Falcons travel to Service Academies Classic
Feb. 20, 2002
This Weekend: Air Force travels to Millington, Tenn., for the 13th annual Service Academies Spring Classic, Feb. 22-24. The following is Air Force's schedule in the tournament:
Fri. Feb. 22 1 pm Navy USA Stadium Fri. Feb. 22 4 pm Memphis USA Stadium Sat. Feb. 23 10 am Villanova USA Stadium Sun. Feb. 24 10 am/1 pm Consol./Champ. USA Stadium
Radio/Television: There is no radio or television for Air Force at the tournament.
Last Season at the Tournament: Air Force won the 2001 Service Academies Spring Classic by defeating Memphis, 3-1, in the championship game. The Falcons defeated Navy (4-2 in 10 innings) and Army (5-0) in their first two games. AFA fell to Memphis, 9-3, in pool play before defeating the Tigers in the title game. Mike Thiessen was named the tournament's MVP after belting two home runs and hitting .333 in the tourney. His first home run was a two-run shot in the top of the 10th that beat Navy in extra innings. He then hit a solo home run in the championship game. Thiessen was joined on the all-tournament team by pitchers Johnny Koegel and Michael Tufte and infielder Price Paramore. Koegel scattered four hits over seven innings and posted the first career complete game in leading the Falcons to the win over Memphis in the championship game. He also had a career-best 10 strikeouts with only two walks in the game. Tufte scattered four hits over eight innings and shutout Army in the first game of the tournament. Paramore hit .438 in the tourney.
Tournament History: The tournament began in 1990 as a round-robin tournament between Army, Navy and Air Force and has since expanded greatly. Memphis gave the tournament some local flavor in 1992 and has played ever since. Since 1992, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi and Ohio State have all played in the Classic. Air Force is 26-18 overall in the 12-year history of the tournament. AFA is 17-8 vs. Army and Navy in the tournament. In the last three years, Air Force is 9-3 and has played in the championship game every year. The Falcons won the tournament title in 1999 and 2001. Below is a list of all of Air Force's games and scores in the tourney:
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 Navy, W 9-1 Navy, W 6-0 Army, L 2-5 Army, L 6-8 Army, W 6-1 Navy, W 3-0 Army, W 9-6 Memphis, L 4-5 Navy, W 8-7 Navy, L 5-6 Rhodes, W 8-3 Army, W 5-4 Notre Dame, L 4-12 Minnesota, W 3-0 Memphis, W 10-0 Navy, L 1-3 Navy, W 6-5 Memphis, L 2-5 Memphis, L 5-6
No Army: For the first time since 1990, Army is not in the Service Academies Classic. Army did not play in the first tournament, held in 1990. The Black Knights played in the 1991 tournament and then played every year through 2001. Air Force was 8-4 vs. Army.
Streak Ends: Air Force's six-game winning streak came to an end with an 18-1 loss to Arkansas in the first round of the Texas-Arlington Tournament, Feb. 15, in Arlington, Texas. The six-game winning streak is the second longest in 10 years. The Falcons set a school record by winning 12 straight in 1992. Last season, Air Force opened the season with a seven-game winning streak.
Scouting the Opponents: Navy is 1-5 overall this season. Navy opened the season by winning one of three on the road at Duke . Navy won 8-4 and lost 6-4 and 8-4. The Midshipmen were swept at Old Dominion last week by scores of 5-4, 5-3 and 7-0. Navy returns 17 of the 23 lettermen from last season's team that finished 21-25-1 overall. The Midshipmen won the Patriot League with a 14-6 record. Villanova is 0-3 overall this season. The Wildcats opened the season last weekend at Tulane and lost by scores of 11-1, 9-2 and 5-4. Villanova returns 23 of the 32 lettermen from last season's team that was 25-25-1 overall. The Wildcats placed ninth in the Big East Conference with a 10-19 record. Memphis opens the 2002 season with a single game against Tennessee-Martin, Feb. 20. Memphis returns 17 of the 30 lettermen from last season's team that finished 34-24 overall. The Tigers placed fifth in Conference USA with a 13-14 league record.
Series History: Air Force and Navy have played 13 times and the Falcons hold a 9-4 lead in the series that began in 1990. The Falcons defeated Navy in last season's tournament, 4-2 in 10 innings. Air Force has won three straight over Navy. In the last five games, four games were either decided by one run or went extra innings. Air Force and Villanova have never met. Air Force and Memphis have played nine times and the Tigers hold a 5-4 lead in the series that began in 1992. Four of the last five games between the Tigers and Falcons have been decided by two runs or less. Last season, Memphis beat Air Force, 9-3, in pool play. The Falcons then defeated the Tigers, 3-1, in the tournament's championship game.
Looking Back: Air Force ended the 2001 season with a 23-33 overall record and an 8-21 mark in the Mountain West Conference. The Falcons placed sixth in the regular season and were eliminated in two games at the MWC Tournament, May 16-17, in San Diego. Air Force, the sixth seed, fell to regular season champion BYU, 7-1, in the first round. The Falcons were eliminated by second-seed San Diego State, 8-0, in the second round. Air Force set a new school record with 19 Division I wins last season. AFA broke the record of 17 set in 1964. Air Force's .411 winning percentage last season was the best since the 1995 team posted a .537 winning percentage with a 29-25 record.
The Coach: Reed Peters (UNLV, 1992) is in his third season as the Falcons' head coach and his fourth season overall with Air Force. Peters came to the Academy as an assistant coach in the fall of 1998. His career and Air Force record is 52-72. Peters' coaching career began at his alma mater, UNLV, where he was an assistant coach from 1990-94. The Denver native was the head coach at Colby Community College (Kansas) from 1995-98. He led the Trojans to a 123-80 record for a .600 winning percentage. He led the team to a regional championship and two regional runner-up finishes. He is again assisted by Bobby Applegate and Capt. Mike Manor.
Defense Wins Games: Air Force's defense, which was outstanding early in the season, has struggled in the last couple games. The team is fielding .942 this season, . That mark is the lowest of the season after Air Force has committed 13 errors in the last four games. Over the last five seasons, the Falcons' team fielding percentage has averaged .930. AFA's fielding percentage of .980 in the New Mexico State series was as good as any series in recent history. Air Force made 97 of the 99 plays in the field flawlessly.
Pitchers Climbing up Career Strikeout List: Prior to last season, no Falcon pitcher had cracked the top 10 in career strikeouts in 12 years. Last season, Mike Tufte finished his career tied for second with 224. The Falcons currently have two more pitchers who rank among the top six.
1. Bob Wright, 1981-84 278 T2. Rich Haynie, 1971-74 224 T2. Mike Tufte, 1998-2001 224 4. Erik Fisher, 99-Pres. 220 5. Alan McClure, 1964-66 196 6. Matt Kaercher, 99-Pres. 196 7. Pete Bracci, 1963-64 183
Last Week: Air Force lost all three games at the Texas-Arlington/Dallas Morning News Tournament, Feb. 15-17.
Tail Feathers: Only six players had more than one hit, and no one had more than three, in the tournament as the Falcons were held to 19 hits in three games... Freshman third-baseman Steve Winters tied for the team lead with three hits... Winters is hitting .455 this season... After a strong freshman season, Josh Phifer struggled as a sophomore... He seems to have regained his groove as he is batting .486 with a .829 slugging percentage... He leads the team with 17 hits, 15 runs, 15 RBI, 29 total bases and seven doubles... Nine of his 17 hits have gone for extra bases... Adam Howes has been swinging a hot bat this season... In 10 games, he is hitting .457... He is second on the team with 16 hits, 10 RBI, 21 total bases and four stolen bases... He tied for the team lead in the tournament with three hits... He also had a double, a triple and a team-best six RBI... Third-baseman Bowie Frost is hitting .429 this season with three doubles, one home run and five RBI... While starting nine games at the hot corner, he is fielding .960 in 25 chances.. He hit .500 (3-for-6) in the tournament... Brian LaBasco, who has started all 10 games at second base this season, is a two-year letterman on the Falcon football team at wide receiver... Last season, he led the team with two receiving touchdowns and was second on the team in receptions and yards... On the diamond, he is hitting .294 and is second on the team with 12 runs scored... Junior right-hander Johnny Koegel had another impressive outing, this one coming against Texas-Arlington... Koegel went seven innings and gave up just two runs, one earned, on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks... For the season, he leads the team in innings pitched (19.0) and ERA (2.84)... He is 2-1 this year with 17 strikeouts and just four walks in four appearances.... Opponents are batting just .253 off of him, nearly 60 points below the opponents' team batting average... Junior catcher Dan Petro has been solid this season... He has started all 10 games behind the dish and is hitting .333... His 10 RBI are tied for second on the team... Defensively, he has made just one error in 67 chances and has thrown out seven of the 12 base-runner trying to steal on him (58 percent).
Back to Basics: After a down year offensively in 2001 in which the Falcons hit just .289 and averaged less than six runs per game, the Falcon offense has improved. Despite hitting just .186 in the three games in Arlington, the Falcons are still hitting .342 overall this season. Traditionally one of the top hitting teams in the nation, the Falcons are averaging 9.6 runs per game. The team has stolen 19 bases in 10 games and has 26 doubles.
On Deck: Air Force returns home after a seven-game road trip to host a three-game series against Dana College, March 1-3, at the Academy's Falcon Field. The teams play single games each day at 1 p.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Dana College is an NAIA member of the Great Plains Conference.