ASU Baseball Opens Season At Auburn Invitational
at No. 23 Auburn (0-0, 0-0 SEC) - Friday, Feb. 18, 6 p.m.
Sr. RHP Andy Ferguson (5-5, 4.71 ERA) vs. So RHP Slade Smith (4-0, 4.65 ERA)
vs. UAB (0-0, 0-0 C-USA) - Saturday, Feb. 19, 5 p.m.
Jr. RHP Jacob Lee (8-3, 3.80 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Dillon Napoleon (JUCO)
vs. No. 13 Virginia (0-0, 0-0 ACC) - Sunday, Feb. 20, 11 a.m.
So. RHP Daniel Wright (3-3, 4.10 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Cody Winiarski (5-0, 4.68 ERA)
OPENING DAY : The Red Wolves open their 63rd season of intercollegiate baseball this weekend when ASU travels to the Auburn Invitational to face No. 23 Auburn, Alabama-Birmingham and No. 13 Virginia in the weekend tournament at Plainsman Park in Auburn, Ala. Friday's game against the host Tigers is set for 6 p.m. (CST), Saturday's contest against UAB is set for 5 p.m. and the Red Wolves tournament finale is set for 11 a.m. on Sunday. Doug Doggett will call the action for all three contests on the new home for ASU baseball 970 AM KNEA out of Jonesboro, Ark. Livestats and audio can be reached on the web at AstateRedWolves.com.
THE TEAMS: The Red Wolves will face three teams for the first time in its school history this weekend and two of the teams are ranked in No. 23 Auburn and No. 13 Virginia.
All three teams will open the season at the Auburn Invitational. First up for ASU will be Auburn who is hot off a SEC West Division Championship last season when they went 43-21 overall with a 20-10 in the SEC. Auburn led the nation with 131 home runs last year but lost their three top home run hitters. On the hill, Auburn posted a team ERA of 5.00 last year, with 484 strikeouts and 220 walks. ASU will face RHP Slade Smith who had a 4-0 record with a 4.65 ERA last season.
UAB were 28-25 last season posting a winning record for the second consecutive year. Facing ASU will be RHP Dillon Napolen who was a JUCO All-American last year going 12-0 for Heartland Community College. UAB returns five position players from last year's squad and both of their regular starters behind the plate. The Blazers have six returning pitchers and 18 newcomers on their roster. Brian Shoop is in his fifth year at UAB with a 110-118 record with the Blazers and owns a 802-425-1 career mark spanning 22 years.
Virginia spent most of last season ranked No. 1 in the nation posting a 51-14 overall mark and a 23-7 record in the ACC. The Cavaliers return 22 letterwinners from last season. Senior RHP Cody Winiarski (5-0, 4.68 ERA) is scheduled to take the hill agains the Red Wolves on Sunday. Last season, Virginia owned a team 3.89 ERA and only surrendered a .238 batting average to its opponents. Virginia is led by Brian O'Connor who enters his eighth year and owns a career record of 316-118-1.
SERIES: This will be the first meeting between ASU and all three of these schools.
LEE PRESEASON SBC PITCHER OF THE YEAR: Arkansas State junior starting pitcher Jacob Lee was named the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year announced the league last week. Lee also earned a Preseason All-Conference nod.
Lee is the top returning pitcher for the Red Wolves from last season whose pitching staff ranked third in the Sun Belt Conference. Lee had a team-best 3.80 ERA and worked to a 8-3 record including 92.1 innings pitched. Lee struck out a team-best 83 batters and held opponents to a .246 batting average. He owned a 6-2 record in league play and helped the Red Wolves to a 12-2 victory against Troy in the 2010 Sun Belt Conference tournament for which he earned all-tournament honors.
BAUMGARTNER EARNS ALL-CONFERENCE NOD: Senior outfielder Todd Baumgartner was named to the Sun Belt Conference preseason all-conference team. Baumgartner has one of the top returning bats for the Red Wolves and was a 2010 All-Sun Belt Conference selection. Last season, Baumgartner ranked second on the team with 42 RBI and had a .336 batting average. He also had 74 hits, 49 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. In the field, he was nearly perfect committing just one error in 112 chances for a .991 fielding percentage.
UAB CONNECTION: ASU head coach Tommy Raffo coached and played under UAB volunteer assistant coach Ron Polk at Mississippi State for a number of years. He was an assistant under coach for 11 years and a player for four years. Also, assistant coach Tighe Dickinson was a three-year letterwinner as a pitcher at UAB.
OPENERS UNDER RAFFO: Head coach Tommy Raffo, who enters his third year as Red Wolves skipper, is 3-3 in opening weekend series. Raffo has yet to lose a season opener beating Texas State 4-3 in 2009 and Southern Illinois 14-5 last year.
BASEBALL AMERICA ALL-SBC PRESEASON: Sophomore outfielder and junior RHP Jacob Lee earned preseason all-SBC honors by Baseball America. The Red Wolves were tabbed to finish sixth in the standings while Faulkner was called the best leadoff hitter in the league by Baseball America and Lee was tabbed as the second best pro prospect in the conference.
TOP RETURNERS: Although the Red Wolves lost its top bat from last year to the Kansas City Royals organization, ASU returns three of its top four batters from last year. Senior infielder Jordan Castaldo has ASU's top returning bat with a .363 batting average from last season. Castaldo had 74 hits with 30 runs scored and 39 RBI. Castaldo led ASU with 20 doubles and two home runs.
Todd Baumgartner was named preseason all-conference and ranks second among ASU returners with a .336 batting average with 84 hits, 49 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. He also was nearly perfect in the field with a .991 fielding percentage.
Michael Faulkner earned all-tournament honors last season after posting a .336 batting average which ranks second among returners and was third last year as a true freshman in 2010. Faulkner has 23 stolen bases last year and 55 runs scored on 81 hits. He also had 25 RBI.
On the hill, ASU gets a pair of hot starters back in senior Andy Ferguson and junior Jacob Lee, who was named SBC Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Ferguson started in 15 games for the Red Wolves and made 16 appearances overall as the Red Wolves usual Friday night starter, he led the Red Wolves starters with 101.1 innings pitched surrendering just 118 hits and 53 earned runs for a 4.71 ERA and is one of the Red Wolves top returning pitchers from last year. He pitched one complete game and shared a shutout. Walked just 30 batters on the year and held opposing batters to just .291 batting average while recording 74 strikeouts
DICKINSON NAMED ASSISTANT COACH: Dickinson brings 10 years of coaching experience to the Red Wolves including four years at the Division I level working as a pitching coach at the University of Washington. During his career, Dickinson has worked with numerous Major League Baseball prospects including 2010 MLB All-Stars Tim Lincecum, John Lester and Evan Meek.
Overall, Dickinson coached 13 drafted pitchers including a first and second round pick while at Washington. Dickinson served as an assistant coach at Montesano High School in 2009-10 where he led the squad to a 21-4 first-place league finish and an appearance in the state playoffs.
Prior to his appointment at Washington, Dickinson served as head coach at Edmonds Community College where he led the squad to a third-place finish in the NWAACC Tournament and a 75-16 record as head coach, including a 40-8 conference mark.
Dickinson also served as head coach at Skyline High School in Issaquah in 2003, guiding the team to a 14-7 overall mark and a 13-5 conference record. He also served as pitching coach at Edmonds CC in 2000 and 2001.
Aside from his work at Edmonds and Skyline, Dickinson has also served as pitching coach at Taylor Baseball, a top youth summer program, since 2001. Taylor took third place in the national AAU tournament in 2001 and in 2002, finished second at the USA Baseball Federation national tournament. During the 2005 summer season, Taylor finished second at the USABF World Series and completed the season with a 59-7-1 record.
A native of Aberdeen, Wash., Dickinson graduated from Montesano High in 1994. After one year at Green River CC, he played three seasons of college baseball as a pitcher at Alabama-Birmingham, lettering in 1996, 1997 and 1998. In 1999, he earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education from UAB.
WREN NAMED VOLUNTEER ASSISTANT COACH: A native of Hattiesburg, Miss., Wren joins the ASU staff after spending the last six years as owner and instructor of Wren Baseball and Softball Academy in Hattiesburg. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at Petal (Miss.) High School, where he coached the school's hitters to the highest team batting average in school history during the 2003-04 season. Following his time at Petal High School, Wren was the offensive manager and hitting coach for the Baton Rouge River Bats, an independent professional team in Baton Rouge, La.
Wren began his collegiate baseball career at Southern Mississippi, where he was named a freshman All-American following the 1996 season and first-team All-Conference USA following the 1997 season. He transferred to Mississippi State prior to his senior season and earned first-team All-SEC honors and third-team All-America honors as a first baseman following the 1999 season.
Following his career at Mississippi State, Wren was drafted in the 33rd round by the Los Angeles Dodgers and spent three seasons in the Dodgers organization, playing for the Yakima Bears, the Vero Beach Dodgers and the Los Angeles Dodgers during 2001 spring training.