Previewing Troy Baseball Series

Arkansas State enters the weekend with waning at large bid hopes for NCAA Regional play and need to get a series win to keep those hopes alive.

A series sweep will improve their hopes as Boyd's World RPI Needs shows the Red Wolves can get to a 45 RPI by either winning three at home and three on the road or by winning four at home and two on the road. My projection for College Baseball Central shows A-State as the next team in the NCAA Regionals.

An RPI of 45 puts a team in strong at large consideration and it appears the regular season magic number is six. A-State comes into the series having dropped its' last two series, having won three of eight games and tied for second in the Sun Belt with Texas State at 15-9. A-State sits currently with an RPI of 49 according to Warren Nolan.

Troy comes in slumping, having lost four straight games and nine of 11 overall. The Trojans have dropped their last three conference series, begin swept at Texas State last weekend. The Trojans are in ninth place in the conference at 8-15 and are will be playing this weekend with desperation to get back into Sun Belt Tournament contention.

Comparisons

Troy's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .267 average and 5.5 runs a game while A-State is hitting .270 and is scoring 5.6 runs a game. The Trojans have given up 134 (2.8/G) extra-base hits on the year including 35 (0.7/G) home runs while the Red Wolves have hit 111 (2.3/G) extra-base hits with 12 (0.3/G) home runs.

A-State's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .258 average and 4.8 runs a game as Troy is hitting .267 and scoring 5.3 runs a game. The Red Wolves have allowed 97 (2.0/G) extra-base hits, 19 (0.4/G) of which are long balls while the Trojans have hit 130 (2.7/G) extra-base hits with 34 (0.7/G) home runs.

Trojans Impressions

Troy is a decent offensive team but has struggled with inconsistency on the mound with a team ERA of 4.55 that goes down dramatically outside of its' five main hurlers. Two of those are starting this weekend but we can be sure A-State will face the other three this weekend as nearly 70 percent of total inning thrown on the team belong to them.

Marc Skinner has 26 pen appearances with a 1.84 ERA while allowing opponent a .238 average with a 1.16 WHIP with four saves and has been by far the most effective reliever on the staff. Jeremy McGowan has 23 pen appearances with a 4.95 ERA and .289 OBA. William Shell has 15 pen appearances and has posted a 6.23 ERA and a .282 OBA.

Every hitter in the Trojans starting lineup has homered this season with the exception of short stop Tyler Vaughn, who leads the team in sacrifice hits. David Hall has been the team's best hitter leading Troy with a .357 average, nine homers, 41 RBI, 29 walks, a .591 slugging percentage and a .453 on base percentage. Garrett Pitts is the other leading hitter with a .328 average and .413 on base percentage.

Clay Holcomb is a spark plug talent the Trojans are excited about, leading the team in steals with 20 and with 33 runs but strikes out a lot which hampers his effectiveness. Jo-El Bennett, Trevin Hall and Nick Masonia each hit with decent power in a lineup that at times can hit with a lot of pop.

Red Wolves Impressions

A-State has been in a bit of a bind offensively the last two weeks and looks to get things going again facing a pitching staff that has been inconsistent this season. A-State fans got a look at what the vision is this last weekend as we faced Louisiana Lafayette and saw how similar our offenses are.

The Red Wolves' power bats have belonged to Matt Burgess (4 HR) and Austin Baker (6 HR) while Stuart Levy hits with power but just hasn't found the pitch to drive this season.  Eric Wilcoxson has A-State's other two homers but had a rough weekend last week. It was impressive to see Burgess lay down one of the best bunts of the season out of the Red Wolves lineup this weekend.

Zach Maggio continues to be a consistent bat, hitting .300 in his senior year with a team-leading .412 on base percentage. Baker leads the team with 11 steals, 35 walks, 43 runs scored and a .481 slugging percentage and is second in on base percentage at .409. Dustin Jones leads the Red Wolves with 10 sac hits on the year.

A-State's pen has seen more balance recently as pitches have stepped up, Tyler Zuber hurled three scoreless against ULL this weekend, and has a 2.36 ERA on 19 appearances with a .228 OBA. Colton Kibler leads in pen appearances with 25 posting a 2.70 ERA and a .222 OBA as the duo have a combined 1.11 WHIP on the season.

The two seniors in the pen are Cody Woodhouse and Morgan Croft who have each struggled recently but can be effective when they've got their stuff working. Coulton Lee had a confidence-boosting appearance this weekend as another heavy-use arm out of the pen.

Game 1, Friday 6:00 PM

A-State – David Owen (So., RHP) 5-4, 3.94 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .256 OBA

Owen took a tough luck loss last Friday against Louisiana Lafayette, allowing only three earned runs over six innings but was let down by three errors leading to three runs. Owen struck out five while giving up eight hits and two walks. Owen has four quality starts and averages 8.5 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings.

Troy – Shane McCain (Sr., LHP) 3-4, 3.53 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .221 OBA

McCain looks to return to Arkansas and pull off a start similar to his performance three weeks ago at UALR in which he pitched eight scoreless innings. However, in his two starts since he has allowed 11 earned runs over 10 innings of work to UT Arlington and Texas State. He started the year with seven straight quality starts but has had only one (UALR) in his last five starts. McCain averages 9.6 strikeouts and 4.3 walks per nine innings.

Game 2, Saturday 6:00 PM

A-State – Bradley Wallace (Sr., RHP) 3-4, 4.04 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .280 OBA

Wallace fanned 12 Cajuns to tie a career high for strikeouts in a game last week but lost the game. He allowed four earned runs over seven innings to a team that averages eight runs a game on eight hits and two walks. Wallace has been solid over his last six starts, four of which being quality. Wallace averages 8.2 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings.

Troy – Tanner Hicks (Sr., RHP) 2-8, 4.72 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .283 OBA

Hicks entered the season with high expectations and had four quality starts on his first five outings before going six straight starts without one. Hicks seems to have gotten back on track allowing two earned over 7.1 innings of work. He averages 6.5 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per nine innings.

Game 3, Sunday 1:00 PM

Arkansas State – Chandler Hawkins (Jr., LHP) 3-5, 5.98 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, .291 OBA

Hawkins is making his first weekend start in a month since allowing five earned over 4.2 innings against Western Kentucky. Hawkins has two quality starts on the year, both early, and has been pitching primarily out of the pen for a month. His last start was a midweek game at Central Arkansas in which he struck out 10 while allowing only an earned run over five innings. Hawkins averages 8.9 strikeouts and 3.2 walks every nine innings.

Troy – Levi Tate (So., LHP) 2-0, 4.23 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .250 OBA

Tate is making his first conference start of the season with his only other start being a six inning outing in which he allowed an earned run to Jacksonville State. Tate's only start was a quality start. Tate averages 7.5 strike outs and 2.3 walks every nine innings.

The Red Wolves can be assured that they will get Troy's best shot this weekend as the Trojans try to climb back into qualifying for the Conference Tournament. The Trojans are starting two left-handers this weekend hoping to play on A-State's struggles against southpaw starters. As stated earlier a series sweep of the Trojans would go a long way to helping A-State secure a two or three seed in the SBC tournament and an at large spot in the NCAA Regionals.

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