ARKANSAS STATE RED WOLVES (27-19, 15-7)
vs. Florida International Golden Panthers (29-20, 13-11)
May 11-13, 2012 6:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. & 11:00 a.m.
Tomlinson Stadium & Kell Field (1,200) Jonesboro, Arkansas
Radio: 95.3 FM & KNEA 970 AM & AStateRedWolves.com
LiveStats at AStateRedWolves.com
LEADING OFF: The Arkansas State Red Wolves (27-19, 15-7) return to Sun Belt Conference action this weekend when they host the Golden Panthers of Florida International (29-20, 13-11) in the final home Sun Belt Conference weekend series of the season. With six games remaining, Arkansas State is alone in second place in the Sun Belt Conference standings, one game behind league-leading Florida Atlantic. FIU is in third place in the league standings, four games out of first place. The series is scheduled to get underway Friday at 6:00 p.m. Saturday's first pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m., with Senior Day festivities being held shortly before gametime. Sunday's game three has been moved to an 11:00 a.m. start to accommodate FIU's travel back to Miami. All ASU baseball games may be heard on 95.3 FM and KNEA 970 AM, and through the StateZone portion of AStateRedWolves.com. LiveStats and video may also be accessed by logging on to AStateRedWolves.com.
THE TEAMS: Arkansas State will take the field Friday on a four-game win streak after defeating UAPB 7-3 Tuesday afternoon in North Little Rock. The win streak began last weekend when ASU swept South Alabama in a three-game SBC series in Jonesboro. The Red Wolves defeated South Alabama 8-1 in Friday night's game, 6-1 in the Saturday affair and 2-1 in the Sunday finale. The ASU pitching staff was outstanding in the series, holding the Jags to just three runs and a .149 batting average over the weekend. Senior Jacob Lee leads the ASU pitching staff with an ERA of 2.86 that ranks third in the league. Lee ranks fifth in the SBC with 66 strikeouts. Offensively, the Red Wolves are led by third baseman Claude Johnson, who leads the team with a .357 batting average and a team-high 13 doubles. Left fielder Logan Uxa is hitting .304 and leads ASU with eight home runs. Center fielder Michael Faulkner is among the nation's leaders in stolen bases, swiping 33 bases on 34 attempts this season. Freshman right fielder Collin Massanelli is hitting .337 on the year and has reached base in a team-high 27 consecutive games - every game in which he has played as a Red Wolf. FIU, the preseason SBC co-favorite to win the conference championship, enters the game at 29-20 on the season and 13-11 in league action. The Golden Panthers have won four of their last five games, including a 15-3 win at Bethune-Cookman Wednesday night and a 2-1 series victory over Middle Tennessee last weekend in Miami. FIU's pitching staff leads the league with an ERA of 3.89 and the Panthers are second in the Sun Belt with a team batting average of .292. Hitting .400 on the year, third baseman Mike Martinez leads the league and is the only player in the conference hitting .400 or better on the season. Preseason SBC Player of the Year Pablo Bermudez is hitting .306, outfielder Jabari Henry is hitting .308 and is second in the league with 12 home runs and fourth with 44 RBIs, and outfielder Nathan Burns leads the league with eight triples and is hitting .314. Saturday's scheduled starter on the mound, Michael Ellis, is third in the league with 70 strikeouts, and has the ninth-best ERA in the league at 3.33. Friday's starter, Eddy Pidermann, is 8-1 on the year and his ERA of 3.11 ranks fifth.
THE FIU SERIES: Florida International leads the series 25-19-1, including a series victory last year in Miami when the Golden Panthers won two of three games. FIU defeated the Red Wolves 3-2 in the Friday game and 6-1 in Saturday's contest, but the two teams played to an 8-8 tie in Sunday's game. The last ASU series victory came during the 2010 season when the Red Wolves won two of three games in Jonesboro.
QUICK HITS: The ASU pitching staff leads the Sun Belt Conference in fewest hits allowed with 406 and fewest runs allowed with 227...third baseman Claude Johnson's batting average of .357 ranks fifth in the SBC...senior pitcher Jacob Lee ranks third in the SBC with an ERA of 2.86 and fifth in strikeouts with 66...the Red Wolves have committed 50 errors on the season, the fewest in the SBC...senior center fielder Michael Faulkner leads the league with 33 stolen bases on 34 attempts, and his four steals against Missouri State April 4 are the most for any player in a single game in the Sun Belt this season...junior John Koch is second in the Sun Belt with nine saves...junior Daniel Wright has picked off five runners, tops in the league...with their 27 victories heading into this weekend's action, the Red Wolves have already matched their total for last season...with seven regular season games and at least three SBC Tournament games left to be played, the Red Wolves are within striking distance of a 30-victory season. The Red Wolves won 30 games during the 2010 season, which is the most in head coach Tommy Raffo's four years at ASU...with one more conference victory, the Red Wolves will have matched the second-most league wins in school history. The 2010 ASU squad finished 16-14, and 16 conference victories is second only to the 20-victory season posted by the 1995 A-State team.
NATIONAL HONORS: After holding South Alabama to just one run in each game of last weekend's Sun Belt Conference series sweep, the Arkansas State pitching staff has been named InsidePitching.com's National Pitching Staff of the Week. Arkansas State used just six pitchers over the weekend, giving up a total of just three runs in the Red Wolves' first-ever series sweep of South Alabama. The Jaguars went into the weekend with the league's best batting average at .326 in conference games, but ASU pitchers Jacob Lee, Daniel Wright, Cory Kyle, Brandon Farley, John Koch and Bradley Wallace held the Jags to a .149 average, allowing just 13 hits while striking out 14 batters. The ASU pitching staff is directed by second-year coach Tighe Dickinson and holds a team ERA of 4.23. Lee went seven innings to get the win in Friday's 8-1 victory, allowing just four hits and one run while striking out three and walking four. Farley came on in the eighth and Koch in the ninth, and neither allowed a baserunner in the final two frames. In the Saturday contest, Wright gave up one run on five hits, struck out four, walked just two and retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced to pick up the win in the 6-1 ASU victory, giving the Red Wolves their first series victory over the Jaguars since the 2009 season. His seven innings of work in the game tied his career high. Farley and Koch again worked the final two innings and combined to give up no runs on one hit and one walk, with one strikeout. Kyle put the Red Wolves in position to get the 2-1 win in Sunday's finale, giving up the one South Alabama run on just one hit in seven innings of work, the longest outing of his career. Kyle struck out five batters and walked three, setting the stage for Wallace to work the final two innings to pick up the win. Wallace struck out one and did not issue a walk over the final two frames, giving up two hits to improve to 3-1 on the season.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Following their three-game sweep of Sun Belt Conference foe South Alabama May 4-6, the Arkansas State Red Wolves were named Honorable Mention Team of the Week by CollegeBaseballInsiders.com. The Red Wolves held South Alabama, the league's top-hitting team in league play going into the weekend at .326, to just one run in each of the three games, winning 8-1 in the Friday night contest, 6-1 in the Saturday game and 2-1 in the Sunday finale. ASU pitchers Jacob Lee, Daniel Wright, Cory Kyle, Brandon Farley, John Koch and Bradley Wallace combined to hold the Jags to a .149 average, allowing just 13 hits while striking out 14 batters. The Red Wolves wrapped up the sweep by rallying from a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the ninth in Sunday's contest, getting a walk-off single from pinch-hitter Alex Potts to drive in the winning run.
POTTS COMES THROUGH: Trailing 1-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Red Wolves rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning, getting a walk-off RBI single from pinch-hitter Alex Potts to defeat the South Alabama Jaguars 2-1 May 6 in the Sun Belt Conference series finale between the two teams at Tomlinson Stadium and Kell Field. The Potts' single helped the Red Wolves sweep the Jaguars in the three-game series. For his efforts, he was named CollegeSportsMadness.com's Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week May 8.
BERTH SECURED: With their 2-1 victory over South Alabama May 6, Arkansas State assured itself of a victory in the eight-team Sun Belt Conference Tournament scheduled for May 23-27 in Bowling Green, Ky. Arkansas State is assured of no worse than the No. 6 seed in the eight-team field, and can clinch at least the No. 2 spot with a series victory at home over next weekend's opponent, Florida International.