JONESBORO, Ark. (AStateRedWolves.com) — The Arkansas State Red Wolves baseball team returned to the field Monday as it officially began its fall practice.
Head coach Tommy Raffo is in his sixth season at A-State after directing the Red Wolves to a 28-31 record a year ago and two wins in the Sun Belt Conference tournament, a feat that the team has accomplished in each of the five previous seasons under his direction.
The Red Wolves return six position players that appeared in at least 40 games a year ago, including senior Dustin Jones who started every game at shortstop in 2013. Junior Collin Massanelli also returns after finishing second on the team in home runs and RBIs, while juniors Kaleb Brown and sophomores Austin Baker and Kevin Fitzpatrick return to patrol the outfield. Junior catcher Stuart Levy is back after starting 33 games behind the plate last season.
On the mound, senior Bradley Wallace returns after a masterful 2013 campaign in which he went 5-2 with 78 strikeouts. Junior left-hander Chandler Hawkins is coming off a summer in which he shined in the Jayhawk League. Hawkins was named the league's Most Outstanding Pitcher after going 7-2 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 appearances.
Sophomore David Owen is also coming off a stellar freshman season and continued his success into summer league action. Owen was named as an all-league player in the Jayhawk League and was named as one of the top-10 performers in the league by Baseball America after leading the league with six saves and posting a 0.61 ERA in 22 appearances.
A-State also welcomed back a pair of familiar faces in Zach George and Zach Maggio. George played in only nine games before suffering a season-ending injury at Sam Houston State, while Maggio missed all the 2013 season after having offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum.
In addition to the 19 returning players, A-State had 19 newcomers take the field on Monday. A-State signed eight players during the early signing period in November and added 11 more throughout the remainder of the year to help complete the roster.
Lucas Feddersen, Cody Jackson and Matt Burgess all transferred from Crowder Community College and figure to have large roles in the offense in the upcoming season. Feddersen hit .379 for Crowder last season and drove in 40 runs and swiped 16 bases. Burgess hit .343 last year with three home runs and 49 RBIs and earned NJCAA Player of the Week honors after belting two home runs against Oklahoma State College. Jackson worked primarily out of the bullpen and finished with 20 strikeouts in just 14.2 innings of work.
Other additions to the A-State roster include right-handed pitcher Tanner Gaines who transferred from Northeast Mississippi College after going 7-3 with a 1.93 ERA. Gaines originally signed with Mississippi State out of high school but transferred after his freshman season.
Right-handed pitcher Colton Kibler transferred from Garden City Community College where he allowed just four runs in 22 innings of work and was the only pitcher on the roster that did not take a loss in a decision in 2012. Outfielder Kenny Cummings transferred from Arkansas Baptist College and will provide outfield depth for A-State.
Incoming freshmen include Walnut Ridge High School standout Eric Wilcoxson, who helped lead the Bobcats to the Class 2A state semifinals and was a four-year all-conference selection. Tyler Hardie joins the squad as a catcher after spending time with the Ontario Blue Jays travel team and becoming the 19th ranked catching prospect in Canada.
Harrison High School standout Daltan Lovell will also become part of the battery after helping lead the Goblins to the Class 5A state semifinals and earning all-conference, all-state and all-state tournament honors in his senior season. Kevin Garner earned all-conference honors during his senior season at Little Rock Central and will provide depth on the infield, while Piggott High School product Tanner Murray earned all-state honors as a sophomore in 2011.
Practice will run through most of October and will culminate with the Red Wolves Series, which will be contested on a yet to be determined date.