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Stephen F. Austin Baseball

'Jacks enter critical series with ACU, searching for first SLC win

March 23, 2017

It's early in the college baseball season, but through the opening portion of 2017 for Stephen F. Austin, a couple things have been evident; they're a pretty good team at home. And, well, so far at least, they're not on the road.

The Lumberjacks finally picked up their first win away from Jaycees Field last week in a non-conference win over conference opponent Houston Baptist (yes, you read that correctly), but followed it by absorbing a three-game sweep at the hands of McNeese State. Looking to recover, SFA has put together a couple of non-conference, confidence-boosting victories at home this week, most recently in dramatic walk-off fashion last night:

And now, with a 10-13 record, SFA has their sights set on Abilene Christian.

For the most part, the season has been a mixed bag. Returning stars like pitching ace Patrick Ledet and a host of sluggers have stumbled out of the gate. A .298 team hitting average in 2016 has dropped to .239, albeit very early in the season. And while clearly those numbers will adjust as weaker competition in the Southland Conference balances some of the more difficult early-season foes, SFA has seen their 0-3 start quickly dig a standings hole in a top-heavy league.

Preseason favorite Sam Houston State, along with McNeese, have rocketed to a 6-0 conference start. Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls both follow closely behind at 5-1. As the Lumberjacks enter their second series of the conference season, they're joined only by Houston Baptist and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi still searching for an SLC win. ACU, their weekend opponent, sits just north at 1-5.

Like baseball at any level, it will be a season of runs. Conner Fikes, SFA's leadoff hitter and a .362 hitter from a year ago, will likely improve on his .263 start. Ledet is better than his 6.04 ERA through five starts and the bullpen has already out-performed preseason expectations. For the most part, those surrounding SFA baseball were largely optimistic for the season, thoroughly believing that the Lumberjacks would outperform their 7th and 8th place positions in the preseason polls, because of returning talent.

So far, the leaders of the veteran-heavy Lumberjacks have largely played below capability. Manufacturing runs on the road will go a long way toward righting the ship, but first, getting a win - any win - in conference play has to happen this weekend.

Already sitting four-and-a-half games behind the lead after a week was probably not in the plan. But it's early - very early - and there's plenty of time for SFA to discover 2016's offense while maintaining 2017's pitching.

The series this weekend is vital, though, and it just may show us what kind of SFA team is playing in Nacogdoches this year. As critical as a series could possibly be this early in a season, that's how important a convincing showing from Friday through Sunday is for the Lumberjacks. Anything shy of a sweep, playing the squad tabbed 11th in the preseason, at home, would be mildly disappointing. Taking two of three would also be a step in the right direction, though.

The Lumberjacks sit three games below .500 in both their conference record and overall season. A trifecta this weekend would reset both to even as they look to dig out of the early hole.

First pitch is scheduled for Friday at 6:30PM, and all three games will be streamed on Facebook Live.

'Jacks enter critical series with ACU, searching for first SLC win

5,993 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 7 yr ago by BigJack85
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What a game, with the walk off grand slam. Jacks sweep double hitter to remain dominate at home. Can we just play the rest of our games in Nac?
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5 straight to pull back to .500 overall and in Conference (13-13: 3-3)
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Nice. Very nice. I can only imagine what Cardenas could with an on campus facility. A little more campus support and community support.
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