Raffo Starts Year Seven

To start, we flash back to May 2014 and the Arkansas State Red Wolves’ baseball has been eliminated from the Sun Belt tournament and coach Tommy Raffo was reflecting upon the season.

“There are a lot of firsts,’’ he said. “Obviously we have been in the tournament five times. We’ve been in the semifinals in three of them. We’ve won two games in each of them. We have got to keep making that push and push us to a better level. I really like what is going on with the coaches and obviously with our players. We are going to keep moving in that direction. That is where we want to be. We like what is going on, we just have to make that move. And we will.”

The Red Wolves being their seventh season under Raffo on Friday, the first of four games scheduled against Illinois State.

Continuity is huge with our coaching staff,’’ he said. This is the third year in row as staff. Third year with Noah Sanders and Anthony Everman and Tighe’s (Dickinson) fifth spring. That is a big plus for any program and fortunately it has helped us I think.

“The next thing is to establish with the mindset to the program of what is expected and what standards are they being held too. I was that was big thing to be able to get across to the team and to the incoming results. And then lastly establish a life cycle, a recruiting cycle of brining in the right type of players who fit the program. Obviously pitching, hitting and defensively those were all issues and what type of players fit those molds and matches up to wanting to be here at ASU.”

The Red Wolves enter the season with nine seniors and eight juniors.

“I think there is a great blend with you look at the roster, look at 80 percent high school and 20 percent transfer and that has been pretty consistent the last 4 or five year, said Raffo, who team has averaged 29 victories per season. Obviously, the first couple we had to make some adjustments to be competitive. We like the fact that we have been recruiting young men to develop and who have the capability to competing right away in the Sun Belt conference for championships.”

Coming off a third-place finish in the Sun Belt last season (32-27, 18-12) the Red Wolves were the preseason third-place pick in the SBC behind UL-Lafayette and Texas State.

“I don’t think we have been (picked that high) and this is a first time and it shows a little bit more respect in within the league but at the same time it is preseason and we all know that preseason does not dictate one thing after the first pitch is thrown,’’ he said. “We have got work to do; everyone has to prove themselves in this league. This league is very difficult. You do have to have some experience and you have to have got stay healthy and you have to perform. We are going to have to perform and do well in a lot of different arenas. When you look the two teams that were picked ahead of us we are on the road against both of them.

“We have to do what we do best and that is basically what we want to do. If we can do that the outcomes will come you can’t dictate the outcomes. Control what you can control. That is the process for us one pitch at a time.”

A-State does enter the season with, on paper, one of Raffo’s best teams.

“From a depth perspective yes (we are deeper). I think as a coach you are always wanting that one more hitter and one more pitcher. But a lot of times they are probably on your roster they just have not developed yet the way you want them too. Or there might have been some young men come on faster than you thought. So those are all issues that we all deal with as Division 1 coaches. But we like the competiveness within the team. We like what the team has done holding each other accountable. We like some of the things that we have going within that locker room. The bottom line is now its every year is like a new person. It is a new story to be written. A new journal, so whatever happen in the past is over and your write your story now.

“I think we still have a blend because when you look at our squads throughout the year we have had all junior seniors or we are never freshmen or sophomores. You have the blending. You have the blend of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors and there is always that process going on.

“So when you look at the lineup or the pitching staff there is always that new person who comes in that nobody really knows about like (Tyler) Zuber was last year. No one ever really talked about him, our counted on him. But he ended up being a really good pitcher for us. (Eric) Wilcoxson getting some time last year; nobody really talked about. That is just part of the process. But everybody knew about Dustin Jones so I think you have that balance. We really do. I think it is very difficult to have 25 new players on a team. It is just hard to do. We are equilivancy sport and we are building from within and you have got to have some stability there.”