'Jacks' postseason hopes to be determined in final regular season series vs. Houston Baptist

'Jacks' postseason hopes to be determined in final regular season series vs. Houston Baptist

SFA Athletics

NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)

• For the second time in as many years, the postseason hopes of the Stephen F. Austin baseball team will come down to how the ‘Jacks perform in the final week of the regular season. SFA closes out its regular season slate with a three-game home series against surging Houston Baptist who comes to Jaycees Field already locked into a spot in the 2017 Southland Conference Tournament as the third-place team in the league standings. The series is presented by Tipton Ford. 
• Currently the ‘Jacks are tied with Nicholls for seventh place in the Southland Conference standings. The Colonels, however, own the tiebreaker over SFA as a result of a 2-1 head-to-head record and would be the seventh seed for the Southland Conference Tournament if the two teams remain tied at the end of the weekend. SFA owns a one-game lead over ninth-place New Orleans for the eighth and final spot in the league’s postseason tournament.
• If a tiebreaker scenario is necessary between SFA and New Orleans, SFA would need to win all three game against Houston Baptist to come out ahead of the Privateers. As of this writing, SFA would not come out ahead in a head-to-head tiebreaker scenario against Lamar, Central Arkansas, Nicholls or New Orleans per the Southland Conference’s tiebreaker policies. The only team that the ‘Jacks do own a head-to-head tiebreaker against is Sam Houston State after they took two out of three against the Bearkats earlier in the season. To view the Southland Conference’s tie-breaker procedures, click here.
• Following a 6-2 win at fourth-ranked TCU on Wednesday, April 25, SFA has gone just 1-8 since, slipping down to seventh place in the league standings. One of the reasons for that slide has been a lack of productive innings from its starting pitchers. During the 1-8 span, the ‘Jacks have received only one quality start (six or more innings, three or fewer opponent runs) and that came from senior Patrick Ledet in a game where he suffered the loss after surrendering just one run in seven innings of work against Southeastern Louisiana.

This weekend’s series with Houston Baptist marks the final home appearance of the ‘Jacks’ 14-member senior class. The members of SFA’s senior class include Conner FikesGavin GregoryJarred GreeneAustin HagyChris HassoldAlex HrinevichClark KahawaiiTyler KendrickPatrick LedetZac MichenerErik NouisNick RamosStephen Stuart and Ryan Thomas. Each member of the ‘Jacks’ senior class will be recognized in a special ceremony following the conclusion of the final game of the series.

• Heading into the tail end of his first season at an NCAA Division I institution, junior power hitter Josh Evans has distinguished himself as one of the top hitters in all of baseball.
• The Ponca City, Oklahoma, product leads the Southland Conference in both batting average (.406) and slugging percentage (.684) and ranks eighth in the league in on-base percentage (.449). He is one of just three players in the league to rank among the top ten in all three of those categories and nationally his slash line of .406/.449/.684 ranks fifth/117th/18th among all NCAA Division I baseball players. 
• Evans leads SFA with 10 homers and has driven in 36 runs - the second-highest total among the ‘Jacks’ ranks. In all, 17 of his 54 hits (31.5-percent) hits have gone for extra bases.

• Following two seasons as an infielder for SFA, junior Will Vest
 made the transition to pitcher in 2017 and has turned into one of the most valuable bullpen pieces in the league. 
• Vest is second in the Southland Conference and 32nd nationally with 28 appearances out of the ‘Jacks’ bullpen and the hard-throwing righty has posted a 3-0 record with an enviable 1.34 ERA. In 40.1 frames of work, the Houston, Texas, product has struck out 44 batters and given up just six earned runs on 29 hits.

The ‘Jacks’ pitching staff ranks second in the Southland Conference in total strikeouts (411) and leads the league in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (8.3). In the latter category, SFA ranks 73rd nationally and with seven more strikeouts SFA’s 2017 pitching staff will set a new single-season program record for strikeouts.

At the plate, SFA’s hitters are the least strikeout prone in the Southland Conference. As a team, the ‘Jacks have struck out 273 times and are one of two league teams who have fewer than 300 strikeouts in 2017. Houston Baptist is the other and the Huskies have fanned only 296 times as a team.

Two of the players who ranks among the nation’s toughest to strike out are all regulars in SFA’s lineup. Senior Conner Fikes
 is second in the Southland Conference and ranks sixth nationally in the toughest to strikeout category, going down on strike just once every 18.9 at-bats. Josh Evans (10.1) is sixth in the Southland Conference and 105th nationally in that category.

Seniors Conner Fikes
 and Nick Ramos are in a race to see who will become SFA’s newest leader in career hits. Currently, the record for most hits in a career is held by Hunter Dozier who totaled 227 during his time an an SFA uniform (2011-13). Fikes is at 224 career hits and needs four more to pass Dozier while Ramos’ hit total stands at 220 and he needs eight more to reach the record first.

On May 3, senior outfielder Zac Michener
 took home the 2017 Ralph Todd Award at SFA’s 2017 Champions Dinner. The award recognizes SFA’s top male athlete of the 2016-17 academic year and Michener is the first member of SFA’s baseball team to win it since Hunter Dozier did so in 2013. This season, the Kennedale, Texas, product leads the ‘Jacks in hits (64), RBI (46), doubles (14), extra-base hits (24) and total bases (107). His RBI total is the seventh-best in the Southland Conference and he ranks 14th in the league in hits and 12th in runs scored. Michener has blasted nine homers, good for the 11th-highest total in the league and his slash line of .328/.384/.549 includes the league’s 11th-highest slugging percentage.

Another individual who has seen his name etched into a number of areas in the ‘Jacks’ record books is senior Nick Ramos
. An infielder from Plano, Texas, Ramos became the program’s all-time leader in runs scored on April 25 in a 6-2 win at No. 4-ranked TCU when he crossed home plate for the 133rd time in his career. Ramos ranks second in career doubles (41) and his 785 at-bats are the most in program history. His 220 hits are the fourth-most in program history and he has 101 RBI in his career, making him one of only eight players in program history who have driven in 100 or more runs. Last weekend in Beaumont, Texas, in the first game of SFA’s series with Lamar, Ramos became the program’s new all-time leader in games played and has taken part in 208 games throughout his SFA career.

• With the program’s first-ever Southland Conference regular season title not out of the question depending on what happens elsewhere in the league over the weekend, the Huskies roll into Nacogdoches armed with one of the league’s most dangerous - and efficient - pitching staffs. 
• HBU’s arms have surrendered the fewest runs (207), earned runs (172) and walks (147) of any Southland Conference pitching staff and possess the league’s second-lowest ERA (3.82). Headlined by ace Addison Russ, who owns the seventh-lowest ERA (2.76) in the Southland Conference by striking out 72 batters in 81.2 frames, this powerful pitching rotation has lifted the Huskies to within reach of one of the top three seeds for the league’s postseason tournament and has helped offset an offensive unit that ranks last in the Southland Conference in runs scored (231), RBI (205), total bases (566) and doubles (68).
• Saturday’s scheduled starter Daniel Endsley’s 2.72 ERA is the sixth-best in the Southland Conference. He and Russ have each topped 80 innings of work on the hill and once each of them are finished the Huskies generally turn to relief ace JT Newton who owns a 6-0 record with six of HBU’s eight saves on the strength of a 1.85 ERA. Newton’s strikeout total sits at 39 against just nine walks in 43.2 innings of work. 
• Slashing at a rate of .274/.352/.369 (eighth/11th/11th in the 13-team Southland Conference), the Huskies’ offense has been led lately by reigning Southland Conference Hitter of the Week Jake Pulcheon. He leads HBU with 32 RBI, is one of four players on the squad who have drawn 20 or more walks and is hitting .297/.413/.405. Zane Otten (.344/.386/.419) leads a pack of four HBU regulars who have posted a batting average of .300 or better and also included in that ground are Tyler Depreta-Johnson (.319/.399/.388), Spencer Halloran (.318/.401/.480) and Brandon Brintz (.303/.389/.408). Halloran leads the team with 19 extra-base hits which include team-bests in doubles (12), triples (four) and home runs (three). 
• In their most recent action, the Huskies collected a pair of walk-off wins en route to a three-game sweep of Sam Houston State at Husky Field last weekend. Houston Baptist has four four-straight games, six of its last nine and has lost just three Southland Conference series this season against Nicholls (0-3), Central Arkansas (1-2) and New Orleans (1-2).

If SFA is successful in making the cut for the Southland Conference Tournament, the ‘Jacks would travel to Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas, once the eight-team postseason tournament begins on Wednesday, May 24. Game times would depend on what seed SFA claims and that information will be found on SFAJacks.com and southland.org.