Red Wolves Baseball attempts to claw free from last season’s charred and twisted rubble

Last year, the Red Wolves delivered five (5) Sun Belt wins: two from Troy, two from UA Little Rock and one from UT Arlington. Heck, 60% of the Red Wolves conference victories are no longer within the conference.

You may recall that the 2022 Red Wolves finished the season with the Sun Belt’s worst fielding percentage, the most errors and the highest ERA. The program also concluded the season with the lowest team batting average, the fewest hits, and the second most walks allowed. The Red Wolves were so bad that Ole Miss canceled its end-of-season game, not wanting to jeopardize its postseason position with a freaky loss to Arkansas State.

Red Wolves picked to finish dead last

How did the Arkansas State Athletics Department respond to such a dismal season? Athletic Director Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Jeff Purinton hired a new director of baseball operations and that’s, managerially speaking. Roster-wise, the team certainly looks different. Head coach Tommy Raffo, now preparing for his 15th season as Red Wolves head coach, saw 22 newcomers arrive to campus during the fall semester. In December, the squad signed for nore players during the off season including three right-handed pitchers – Jackson Downing (Kansas City, Mo.), Collin Maloney (St. Louis, Mo.) and Deuce Musial (De Pere, Wis.) – plus a middle infielder Aidan Houseworth (St. Louis, Mo.).

The team is not without its familiar faces. Brandon Hager, the Red Wolves 2022 batting leader (.309), returns, as does Jared Toler, who pounded ten homers last season. The Red Wolves’ best pitcher, Tyler Jeans, comes back with his team best ERA and win totals last year.

The schedule is interesting. The Red Wolves play 15 of its first 16 games in Jonesboro, with the lone exception a trip to Oxford to play Ole Miss (which we should cancel at the last moment, but whatever). In all, Arkansas State hosts a program record 35 games at Tomlinson. Of note, the Red Wolves take on five in-state opponents: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Central Arkansas Arkansas, Henderson State, and former Sun Belt foe Little Rock.

Can this team rise above the failure of last year’s squad? The Sun Belt doesn’t seem to think so, picking the Red Wolves to finish 14th out of 14 programs. Two Carsons appear on the All Sun Belt preseason team, but not a single Red Wolf. It looks to be another long season for Arkansas State baseball fans, but at least we’ll get to witness much of it at home.

PHOTO CREDIT: A-State Athletics