FROM SFA ATHLETICS
NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release) –Returning home following their first Southland Conference series sweep in three years, the Stephen F. Austin aims to keep their hot streak going by starting up a four-game homestand with a Tuesday night tussle against Little Rock. A winner in his previous outing that evened his 2016 record at 2-2, senior southpaw Eric Polivka takes the hill for the 'Jacks in their final non-conference home game of the regular season.
#22 Eric Polivka, SFA (Sr., LHP, 2-2, 7.04 ERA) vs. #32 Joe Corbett (Fr., RHP, 3-1, 7.26 ERA)
Scouting the Trojans • Roster • Schedule • Statistics
Head Coach | Chris Curry (Arkansas Tech, '08)
Year/at Little Rock | Second/Same
Record/at Little Rock | 37-53 (.411)/Same
Synopsis | One of the best teams in the Sun Belt Conference, Little Rock has secured series wins in all but two of their seven 2016 Sun Belt sets to sit in third place in the conference standings heading into their midweek showdown with Stephen F. Austin. The Trojans have not been faced with much difficulty on the road as of late, winning five of their last seven engagements away from Little Rock including a three-game sweep of league adversary Texas State in San Marcos on April 15-16. In their only other showdown with a Southland Conference foe in 2016, Little Rock wound up on the wrong end of a 6-1 tally against Central Arkansas back on April 13. Even though the Trojans didn't come up on the winning side of that tilt with an SLC opponent, they send freshman Joe Corbett to the mound who boasts a record of 3-1 as well as a 7.26 ERA in his first collegiate campaign. Two of the wins racked up by Corbett have come at the expense of non-conference opponents and he is one of three players on Little Rock's roster to have made eight or more starts in 2016. Offensively, the two best hitters in the Sun Belt have helped lift the Trojans to first in the league with a team batting average of .298. Together, Ryan Scott .448/.526/.718) and Dalton Thomas (.397/.440/.586) have driven in 92 of Little Rock's 249 runs – translating to a total of almost 37-percent. Between the two of them, 16 of the Trojans' 25 home runs and 41.3-percent (43) of their 104 extra-base hits are represented.
Overall vs. Little Rock | 9-8 (.529)
In Nacogdoches, Texas | 4-4 (.500)
In Little Rock, Ark. | 5-3 (.625)
Last Meeting | SFA won, 8-0, in Little Rock, Ark. (3/31/15)
Last 10 Games | 6-4 (.600)
Cardenas vs. Little Rock | 6-4 (.600)
Curry vs. Stephen F. Austin | 0-1 (.000)
Having already experienced success against the Trojans by way of an 8-0 win in Little Rock a season ago, Polivka returns to the mound to face the 'Jacks' Natural State rivals in Nacogdoches a little over a year removed from firing five innings of five-hit ball to pick up his first win of 2015. In that game, then-junior Matthew Dickey went 4-for-4 in the leadoff spot and also scored a pair of runs while drawing a walk. Kyle Thornell drove in a pair and struck for a triple and Austin Smith worked one inning of relief for the 'Jacks.
Movin' On Up
By winning five of their last six Southland Conference games, SFA has risen from 10th place in the league standings to the all-important eighth-place slot. With six conference tilts remaining, the 'Jacks must maintain or improve on their eighth-place standing to punch their ticket to the Southland Conference Tournament in late May. All of the 'Jacks final six SLC games will take place at Jaycees Field, giving SFA an advantage in the race to the playoffs.
Unquestionably the most lethal hitter in the Southland Conference over the past two weeks, senior Kyle Thornell joined Southeastern Louisiana's Jameson Fisher as the only batter to win back-to-back SLC Hitter of the Week awards in the past two seasons when the Magnolia, Texas, product took home his second weekly honor on Monday afternoon. Leading the 'Jacks on a four-game winning streak last week, Thornell batted .600, slugged 1.400 and finished with an on-base percentage of .700. Over his last seven games, Thornell has belted six home runs and went yard in three of SFA's four games last week to hike his season long ball total to nine - the most on the team and the third-highest in the league. In addition to that, the rest of his numbers have increased substantially as he ranks eighth in the Southland Conference batting average (.357), second in doubles (14), fourth in RBI (41), third in total bases (100), seventh in walks (25), second in on-base percentage (.474) and third in slugging percentage (.649). For his career, Thornell has hammered 20 home runs - the seventh-most all-time in SFA history.
I'll Take That
A speedster on the basepaths, senior Matthew Dickey victimized the Abilene Christian battery on Sunday afternoon, swiping three bags in SFA's 7-2 win. It marks the second time in his collegiate career that the outfielder has swindled a trio of bases in a single game and his 2016 stolen base total now stands at 10 - the third-most in the Southland Conference.
A trio of freshmen - Tyler Starks, Austin Hearn and Seth Campbell - combined to shut down Abilene Christian, securing the first SLC sweep for SFA since 2013. In his first collegiate start, Starks punched out seven through five innings of work before giving way to Hearn who held the Wildcats scoreless through three frames. From there, Campbell took the ball in the ninth and struck out the side to preserve the win. Starks improved to 3-1 and lowered his team-best ERA to 1.61.
SFA in the National Rankings
Below is how the 'Jacks stack up in various statistical categories among all other NCAA Division I baseball teams this season:
Team | Batting average • .301 • 33rd | Runs per game • 7.0 • 35th | Runs • 308 • 35th | Hits • 462 • 30th | Triples • 15 • 36th | Slugging Percentage • .447 • 38th | On Base Percentage • .394 • 30th
Individual | Kyle Thornell • Slugging Percentage • .649 • 34th | Nick Ramos • Sacrifice Flies • 6.0 • 9th | Toughest to Strike Out • Conner Fikes • 10th
Don't Forget About Us
Even though Kyle Thornell has been the story for the past couple of weeks, the 'Jacks are hardly a one-man team. Thornell isn't even the top batting threat SFA boasts as it has Conner Fikes and Garrett McMullen - who ranks first and second respectively among the SFA regulars with batting averages of .359 and .358. Two other SFA players - Tyler Kendrick and Zac Michener - are hitting at clips of .342 and .340 respectively. In all, SFA boasts three of the top ten batting average in the Southland Conference.