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Rafters Team Report: March 28 – April 3

Mar28 - Apr3 Recap(Pictured: Josh Shepley, RHP Canisius College. Photo courtesy Canisius College Athletics)

The Rafters Team Report will be your weekly update on the Spring season's of your 2016 Wisconsin Rapids Rafters. Be sure to check back each week for a new update.

March 28 – April 3: Shepley, Busby Turn In Strong Pitching Performances

By: Cooper Perkins

Another week of college baseball has come and gone, meaning that Rafters past and future took the field yet again looking to explode into the onset of April. Across the country, members of the 2016 Rafters roster spread out on diamonds familiar and unfamiliar as a number of Rafters took to the road in games far from home.

In the Pacific Northwest, the University of Washington welcomed cross-state foes Gonzaga from Spokane for a weeknight two-game set before dipping one state to the south for a daunting three-game series with Oregon State, ranked in the top five nationally. For the Huskies, their week began on a sour note as they dropped an 8-6 decision to Gonzaga in an 11-inning marathon before rebounding on Tuesday to earn a split. The week’s difficulty heightened beginning on Friday night as the Huskies struggled to salvage just one of three from their Pac-12 adversaries from Corvallis. Starting all five games on the slate, catcher Joey Morgan enjoyed a productive week despite his team’s scuffles as he hit a robust .615 (8 of 13) while smacking a pair of doubles, racking up three RBI, walking twice, and scoring on a pair of occasions. Morgan punctuated the week by finishing Sunday’s 12-inning triumph three-of-five with a run batted in. The potent week at the plate now leaves Morgan with a team-leading .333 batting average coupled with two long balls and 10 RBI.

After receiving a handful of much-needed rest days, Grand Canyon resumed action on Friday in their trek to the Golden State for a three-game series against reigning WAC Tournament Champion Cal State Bakersfield. Led by an explosive lineup, the Lopes swept the Roadrunners before returning home for a Monday night date with UNLV that saw them succumb by a score of 7-2. Returning Rafter Ethan Evanko abstained from action for the second consecutive week as he last pitched on March 19th against Houston. His fellow southpaw Jake Repavich, however, received the starting nod on Saturday and turned in yet another stellar performance. The sophomore out of Arizona scattered three runs and seven hits over six innings on the mound as he picked up a quality start and earned the win to push his season record to 3-1.

To the east, Division II Dixie State battled through a loaded schedule that required them to play an astonishing eight games in six days, including a pair of four-game tilts at home against Hawaii-Hilo and Fresno Pacific. Following his most difficult outing of the campaign, Dylan File toed the rubber against Fresno Pacific in Saturday’s win, but found himself laboring for a second consecutive start. Pitching on just four days rest, File lasting 4.2 innings and surrendered four runs (three earned) on nine hits and a walk, while striking out a deuce. Upon earning a no-decision, the sophomore preserved his unblemished 3-0 record, which he sports alongside his 2.96 ERA  and 47 punch outs in 54.2 innings of work.

Venturing inland of Utah, returning Rafter right-handed tosser John Jaeger and his twenty-first ranked NAIA Sterling College squad met eleventh-ranked Tabor College for back-to-back double headers and struggled to a 1-3 weekend record. Jaeger’s first action of the weekend came in Friday’s 11-7, a struggle for the two Sterling pitchers preceding the junior as they combined to allow all 11 runs. Jaeger, however, entered to finish the final 2.1 innings in perfect fashion as he retired all seven hitters he faced in sequence and earned a trio of strikeouts. The versatile right-hander followed his outstanding performance on Friday with a further excellent relief appearance in a Sterling defeat on Saturday. Pitching the final 5.1 innings, Jaeger scattered just three hits and held Tabor scoreless, while striking out three. Compounding the the two games, the junior worked eight innings of shutout baseball and piled up six strikeouts in the process of lowering his ERA more than a full run to 3.55 and maintaining his 4-1 record.

Adding to a scarce list of instances in which Rafters have gone head-to-head in game action, a group of future Rafters met on the diamond in a three-game series between Valparaiso and UW Milwaukee. After the opener was cancelled due to inclement weather, the squads met for a double dip on Sunday and split the pair. In the first of the two Horizon League match ups, returning Rafter pitcher Jay Peters persevered through a laborious relief outing, allowing four runs in three innings, and striking out two. In the same contest, Valparaiso catcher Scott Kapers endured a quiet showing at the plate as he posted a hitless line. The freshman was able to recover in the second game, however, as he finished one-for-five with a run scored. A fellow future Rafter and Valparaiso freshman, Montana Quigley did not see action in either weekend contest.

In a rare trip outside of the southeastern United States, Bethune-Cookman paid a visit to Ohio State in Columbus for a three-game weekend series after falling to Florida International at home on Tuesday. Shortstop Demetrius Sims enjoyed a stellar Tuesday in the Wildcats’ loss to FIU as he picked up a pair of hits, notched an RBI, scored a run, and swiped his sixth base of the season. Much to the chagrin of Sims, the weekend proved to be trying as he was held hitless in the first two games and reached only once against the Buckeyes before sitting out Sunday’s finale—the first game he has missed in 2016.

Following their basketball team’s exit from the NCAA Tournament, the Xavier Musketeers hit the road for four battles, including a Tuesday date with Kentucky and a three-game weekend meeting with Illinois State. Following a 6-2 loss to their SEC foe on Tuesday night, the Musketeers rebounded to secure two of three from Illinois State, including a pair of blowouts. Xavier’s closer, Garrett Schilling, went without a save opportunity, but did make a pair of appearances as he struck out three and spread a pair of unearned runs over an aggregated 2.2 innings against the Wildcats and Redbirds. Because the runs the sophomore conceded were unearned, Schilling was able to run his streak without allowing an earned run to 10.2 innings as his 1.65 ERA continued to plummet. Like his current and future teammate, right-hander Damien Richard enjoyed a fruitful weekend as he was tabbed to start on Sunday and lassoed his second victory of 2016 with a five-inning performance in which he allowed three runs and struck out three. The Ohio native continues to progress in his sophomore season as his ERA now sits at 3.46 and he has fanned 21 hitters in 26 innings.

Following their introduction to the 2016 Rafters roster last week, Eastern Kentucky teammates Hunter Dunn and Ben Fisher led their squad into action for a road game against Dayton and a three-game home encounter with Morehead State. Fisher, who started all four games at first base, tallied three hits and three walks in the four contests, including a home run on Friday. The home run was the junior’s career-high fourth blast of the campaign as he has also given in 17 runs and scored 22 times. For Dunn, however, the weekend’s proceedings offered a less pleasant experience as he was tagged with the loss on Sunday following a 3.1 inning outing in which he was battered for eight runs, despite only three of them being of the earned variety. The right-hander’s one strikeout was his twenty-first of the season, building on his career-best total.

Inclement weather disrupted Purdue University’s schedule yet again by rendering a weekday matchup with Valparaiso unplayable. The Boilermakers followed the rainout by losing all three weekend games to Penn State. True freshman third baseman Jacson McGowan did not see time for the second consecutive weekend as his batting average remains at .222 with five RBI and no home runs.

In the state of Texas, right-handed pitcher Chris Cooper and the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders hoped to avoid a similar result to last week’s winless showing. At the conclusion of their four-game slate, the Islanders sat at 1-3 on the weekend with their lone victory coming on the road over Stephen F. Austin on Saturday. Cooper, a redshirt sophomore, saw very limited time and struggled in his lone appearance of the week against Stephen F. Austin as he was chased after just 0.2 of an inning. Cooper was charged with five runs on four hits and a walk despite striking out two batters.

For the SIU-Edwardsville Cougars, a trying season continued to mount as they fell in all four of their outings, including a Tuesday loss at Evansville and a road sweep at the hands of Southeastern Louisiana over the weekend. Despite his team’s struggles, returning Rafter and former Freshman All-American outfielder Dustin Woodcock posted a productive display at the plate and collected hits in all four games. In total, Woodcock piled up two runs scored, two runs batted in, a pair of walks, and five base hits, including a double and a home run. In the follow-up campaign to his strong freshman season, the sophomore is hitting .326, has smacked two home runs, mashed eight doubles, driven in 10 runs, scored eight times, and stolen two bases.

In the Division II ranks, Georgia College and freshly announced Rafter signees Logan Mattix and Cameron Busby were in action at home against Newbury before turning to the road for a three-game tilt with Francis Marion. Following a resounding 9-2 win over Newbury, the Bobcats posted consecutive victories over Francis Marion in advance of dropping Sunday’s finale. Mattix wasted no time in offering the Rafters faithful reason for excitement by exploding to collect multiple hits in all four games and swinging the bat at a .579 (11-19) clip with four extra base hits, including a home run, a triple, and a pair of doubles. The sophomore also tallied seven runs scored, six runs batted in, and a stolen base in his stat-packed week. Across 31 games in 2016, Mattix has filled the scorebook to the tune of a .341 batting average, nine long balls, 30 RBI, 39 runs scored, and six stolen bases. Not to be outdone by Mattix, the right-handed Busby submitted an impressive outing in relief on Friday as he earned his sixth win of the season by ceding a mere two runs and striking out a threesome in 5.1 innings. In 17 appearances out of the bullpen, Busby had amassed an astounding 49.1 innings on the mound and flaunts a 6-2 record, a 2.92 ERA, and 37 strikeouts.

Riding a six-game winning streak, Canisius College met West Virginia for two games in the middle of the week before hosting weekend visitors Siena for a three-game conference clash. Following a two-game sweep of West Virginia, the Griffins suffered a series defeat at the hands of Siena as they were able to win only Sunday’s conclusion to the three-game tilt. A week after earning recognition as the conference’s offensive player of the week, Canisius infielder Jake Lumley continued his ascension by reaching base nine times in the four games, including four hits and five walks. The junior also managed to score six runs, amass five RBI, and steal his third base of the season. Lumley leads the Griffins with 22 runs scored and remains second on the squad with a .304 batting average, 19 walks, and 15 RBI. Right-handed starting pitcher and fellow junior Josh Shepley followed Lumley’s lead and earned the right to bathe in his own success following a five-inning, five-strikeout performance that concluded in a no-decision, despite Lumley’s limiting of Siena to just two runs. The outing lowered Shepley’s season ERA to 5.64 as he has struck out 27 hitters while issuing just 10 free passes in 30.1 frames on the mound.

Another packed calendar for Alabama State concluded with three wins in five games for the Hornets as they ran their record to 19-12 on the season. Continuing in his capacity as a contributor off of the bench, sophomore outfielder Joseph Estrada highlighted the week with his first career pinch-hit home run on Friday against Alabama A&M. The dinger was Estrada’s first of the season.

Concluding the week’s action, true freshman outfielder Doak Dozier was back in the fold for the fourteenth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers as he collected hits in three of their four games, including his second home run of the season. For Dozier, the blast came in Wednesday’s tight 5-4 loss to Old Dominion. The Texas native then added a single on Saturday against NC State and a pinch-hit knock the next afternoon on Sunday. While his fellow future Rafter Jon Meola was confined to the dugout and did not see action in the past week, Dozier elevated his batting average to .265.

The home opener for the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters is June 1st at 7:05 against the Green Bay Bullfrogs. Solarus Founders Club, bleacher 9-Game ticket packages, and group outing packages are on sale now. Call 715-424-5400 or stop by the Rafters Front Office Monday-Friday from 9-5 to purchase a ticket package or book a group outing.