A-State has wrapped up at least a third place finish in the conference and can hang on to second with a combination of a win in this series and a non-sweep in the Texas Arlington versus Texas State series.
UALR had dropped two straight conference series before taking two-of-three from Texas State last weekend. A-State had similarly dropped their two conference series prior to taking two-of-three from Troy in Jonesboro last week.
A-State has lost the opportunity to get their RPI to 45 to remain in solid contention for an at-large, however, a second place regular season finish, with a win against ULL and a berth in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game may be enough to sway the tournament committee in their favor.
UALR's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .256 average and 5.1 runs a game while A-State is hitting .272 and is scoring 5.9 runs a game. The Trojans have given up 121 (2.4/G) extra-base hits on the year including 27 (0.5/G) home runs while the Red Wolves have hit 121 (2.3/G) extra-base hits with 12 (0.2/G) home runs.
A-State's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .261 average and 5.0 runs a game as UALR is hitting .255 and scoring 5.1 runs a game. The Red Wolves have allowed 111 (2.1/G) extra-base hits, 21 (0.4/G) of which are long balls while the Trojans have hit 130 (2.2/G) extra-base hits with 35 (0.7/G) home runs.
UALR looks a lot like we do as a team, and their home ballpark plays into the power elements of their game. The Trojans are a lot better at home than they are on the road as evidenced by the fact that 18 of their 23 wins came in home games.
Tanner Rock Well is the key producer in the Trojans' offense hitting .310 and leading with 40 RBI, .508 slugging percentage, .392 on base percentage and 15 doubles. Ben Crumpton leads with a .318 average and 31 steals. Bryson Thionnet is the team's power bat, leading with nine home runs and will certainly be looking to take A-State pitching deep in this crucial.
Rockwell is also one of the leading bullpen arms with six saves, a 1.83 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and a .113 opponent average. Jesse Harbin has 16 appearances with a 1.59 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and a .197 opponent average. The Trojans have also been using Ethan Schlechte out of the pen since moving him from the weekend starting rotation. Dyllon Brownmiller has the most appearances among relievers with 21 posting a 2.13 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and a .233 opponent average.
Red Wolves Impressions
A-State played well in Little Rock last season, sweeping the series, as Colin Massanelli had a monster weekend going 9-for-14, with three homers, two doubles, a walk, six runs scored and eight RBI.
Austin Baker and Zach Maggio serve as the table-setters with Eric Wilcoxson's help against right-handers and recently Tanner Ring against southpaws. All four are on-base beasts with .400 on base percentages with Wilcoxson (.451), Maggio (.410), Baker (.406) and Ring (.406) getting on base ahead of Matt Burgess and Stuart Levy who provide the line up with consistent extra-base pop.
Burgess leads the team hitting .325 with 55 RBI and Levy holds the lead in doubles with 18 while hitting .291. Baker, Levy and Burgess lead the team in slugging percentage with .456, .402, .437 respectively. Wilcoxson is also in the mix in the lead-off spot at .418 with a pair of homers. Baker leads with six home runs and Burgess has four.
Senior Dustin Jones leads the team with 10 sac bunts on the year followed closely by Lucas Feddersen with nine who has also stolen 10 bases to be just behind team steals leader Baker with Maggio next at eight.
Colton Kibler has been steady, leading the pen with 27 appearances, a 2.34 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a .198 average. Tyler Zuber has provided a spark with four saves on the year as a true freshman in 21 relief appearances he has posted a 2.23 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and is holding opposing hitters to a .223 average.
Seniors Cody Woodhouse and Morgan Croft have 22 and 20 relief appearances respectively.
Game 1, Thursday 6:00 PM
A-State – David Owen (So., RHP) 5-5, 3.86 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .256 OBA
Averaging 8.7 strikeouts against 3.1 walks every nine innings, Owen is coming off a tough luck, 2-1 loss in which one bad inning cost him an opportunity for a win even though he notched his fifth quality start on the year. Owen's first quality start of the year came in a win over the Trojans to open conference play in which he threw seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts.
UALR – Travis McDonald (Sr., LHP) 3-6, 4.38 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, .273 OBA
McDonald's season took an interesting turn after his last start against A-State in which he allowed three earned runs in 5.2 innings pitched. Travis faltered in his next three starts before moving to the pen for the month of April. McDonald will be making his third start since coming back out of the pen, his first was a rough one allowing five earned in 6.2 innings pitched but rebounded by allowing two earned runs over 5.2. McDonald averages 7.4 strikeouts and 4.1 walks every nine innings.
Game 2, Friday 6:00 PM
A-State – Bradley Wallace (Sr., RHP) 3-4, 4.48 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, .287 OBA
Wallace was hit pretty hard in his last outing against Troy, lasting only four innings while allowing five earned runs. Bradley is averaging 8.4 strikeouts and 3.1 walks every nine innings with five quality starts on the season however his last two starts against good offenses had mixed results. He struck out 12 while allowing four earned runs to one of the nation's top offenses before giving up give earned on only five strikeouts to Troy last week. Wallace last faced UALR as he was in his early season struggles, lasting four innings and allowing two earned runs.
UALR – Sam Thoele (RSo., RHP) 0-3, 3.89 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, .238 OBA
Thoele began the season working out of the pen and was moved into the rotation in the third week of conference play and has two quality starts on the season. Sam averages 7.6 strikeouts and 6.0 walks per nine innings however his last start was his worst of the season as he was pulled in the second inning having allowed four earned runs on five walks and a hit. His two starts prior to that saw him leave the game in the fifth inning. In the prior series Thoele had two relief appearances for 3.1 scoreless innings against the Red Wolves.
Game 3, Saturday 1:00 PM
Arkansas State – TBA
Arkansas State is rolling with the To Be Announced on Saturday. Could be Chandler Hawkins, or Tanner Gaines, or both. Not certain if Bryan Ayers is quite ready for a return.
UALR – Cameron Allen (Jr., RHP) 5-5, 4.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .247 OBA
Allen is the Sunday starter but has pitched well enough this season to be a Friday night starter for his club with five quality starts while averaging 5.8 strikeouts and 1.2 walks every nine innings. Cameron has shown the ability to go the distance with two complete games to his credit on the season. He lasted 7.1 innings last week against Texas State allowing only two earned runs however he was pulled in the fifth inning of his last start against A-State having allowed three earned runs.
A-State will have a difficult challenge against a UALR squad that is fighting to continue its' season into the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
I will be covering the Red Wolves action for College Baseball Central at http://collegebaseballcentral.com/sun-belt/arkansas-state/
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