 2.97 ERA, 30.1 IP, 1.25 WHIP, 11 BB, 29 K, .235 OBA
Owen has been solid since moving to Friday night with a 2-0 record allowing an earned run over 12.2 innings pitched. Owen strikes out 8.6 hitters per nine innings with a 2.6-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio. Owen averages 5.0 innings per start.

Texas State – Taylor Black (RJr., RHP) 2-3, 3.54 ERA, 40.2 IP, 1.11 WHIP, 7 BB, 38 K, .247 OBA
Black is a sinker ball pitcher hitting 86-88 on the gun averaging 6.2 innings pitched per start. Black averages 8.4 strike outs per nine innings with a 5.4-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio

Game 2, Saturday 2:00 PM
Arkansas State – Chandler Hawkins (Jr., LHP) 2-3, 5.04 ERA, 30.1 IP, 1.13 WHIP, 8 BB, 25 K, .302 OBA

Hawkins has been susceptible to the long ball having allowed four home runs in his last three starts while averaging 5.0 innings per start. Hawkins averages 7.4 strike outs per nine innings with a 3.1-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio.

Texas State – Austen Williams (Jr., RHP) 3-0, 2.89 ERA, 37.1 IP, 1.59 WHIP, 12 BB, 39 K, .219 OBA
Williams is a power pitcher hitting 90-93 on the gun while averaging 6.1 innings per start. Williams strikes out 9.4 hitters per nine innings with a 3.3-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio.

Game 3, Sunday 11:00 AM
Arkansas State – Bradley Wallace (Sr., RHP) 1-3, 6.66 ERA, 24.1 IP, 1.85 WHIP, 12 BB, 22 K, .330 OBA

Wallace has had a few rough starts this season and has been working Sundays since conference started. Wallace averages 4.0 innings per start while averaging 8.1 strike outs per nine innings with a 1.8-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio.

Texas State – Lucas Humpal (So., RHP) 2-0, 3.49 ERA, 38.2 IP, 1.27 WHIP, 10 BB, 36 K, .258 OBA
Humpal is somewhat of a power pitcher hitting 90 on the gun but also is able to locate three pitchers while averaging 6.1 innings per start. Humpal averages 8.4 strike outs per nine innings with a 3.6-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio.

Humpal is somewhat of a power pitcher hitting 90 on the gun but also is able to locate three pitchers while averaging 6.1 innings per start. Humpal averages 8.4 strike outs per nine innings with a 3.6-to-1 strike-out-to-walk ratio.

The Red Wolves will have their work cut out for them trying to produce runs against the Bobcats staff. I think this series will be very competitive and may turn on a key at bat.

I will be covering the Red Wolves action for College Baseball Central at http://collegebaseballcentral.com/sun-belt/arkansas-state/
Mark West
College Baseball Central
Twitter: @MarkWestCBC
Email: markwest@collegebaseballcentral.com