Red Wolves Look To Pounce on Eagles

Undaunted after being swept at home by the Georgia State Panthers last weekend, the Arkansas State Red Wolves look to climb back into a spot in Sun Belt Conference Tournament by pouncing on the Georgia Southern Eagles at Clements Stadium this weekend.

Arkansas State has limped to a 1-4 opening to conference play, battling through winter weather and an inconsistent practice schedule, and are set to do battle with the SBC newcomer Georgia Southern for the first time in history. The Eagles sit at 4-2, tied for third in the conference after sweeping the Appalachian State Mountaineers at home before losing 2-of-3 at the Troy Trojans last weekend.

A-State dropped 2-of-3 in a home series, moved to Jackson, Mississippi thanks to Thor, and then was swept in a rain-shortened two-game set played out in a Sunday double header to Georgia State and sits in 10th place in the Sun Belt.


Sun Belt W-L

Overall W-L



Georgia Southern





Arkansas State





*RPI and SOS pulled from Warren Nolan 3/19/15

I’m Not Lebowski, I’m The Dude

The dude for Georgia Southern is senior JUCO transfer Aaron Mizell. The 5’10” 155-pound outfielder has opened 2015 on an absolute tear at the plate with a .265/.542/.347 hitting line that includes the team-lead in a multitude of offensive categories. His numbers are some of the best in the Sun Belt as he sits No. 2 with 20 RBI and first with three triples.

Mizell’s .277 ISO is a remarkable reminder of the power threat the pre-season All Sun Belt selection is every time he is standing in the batter’s box. On the year, 12-of-22 hits flying off his bat have been for extra bases as the three-hole hitter is a dominant presence at the plate in the middle of the Eagles’ lineup.

By George, You’re On To Something Here

Arkansas State may not be dropping runs on the opposition in bunches, but the lineup has certainly had a proverbial shot-in-the-arm with senior Zach George still plugging away during the conference stretch. The 6’2” 205-pound first baseman is third in the SBC with a .493 OB% which is also good for the top 100 nationally at No. 88.

Aside from his on-base prowess, the Red Wolves have enjoyed the consistent stick he has been at the plate, hitting .404, which places him fifth in the conference and 74th in the country in that category. As dynamic as George is once he reaches base, 3-for-5 on steals, the A-State offense is struggling to score the slugger. George has scored only nine runs on 26 times that he has reached base safely.

Will The Real Challenger Stand?

The Eagles lost Friday night starter Sam Howard to the Colorado Rockies in the third round of the Major League Draft leaving a hole in that slot. However, sophomore southpaw Evan Challenger has stepped up admirably into the role and has been a prevailing force on the bump for the Eagles this season. The sophomore (2-0, 1.38) has a miniscule 0.98 WHIP while averaging 6.5 K/9 and holding opponents to a .186 AVG.

In all the success, the 6’1” 175-pounder has only one quality start to his credit on the year, a zero-earned over eight innings outing last weekend against Troy, with starts this year of 5.1, 4.1, 5.0 and 5.0 in his prior outings.

As the Friday night guy, Challenger is second on the team, and the Sun Belt in ERA as squad-mate and Sunday starter Connor Simmons leads among the rotation with a 0.76 ERA. The freshman lefty has a 1.14 WHIP as opponents are hitting only .200 against him. His 5.6 strike-out-to-walk ratio is a testimony to how good this guy is at getting hitters out with the swing-and-miss.

Friday Firsts

A-State is sending sensational sophomore Tyler Zuber to the bump for his first Friday night start in hopes that his calm demeanor and unhittable nature can set the tone for the weekend. The right-hander had a streak of 14 scoreless innings earlier in the year after holding the No. 12 Louisville Cardinals to two hits over eight innings of work.

Zuber (2-2, 1.88) has a 1.05 WHIP while opponents are hitting only .200 against him on the year. The move sends senior David Owen into the Saturday slot with his strike-out prowess that leads the SBC with 13 struck-out looking of his 29 strikeouts on the season (3rd in the SBC).

Senior southpaw Jon Glidewell moves to Sunday with his 0.81 WHIP, 7.3 K/9 and .167 OBA for the closeout game.

The Busiest Man In Showbiz

Saying that Georgia Southern leans heavily on junior reliever Jason Richman would be an understatement. The lanky, submarining southpaw led the NCAA in appearances last season with 47 and is already off to a solid pace in 2014 with 12 so far. At 6’3” 205-pounds the lefty’s odd release angle makes for a difficult time picking up the ball out of his hand.

Richman has an 8.7 K/9 with a 1.11 WHIP while holding hitters just under .200 OBA. He’s tossed 27 innings in relief and is merely two-thirds of an inning behind innings-leader Challenger for the Eagles’ lead. The sophomore sets the game up for closer Chris Brown who has saved six games this season but has an elevated 6.57 ERA.

The junior strikes out 14.6 per nine with a 1.22 WHIP and a .196 OBA and is a challenging pitcher to solve in the late game and is effective at stopping opponents to preserve wins for the Eagles as he is responsible for saves in half of them this year.

…Drive ‘Em In

One of the most outstanding differences between the Eagles and the Red Wolves is in offensive efficiency. Georgia Southern is third in the SBC with 113 runs scored while A-State lingers at No. 7 with 90. However, if you average things out, A-State is actually averaging 0.1 runs MORE per game.

While the Red Wolves have run into some offensive problems of late, 41 percent of runners reaching base safely are scoring on the year compared to only 38 percent for the Eagles.

A-State is led by Ty White and Joe Schrimpf who have each driven in 13 on the year. Mizell is the RBI guy for the Eagles, but is protected in the lineup by Hunter Thomas (Jr., OF) and Chase Griffin (Sr., C) who are experienced, middle of the lineup hitters who have driven in 13 and 11 runs respectively.

Georgia Southern has an interesting mix with on-base guys hitting at both the top and bottom of the lineup with leadoff man Kody Adams (Sr., OF) setting the table at .328/.433/.423 and leading the team with 15 runs scored.

Yet, at the bottom of the lineup opponents will often encounter Logan Baldwin .404 OB% and Spencer Duffie .426 OB% in a lineup that gets on base a lot.

Running Away

Both squads are sitting in different situations in the SBC race and realize just how critical this series is to keeping pace in a wide open race. A-State looks to pounce on the Eagles in their home park and maintain its winning ways in Georgia on the season.

The Red Wolves will need to do a better job of containing Mizell than was done last weekend with Georgia State’s NCBWA National Player of the Week Ryan Blanton while finding ways to pile the hits up together and reestablish their early-season run-scoring pace.

Mark West covers the Sun Belt for College Baseball Central.