Arkansas State Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Jeff Purinton announced Monday that head baseball coach Tommy Raffo, who owns the second most victories in school history, will return in 2024.
Raffo most recently completed his 15th season at A-State, leading the Red Wolves to 20 victories for their most since the 2019 season after revamping the roster with 22 newcomers. A-State improved its Sun Belt Conference win total by four games over the previous season as well, competing in a league that boasts the nation’s fifth-best RPI and stands as one of five conferences that placed at least four teams in the NCAA Regionals.
“We’re facing several challenges to get our baseball program where we want it to be, and that’s competing for NCAA Tournament berths and Sun Belt championships in one of the nation’s strongest leagues,” said Purinton.
“Following comprehensive conversations with Coach Raffo, a highly-respected figure in the baseball world, he is committed to improving our on-field performance and has meticulously evaluated the different paths moving forward to get it done.
“Coaching is one of several aspects necessary for us to become an elite program. We are working diligently to improve our baseball budget and facilities, including the field and stadium, to move us closer to our conference peers. That is a priority for us and something we are currently addressing.”
A-State saw its batting average (.246 to .276), doubles (65 to 118), home runs (40 to 41) and RBI (214 to 326) climb in 2023 compared to the prior season, while it also tripled its number of double plays turned and committed 26 fewer errors to improve its fielding percentage from .952 to .968. The Red Wolves ranked 22nd in the nation in doubles per game (2.31) and return all but one position player in 2024, including Brandon Hager, who posted a team-high 15 home runs that tied the second most in school history for a single season. The Red Wolves’ 118 doubles tied the program’s fourth-highest single-season total and were the most since 2005.
“I want to thank Jeff Purinton for his continued support trusting me to navigate our A-State baseball program,” said Raffo. “We will continue to be 100 percent about our student-athletes. They are the reason we as coaches do what we do, and I am blessed to have the privilege working with some of A-State’s finest.
“We return a core group of players that consistently showed improvement during the season. If baseball in the Sun Belt has shown us anything this year with the new additions, it highlighted the need for improvements. Our student-athletes need our support – both physically at the games and financially to the program to be competitive and successful. This program is about the student-athletes who work hard day after day to make Red Wolves Baseball the best it can be in an incredibly competitive conference.”
A-State improved its national ranking in runs per game (4.7 to 7.3) from 278th in 2022 to 89th in 2023, a 55 percent increase. While the Red Wolves’ offensive production increased significantly this past season, leading to 13 victories when scoring at least 10 runs, it also suffered 14 setbacks when allowing 10 or more runs and dropped 10 contests when leading or tied after six innings.
A-State also announced Monday that it has begun a national search for a new pitching coach as Alan Dunn will not return in 2024. Dunn spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach on the A-State staff after spending the previous 10 years at LSU, where he was part of nine NCAA Tournament teams.
“I want to thank AD for his commitment to our program over the last two years,” said Raffo. “I have the utmost respect for him as a person and a coach. I wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”