Some news and notes in advance of South Dakota State making its debut in the NCAA Division I baseball tournament tonight at Oregon. ESPN3 will have the game.
The Jacks last berth in a national tournament came at the Division II level in 1995:
Baseball isn’t the only game on tap this weekend in Eugene. On Friday and Saturday, Oregon hosts the Prefontaine Classic, part of the Diamond League pro circuit and one of the best events in America every year. You basically have to be top 50 in the world in your event to gain entry.
Sell-out crowds of 10,000-plus are expected both days at the track meet.
Reliever Caleb Thielbar, an SDSU grad, isn’t the only Twins player keeping an eye on the Jacks. All-star catcher Joe Mauer has a cousin on the team - freshman utility man Zach Holt. Mauer said that his mom and Holt’s mom are sisters.
An Illinois prep product, Holt leads SDSU in batting average at .462 in limited action.
Senior leadership has been instrumental in the Jacks earning 15 wins more than they had last year, the largest one-season jump in program history, according to coach Dave Schrage. Reserve catcher Steven Autenrieth is the most unsung of that group. Schrage called the former juco transfer a key “behind-the-scenes guy.”
Another key difference from 2012-13: the progression of J.D. Moore. As a freshman, the Canadian had an ERA of 7.27 with five saves. But his first five appearances took place when the team was trailing - and he was a starter in high school. Closing was a new role for him.
This spring, Moore has a 1.67 ERA with a school record 13 saves and 31 Ks in 27 innings, emerging as the successor to former All-American Trever Vermeulen. In fact, Vermeulen has been in contact with Moore even though the two were never teammates.
“He’s a good guy,” Moore said. “It’s nice to break his record and do it in a season like this where it doesn’t go to waste.”
Four seems to be an important number tonight. Oregon is 36-2 when scoring 4 runs or more, while SDSU is 30-5 when hitting that mark.
The last No. 4 seeds to win a regional: Stony Brook last year and Fresno State in 2008. Both teams went on to reach the College World Series. The Bulldogs won that, too.
The latest NCAA RPIs of the four teams in the Eugene regional: No. 9 Oregon, No. 32 Rice, No. 50 San Francisco and No. 168 SDSU.
Meanwhile, the Jacks are among five tourney newcomers. The others: Bryant, Canisius, Central Arkansas and Savannah State.
Although plenty far from home, SDSU does have some ties to the Pacific Northwest. Catcher Nick Andrews is from the Seattle area and pitcher Shane Kraemer and infielder Jordan Varga are from British Columbia.
The No. 2 seed in the Eugene region, Rice, is a pretty compelling story, too. The Owls are making their 19th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tourney. Coach Wayne Graham is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame and has more than 1,400 career wins - and no losing seasons in 38 years - as a head coach at the college level, winning a D-I World Series and five junior college crowns. Oh, and he also played for Casey Stengel in the bigs.
In case you were wondering if the Oregon baseball team had any sick gear via its Nike hookup …
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.