A-State is set to host the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks who have had an interesting season to say the least. After a rocky start that included a 1-5 conference start in which ULM was outscored 66-17, the university made an unprecedented mid-season coaching change, replacing then head coach Jeff Schexnaider with assistant coach, and former New Orleans head coach Bruce Peddie.
Since the change in command, ULM has gone 6-3 against Sun Belt competition to climb out of the cellar and into the midst of the conference race. The Warhawks swept UALR and took 2-of-3 from Texas State down in Monroe while dropping 2-of-3 at UT Arlington since Peddie took charge.
ULM has outscored Sun Belt competition 78-70 during this stretch and brings momentum into Jonesboro hoping to knock Arkansas State off its' perch. However, the Red Wolves are riding a little confidence having just won a series in Mobile for the first time.
A-State is tops in the state of Arkansas in RPI at 50 (Arkansas 74, UALR 144, UCA 116, UAPB 274) but have fallen into second for strength of schedule at 58 (UALR 49, Arkansas 78, UCA 145, UAPB 285). Seems it would help the group out west's RPI and SOS to play some in-state Sun Belt foes.
ULM's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .293 average and 7.4 runs a game while A-State is hitting .271 and is scoring 5.8 runs a game. The Warhawks have given up 134 extra-base hits on the year including 36 home runs while the Red Wolves have hit 84 extra-base hits with nine home runs.
A-State's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .256 average and 4.5 runs a game as ULM is hitting .240 and scoring 5.1 runs a game. The Red Wolves have allowed 74 extra-base hits, 14 of which are long balls while the Warhawks have hit 91 extra-base hits with 20 home runs.
ULM has transformed from a passive power offense into an aggressive power offense. Part of this has been a philosophical change, the other is that their main guy Dalton Herrington has emerged from his early season slump like Godzilla from the ocean. Herrington leads ULM in runs (35), doubles (10), home runs (t6), RBI (26), walks (22), on base percentage (.394) and steals (15). Herrington is second in total bases (68) and slugging percentage (.496).
Herrington isn't the only power bat in the Warhawk lineup as Justin Stawychny leads in average (.291), hits (t43), home runs (t6), total bases (75) and slugging percentage (.507). Chet Simoneaux has four homers and Keelin Rasch has three with a .395 slugging percentage and 68 total bases. Kodie Tidwell, reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week, is a solid average and on base guy with a .283 average, 20 walks and a .387 on base percentage. Anthony Herrera is a spark plug in the lead-off spot with a .386 on base percentage.
Pitching has been a weakness for the Warhawks, especially in the pen, the only exception being closer Tyler Bray who has five saves, a 2.95 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP while allowing a .237 opponent average. Bray averages 11.0 strike outs and 2.2 walks per nine innings pitched in 36.2 innings on 22 appearances.
Red Wolves Impressions
Arkansas State has endured a first half schedule against three of the best pitching staffs in the conference with UALR, South Alabama and Texas State sitting at two, three and four in ERA and have faced five of the top 10 ERA pitchers in the conference. This week A-State faces the lowest staff ERA in the conference in ULM at 6.01 on the year.
Offensively, A-State is getting contributions across the lineup. Stuart Levy, Matt Burgess and Zach Maggio are hitting over .300. Levy, Burgess and Baker are over .400 in slugging percentage while Levy, Maggio and Baker are over .400 in on base percentage. Levy leads the team in hitting (.315) and doubles (10). Burgess leads in hits (46), RBI (37) and sac flies (5).
Lucas Feddersen and Dustin Jones are tied for the lead with eight sac hits on the year. Then comes Austin Baker who leads in runs (33), triples (4), home runs (6), total bases (60), slugging percentage (.489), walks (30) and on base percentage (.412).
Eric Wilcoxson continues his surge into the lineup the last couple of weeks, he has 11 hits with six of them being for extra bases with a .289 average with a .500 slugging percentage and .482 on base percentage. In 58 total plate appearances, Wilcoxson has been on base 27 times with 13 walks and 10 RBI.
In the pen A-State has used Colton Kibler 19 times for a 2.70 ERA and .189 OBA, Cody Woodhouse has 15 appearances with a 2.27 ERA and .240 OBA. Tyler Zuber has 13 appearances with a 1.82 ERA and .209 OBA. When these relievers are able to bridge the game the closer Morgan Croft rolls in with seven saves on the year posting a 3.41 ERA and a .229 OBA.
Game 1, Friday 5:00 PM
A-State – David Owen (So., RHP) 4-2, 4.47 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .262 OBA
Owen has lost his last two starts, both on the road at Western Kentucky and at South Alabama, and recorded his shortest outing of the season last week allowing five runs, four earned over 2.1 innings pitched. Owen has two quality starts on the season, both since moving in the Friday night role. Owen averages 8.9 strike outs and 3.1 walks per nine innings.
ULM – Alex Hermeling (RSo., RHP) 1-4, 5.27 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, .267 OBA
Hermeling moved into the Friday night role last week and was hit hard allowing seven runs, six earned, on eight hits and a walk to Texas State in the series opening loss. On the season ‘Mav' has four quality starts for ULM coming back off a red-shirt season in which he underwent Tommy John surgery. ‘Herm' averages 6.8 strike outs and 4.8 walks per nine innings pitched.
Game 2, Saturday 6:00 PM
A-State – Bryan Ayers (Fr., RHP) 1-1, 3.18 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .208 OBA
Ayers is getting a weekend start for the first time in his young career at A-State. Ayers' first start was at SEMO in which he allowed two earned runs over four innings pitched in his first loss, but rebounded to hurl six scoreless against UCA to improve to 1-1. As a starter, Ayers has a 1.80 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP with 8.1 strike outs and 5.4 walks per nine innings. Overall, Ayers averages 7.5 strike outs and 5.2 walks per nine innings pitched.
ULM – Chad Miller (Sr., LHP) 2-1, 4.82 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, .263 OBA
Miller is the ERA leader among Warhawk starters but has yet to record a quality start or get through the sixth inning in a single start. Miller has been roughed up in his last three starts allowing six runs, five earned in 3.1 innings to UALR; four runs, none earned, over 5.2 innings to UT Arlington; and six runs, five earned over 4.2 innings to Texas State. Miller averages 4.8 strike outs and 2.7 walks per nine innings pitched.
Game 3, Sunday 1:00 PM
Arkansas State – Bradley Wallace (Sr., RHP) 3-3, 4.06 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, .287 OBA
Wallace leads the team with four quality starts on the year, his first being in his first start of the season and the other three coming in his last three starts. Over those three starts Wallace has a 0.90 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and has 5.6 strike outs and 1.8 walks per nine innings. Overall Wallace has 7.1 strike outs and 3.2 walks per nine innings.
ULM – Chris Hunt (Jr., RHP) 2-2, 4.91 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, .289 OBA
Hunt's last two starts have both seen solid allowing two earned runs in each to FIU and Texas State. Hunt recorded two quality starts early in the season including an eight-inning effort in defeating Michigan State but hasn't made it through the fifth inning in his last five outings. Hunt averages 6.3 strike outs and 3.8 walks per nine innings.
A-State will have a solid challenge to win this Sun Belt series and stem the tide the ULM is riding. The Red Wolves should be able to outpitch the Warhawks and have been better defensively on the year.
I will be covering the Red Wolves action for College Baseball Central at http://collegebaseballcentral.com/sun-belt/arkansas-state/
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