BROOKINGS – The South Dakota State baseball team’s season was cut short last week. It was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Jackrabbits had played 17 games this season and were 5-12 overall. They were set to begin Summit League play at Oral Roberts before the cancellation.
One thing that led to the Jacks rough start was injuries. They had many players suffer injuries before the season and that led to them having to play a lot of young players. SDSU head coach Rob Bishop said even with the poor start, he liked the direction the team was going in.
“We had Tyler Olmstead and Nick McCay, two guys in the roatation, go down before the season even started. So we had tons of adversity early. Really what I was seeing was that our freshmen, a bunch of the guys that I was expecting to not have to play a huge role in our pitching staff, were making huge strides and were stepping up into a much bigger role. I still am really excited about that. Just the promise that we showed there. I thought we had a bunch of games early that we were in a position to win, but just didn’t. We also had wins against Minnesota and Kansas State. Mostly I was just optimistic about where things were going,” Bishop said.
The cancellation of the season was not SDSU’s decision. The NCAA announced that they would be canceling all spring sports for the remainder of the season. Bishop said this was a very difficult thing to process.
“My initial reaction was the same as everyone’s. We initially got the word that we were halted. So we were disappointed, but at that point we didn’t think the whole thing was going to be canceled and then it just kind of quickly escalated. … My main concern was just for my guys and especially for the seniors. Just to make sure that they’re ok and honestly I think most of those guys are still in a bit of shock,” Bishop said.
The NCAA announced that any senior that played a spring sport could fill out a waiver and could be granted another year of eligibility. SDSU had eight seniors on the team. Four of those seniors were pitchers.
“We have a couple seniors that maybe have a semester left of school or maybe even a little bit more than that, that would probably come back to finish school anyway. I would assume that those guys are coming back. We haven’t gotten into any lengthy discussions on that. Just because we’re trying to keep the guys focused on finishing up their school work. Trying get those guys just to focus on what’s in front of them and take care of school and take a little time to let the shock wear off. So when they are ready to make the decision they’re doing it not from an emotional standpoint,” Bishop said.
Junior Gus Steiger led the team in batting average as he hit .321 with five doubles, two triples and six runs batted in. Senior Josh Falk and junior Drew Beazley led the team with two home runs each.
Freshman Eli Sundquist started two games for the Jacks. He had a 3-1 record with a 6.59 earned run average. Senior Brett Mogen appeared in eight games. He pitched 21 innings with a 2.14 ERA and one save. Sundquist led the team with 19 strikeouts.
Bishop said his players need to take what they learned in this short season into this offseason if they want to be successful next season.
“The young guys got a taste of just how fast the game is at our level and how difficult it is to hit against Division I pitching,” Bishop said. “Hopefully that will kind of set the bar for where they need to improve. … They know what they need to improve from a baseball stand point. Really it’s just physicality and strength. Just continuing to work on improving overall.”