College Baseball

Jackrabbits look to clean things up in back half of season

By Andrew Holtan

The Brookings Register

Posted 4/11/24

It’s been an up-and-down season so far for the South Dakota State baseball team. The Jackrabbits have 23 games left on their schedule and they sit at 14-16 overall and 6-5 in the Summit League.

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College Baseball

Jackrabbits look to clean things up in back half of season


BROOKINGS — It's been an up-and-down season so far for the South Dakota State baseball team. The Jackrabbits have 23 games left on their schedule and they sit at 14-16 overall and 6-5 in the Summit League.

SDSU was 7-10 when it opened conference play with a three-game series at defending conference champion Oral Roberts. The Jacks swept the series against the Golden Eagles and it looked like they were going to end up being the favorite in the Summit League.

The Jacks followed that with a two-game split against St. Thomas and then were swept by Northern Colorado. In the UNC series SDSU gave up 64 runs in the three games.

SDSU then hit the road for a three-game series with North Dakota State this past weekend and took two out of three. SDSU head coach Rob Bishop said he’s liked the way his team has played throughout the season other than the series with the Bears.

“We’ve been playing pretty good baseball and just had the one hiccup against UNC. … The Northern Colorado series, you’re going to get beat in some series and not be happy about it, but for us and for me, getting swept is the hard part. We need to win the series, and when we aren’t playing well and a team is hot, we have to win at least a game and not have a big three-game swing,” Bishop said.

SDSU’s offense has been solid so far this season, as the Jackrabbits are second in hitting in the Summit League with an average of .282. They lead the conference in home runs by a wide margin with 47 and lead the league in doubles as well.

Junior outfielder Cael Frost, a transfer from Kirkwood Community College (Iowa), is the leader of the Jackrabbit offense. He’s second in the conference in batting average at .385 and the league leader in home runs with 14.

Senior first baseman Dawson Parry has been a big stick for the Jacks as well. He’s hitting .331 and leads the conference in runs batted in with 44.

Bishop said Frost and Parry have been consistent throughout the season, but he’s been more happy with the rest of his lineup, who have been able to contribute a lot as well.

“I think we have some veteran guys that have been pretty dang consistent [offensively],” Bishop said. “With Dawson Parry, Cael Frost, Reece Anderson and Jess Bellows. But we also have had Jordan Sagedahl jump up and be pretty good recently. Both of our catchers, [Dagen] Schramm and [Davis] Carr have been good. Bryce Ronken has done a good job and so has Cade Stuff.

“So, it’s kind of been a different guy each day a little bit. Our good guys have been good, but it hasn’t been a one or two man show. We’ve had a lot of guys contribute and I think that’s what we need.”

Sixth-year senior Nic McCay returned to the mound this season and has been the catalyst of the Jackrabbit pitching staff. He’s missed three full seasons (2020, 2021, 2023) due to injury and in this comeback season he’s making a case to be the Summit League Pitcher of the Year.

McCay is leading the Summit League in earned run average at 2.27 and is second in the conference in strikeouts with 58. He’s also second in the Summit League in opponents batting average as opposing batters are hitting .205 against him. In total he’s allowed just 10 runs in 39.2 innings.

Bishop said it’s been special to see McCay pitch so well after the injuries he’s gone through.

“It’s awesome personally for Nic [to have this success] because he’s just been through so much and it’s a great perseverance story for him to get back and get to pitch at all. Then to see him pitch at this level, he’s been really, really good so far and has worked hard for it,” Bishop said.

Overall the Jackrabbit pitching staff has been up and down. As a team they have an ERA of 6.98, which is second in the Summit League. However, SDSU is second from the bottom in opponents batting average (.291) and lead the conference in walks (209).

Bishop said he has confidence that his staff as a whole can put things together in the final five weeks of the season.

“I think [Dylan] Driessen and [Alex] Celmons have been either really good or struggled in the back of the game, but they have really good stuff. Those two guys are capable of being wipe out type of guys, which we’ve seen you need in this league. You need a closer or two that can do a good job. Reece Argbogast is just as solid as ever. … Jake Goble had a tremendous year last year and started this year good. He had a couple hiccups here the last couple of weeks, but he’ll get back on track,” Bishop said.

SDSU will travel to Omaha this weekend for a three-game series. That will be the first of six remaining series in conference play.
Right now St. Thomas sits atop the conference with a 5-3 record. NDSU is in second (5-4), SDSU is third (6-5) and Omaha is fourth (6-6). Northern Colorado (5-6-1) and Oral Roberts (4-7-1) round out the bottom of the league.

Bishop said the conference is as wide open as it’s ever been and there’s no reason the Jackrabbits can’t win the Summit League Tournament in May.

“I think the big picture, kind of boring answer is, we have to play a little bit cleaner,” Bishop said. “We’ve had some games where we make no errors and do everything right defensively and we really play good baseball, and then we have games where we’re walking guys and giving up free bases and have just been inconsistent.

“So, it all starts on the mound. If you have a guy go out there and pound the [strike] zone and get the pace of the game going well, that really helps you. Any team is capable of winning the Summit League this year. … The best version of us is capable of winning this league and playing in a regional, and that’s my expectations and what I’m hoping for.”