APSU Sports Information
Clarksville, TN – Mother Nature forced Austin Peay State University’s baseball team to both change its opponent and hit the road for its season-opening weekend.
The Governors, who were originally scheduled to play Maryland Eastern Shore in Clarksville, now will open 2018 with a three-game series against South Dakota State, Friday-Sunday, at Saint Louis University’s Billiken Sports Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
The three-game set is scheduled to begin with a 1:00pm, Friday, February 16th contest. APSU and SDSU then will meet in a 1:00pm, Saturday affair before wrapping up the weekend with a noon, Sunday matchup. All three games, as currently scheduled, will be available on the Governors Sports Network.
Austin Peay, picked seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference’s preseason coaches poll, will meet a South Dakota State squad picked second in the Summit League preseason coaches poll. The Governors return nearly their entire starting pitching rotation and four position starters from last season’s squad.
Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits feature a revamped pitching staff, with Game 1 starter Brady Stover the lone holdover among starters, but return six position starters.
The 2018 Governors offense will be a collectively young group with only 15 years of Division I experience between the 20 available position players entering the season.
Sophomore first baseman Parker Phillips, an Ohio Valley Conference All-Newcomer selection last season, is the Govs returning leading hitter with a .328 batting average, but he led the Govs in both slugging percentage (.613) and on-base percentage (.442) outright last season.
Senior second baseman Garrett Giovannelli ended last season by reaching base in 10 of his 19 plate appearances in the OVC tournament, including six hits that helped push his average to .310 at season’s end. Junior shortstop Garrett Kueber and freshman third baseman Bobby Head are expected to make their Governors debuts this week, Kueber after missing his first season in Clarksville.
Senior center fielder Imani Willis returns to anchor the APSU outfield unit with 142 career games played entering this season – most among returning players with reserve catcher Alex Sala the next closest at 76 games played. Willis will have new faces on both sides with seniors Nick Walker and Kyle Wilson penciled in for their first outfield starts as Governors. Wilson will get the first shot at grabbing the starting left field spot after mainly playing shortstop last season for APSU.
Austin Peay hit a program-record 84 home runs last season, breaking the record set in 2001. The Govs have hit 50 or more home runs in three consecutive seasons and in five of the last six campaigns.
Toeing The Rubber
Senior Michael Costanzo is scheduled to be the Govs opening day starter after beginning the past two seasons as Austin Peay’s No. 2 starter. It will be Costanzo’s first start since March 24, 2017 as he ended the season’s with 12 consecutive appearances out of the bullpen.
Junior Jacques Pucheu will begin 2018 as the Govs No. 2 after working his way into the weekend rotation, starting during each of the Govs final five weekends. Austin Peay went 4-2 with Pucheu as a starter, including in each of his final two starts.
Junior transfer Brandon Vial is slated to make his APSU debut this weekend after playing at Feather River College in California last season. The left-hander went 7-1 last season in 14 appearances, including wins in his last three starts.
Austin Peay pitchers amassed a record-tying 466 strikeouts (8.07 K/9)last season. It was only the fifth time in program history a Govs pitching staff has recorded 400 strikeouts in a season, all occurring since 2011. Eleven different Govs pitchers started a game in 2017, six of those return for the 2018 season.