Georgia State travels to AState

After opening Sun Belt Conference play in a disappointing way the Arkansas State Red Wolves hope to quickly erase the unpleasant memory of an unplanned, weather-driven trip to Jackson, Mississippi by hosting their first conference series at home this season against the Georgia State Panthers.


Arkansas

The Red Wolves struggled mightily in a few areas in what head coach Tommy Raffo called a “funk” in his post-game interview after a 6-3 home loss to the Missouri State Bears in the midweek. Arkansas State is piling up the hits, unfortunately, the runs haven’t shown up for the squad in three of the last four ball games.

A-State dropped a gut-wrenching series two games to one to the UT Arlington Mavericks last weekend that I analyzed for College Baseball Central. You can read that here. The Red Wolves managed an 8-0 win in the middle game of the series on the back of Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week Jon Glidewell (Sr., LHP) who threw eight innings scoreless innings while allowing only three hits and fanning eight Mavericks.

However, miscues in the running game and the inability to consistently get the third out led to the Red Wolves’ 6-4 defeat in game one and 4-3 loss in the rubber game of the set. Now the Red Wolves face a power-hitting squad from Georgia State who is poised and primed to open their 2015 Sun Belt campaign with a series win.

Team

Overall W-L

Sun Belt W-L

Home/Road W-L

RPI*

SOS*

Georgia State

10-6

0-0

1-1

191

208

Arkansas State

8-6

1-2

2-2

53

41

*RPI and SOS calculations found at Warren Nolan

Sun Belt Honors Aplenty

When the Panthers battle the Red Wolves fans will be treated to four 2015 SBC Weekly Honors recipients. Each team has had two award recipients this season with Georgia State bringing to town both the SBC Player and Pitcher of the Week for Week in 1 Matt Rose (Jr., INF) and Nathan Bates (Jr., RHP) while the Red Wolves have the SBC Pitcher of the Week for Week 2 Tyler Zuber (So., RHP) and Week 4 in Glidewell.

Bates opened the season for the Panthers allowing only a hit and a walk over seven inning while striking out eight against the Fordham Rams. Meanwhile Rose was making things happen at the plate hitting .455/.571/1.273 for the series with three homers, three walks and six RBI in a game against Fordham and a double-header against the Liberty Flames. Zuber tossed eight scoreless against the No. 11 Louisville Cardinals, allowing only two each of hits, walks and hit batsmen.

Power On

Georgia State will bring a powerful offense into Tomlinson-Kell Field led by pre-season All Sun Belt first baseman Rose who is No. 1 in the SBC with five long balls. The Panthers’ attack is tops in the conference scoring 6.7 runs per game with 14 homers and a team .426 SLG%. Rose is off to a solid start hitting .286/.679/.431 with 14 each runs scored and RBI as the key bat in this prolific lineup. The crazy number for Rose is his .393 ISO figure which illustrates the power threat he is when in the batter’s box. Out of 16 hits, 11 have gone for extra bases with five double and a triple to go along with his home run lead.

However, Georgia State doesn’t live and die with Rose’s bat as one doesn’t need to drift far away to find the Panthers’ other weapons. Leadoff hitter Ryan Blanton (So., CF) leads the team, as expected, in runs scored (16). What is surprising with the sophomore is the power numbers he has put together with three homers and a pair of doubles. His leadoff line is .321/.518/.426 which gives him a .197 ISO. Freshman shortstop Justin Jones .291/.400/.397 has been effective in the two-spot while three-hitter Caden Bailey (Sr., INF) .328/.426/.411 leads the team in hitting and five-hole guy and pre-season All Sun Belt player Joey Roach (Jr., C) .286/.482/.354 provide all the protection Rose needs in this filthy offense.

Quality

One thing A-State has benefitted from in this young season is quality starting pitching on the weekends. In 12 weekend starts the Red Wolves have received seven quality starts and one near miss. The starting staff has a combined 2.22 ERA with a 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings average and a 1.07 WHIP. Glidewell and pre-season All Sun Belt pitcher David Owen (Sr., RHP) each have a pair of quality starts with Owen missing a third by one-third of an inning against Louisville.

Sophomore righty Tyler Zuber leads the staff with a 1.80 ERA and 25 inning pitched and three quality starts including his most notable outing thus far being eight scoreless innings against Louisville. Zuber is allowing opponents a .156 AVG but is outdone at this point in the year by the .141 put together by Glidewell.

Just Missed

The series will miss a rematch of the series game one battle between A-State’s Owen and Georgia State’s Kenny Anderson as Owen is taking the hill in game one while Anderson is pegged for game two this weekend. Last season, Anderson set the tone for the Panthers’ series win as he and Owen battled to a 1-1 tie late in game one before Georgia State broke through late for the win. A-State then led game two only to drop an extra-inning game after surrendering another late inning rally to the Panthers.

Instead Bates will be across the diamond from Owen with a 2.25 ERA of his own. The junior is allowing opponents a .202 AVG with a 1.21 WHIP so the game one thrower’s duel should be quite intriguing for fans who love to see a well-pitched ballgame. Anderson had one of his best starts in conference play against the Red Wolves last season and will look to repeat the feat this weekend.

Just Missing

Red Wolves hitters are pounding the ball to the tune of a .275/.382/.366 when compared to the Panthers’ .272/.426/.376 coming into the series. The big difference is runs. A-State is struggling to drive in runs at this point. Eventually, if the averages play out as they should, the runs will start flowing from this offense.

Having Zach George (Sr., 1B) in the lineup after two years of injuries helps as he is hitting .413/.500/.500. George and leadoff man Ty White (Jr., RF) .370/.463/.410 are getting on base a ton, they just aren’t getting driven home with 14 runs scored between the two on 49 on-base opportunities.

A-State is patiently waiting for pre-season All Sun Belt player Matt Burgess’ (Jr., 1B) bat to spring to life. Maybe with the passing thaw of winter the chill in his bat will melt to better his .220/.340/.322 start with only seven RBI. The team’s RBI leaders are White and Joe Schrimpf (So., 2B) with 13 as the second baseman also pacing the squad with 12 runs scored.

Looking Ahead

If the Red Wolves are going to undo what was done to them down in Georgia last season, they are going to do so with bats that have finally come alive with runners in scoring position. The team that is best at that will be the one that walks away with the series win.


Mark West covers the Sun Belt for College Baseball Central.