The Delta State University Statesmen began the season ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Preseason Poll.
With DSU preseason ranked at No. 1 in the nation, the 7-0 loss to Lynn University in the first game of the year on Feb. 2 in Boca Raton, Fla. might have seemed shocking to some and could have been a bad sign of things to come. The biggest thing about baseball is it’s just one game in a season that lasts at least 50 games or more.
Since the setback on the second day of February, all the Statesmen have done is win. After beating the Auburn University Montgomery War Hawks 16-6 and 5-3 on Saturday and 10-4 on Sunday in Gulf South Conference action at Ferriss Field-Harvey Stadium, the Statesmen, ranked No. 2 in the National College Baseball Writers Association DII Poll, stretched their winning streak to 14 games and improved to 14-1 with a perfect 6-0 mark in the GSC.
The weekend series against the War Hawks was another exercise in the Statesmen’s ability to hit. Delta State stroked 32 hits including five home runs and eight doubles in 96 total at-bats for a batting average of .333.
DSU also scored 31 total runs.
For the season, DSU leads the GSC in home runs (21) and slugging percentage (.489) and is second in hits (179), second in runs scored (138) second in RBIs (122) and third in on-base percentage (.401). DSU has struck out the second fewest times in the GSC (83).
DSU’s Zack Shannon had another amazing series this weekend. Against Auburn Montgomery, Shannon went 6-for-11 with three home runs, nine RBIs and five runs scored. He has hit in eight consecutive games and is currently hitting a robust .444 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and 22 runs scored in only 15 games. His slugging percentage is 1.048 and his on-base percentage is .514.
The production this weekend didn’t stop with Shannon. Brian Lane went 5-for-10 with a double, four RBIs and 10 runs scored, Justin Nussbaum went 4-for-9 with three RBIs and three runs scored, Emil Ellis went 4-for-10 with a home run, a double and five runs scored, Clay Casey went 4-for-11 with a home run, two doubles, five RBIs and a run scored and Jason Popovich went 3-for-10 with a double, two RBIs and four runs scored.
For the season, Lane is having a great year as he is hitting .410 with two home runs, 19 RBIs and 17 runs scored, Ellis has hit .382 with two home runs, 13 RBIs and 17 runs scored and Casey has hit three home runs with 17 RBIs and 13 runs scored despite hitting just .277.
The offensive production has made up for DSU’s struggles in other areas as the Statesmen are ninth in the conference in fielding percentage (.955) and 10th in team ERA (4.47).
“Certainly, the guys in the middle of the order had a good weekend,” Delta State head baseball coach Mike Kinnison said. “Those three, four and five hitters for us did some damage. We’ve got some experience there. These guys have seen the league and know what the pitching is like. I expect them to be a good offensive team, but in the long run you win with pitching and defense and we’ve got to get better in those areas.”
Pitching wise this weekend against Auburn-Montgomery, Seth Birdsong (2-0) earned the win in game one on Saturday by pitching six solid inning and giving up just two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
Dalton Minton (2-0) earned the win in game two as he gave up just three runs on five hits with six strikeouts and three walks in six innings of work with Hunter Riggins getting his first save by tossing a shutout inning, yielding just one hit with a walk and two strikeouts.
In Sunday’s finale, Tyler Walton (3-0) did an outstanding job of relief by giving just two hits with three strikeouts and no walks in four innings of work to earn the win.
DSU will be back in action Wednesday when the Statesmen host Southern Arkansas at 5 p.m. at Ferriss Field-Harvey Stadium.