Jeff Reed – Play Ball! Tommy Raffo Is Ready for 1st Pitch


Jeff Reed Author PageArkansas State baseball coach Tommy Raffo is quick to point out there is not really much difference between the teams in the Sun Belt Conference.

“I don’t care where you are ranked, 8, 9, 10 and 11 can beat 1, 2 and 3 with the exceptions of one team last year, Lafayette,’’ he said. “We have been rated 8, 9 and 10 and done well. It comes down to your health and when you catch teams; are you playing good or are they playing poorly?”

With his team picked third in the SBC preseason poll, the seventh-year Arkansas State coach points that polls mean nothing “after the first pitch is thrown.”

A lot of first pitches will be thrown around the country today as the college baseball season begins. It is the first time in the Raffo tenure that the Red Wolves have been picked this high in what is one of the best baseball conferences in the nation.

“I think it shows a little respect in the league,’’ he said.

In 2012, the Red Wolves finished the regular season a half-game out of first and reached the Sun Belt tournament title game, losing 4-2 to UL-Monroe. They were tournament semifinalists in 2013 and 2014 and some feel they may have enough back to make a run this year and a second-ever NCAA tournament appearance.

Entering the season, Raffo believes he has a team that is talented enough to have success but needs to stay healthy. Case-in-point is junior infielder/DH Zach George, a talented switch hitter who has gone out with knee injuries the last two seasons. The injuries to George, a career .288 hitter who has played 19 games the past two seasons but was hitting way above .300 when hurt, may show the evolution of the program.

The coach admits the team did not handle it well in 2013 but did a lot better in 2014. The regular season results were different, last season the Red Wolves finished third, but both teams did put up a strong showing in the tournament. Strong tournament showings (10-9) have been a staple of the Raffo teams.

Ahead of the Red Wolves in the preseason poll are UL-Lafayette and Texas State. ULL was the team to beat last year, running through the league with a 26-4 mark. A-State put on of those losses on the Cajuns but no one was really close to a team that Raffo said could play any style and beat you that way. On paper, ULL does not look as strong. Texas State is coached by former A-State assistant Ty Harrington, who is battling some health issues.

“We have to go to both of those places,’’ said Raffo. “That will not be easy.”

The league also adds Georgia Southern, which shocked Florida State 7-0 in the first game of the Tallahassee Regional last season, and Appalachian State.

Jeff Reed is editor of

tommy raffo is ready to play ball


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