Bears Set to Open 2014 Baseball Season Friday at UCA
Matt Hall
Matt Hall

Feb. 12, 2014

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (0-0) at UCA Bears (0-0)
Friday, Feb. 14 (3 p.m.)
Saturday, Feb. 15 (2 p.m.)
Sunday, Feb. 16 (1 p.m.)
Location: Conway, Ark.
Site: Bear Stadium (1,000)
Series History: Missouri State leads 4-3
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Rob Evans)
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Twitter: @MSUBearBaseball

Leading Off
The Missouri State Bears open the 2014 season this weekend with a three-game non-conference series against the University of Central Arkansas at Bear Stadium in Conway, Ark. The Bears will get the campaign started Friday (Feb. 14) afternoon with a 3 p.m. tilt, before squaring off with UCA again Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

This weekend's series begins a stretch of eight straight road games to start the season for MSU, continuing next weekend with a pair of two-game sets against Northern Illinois and New Mexico as part of the Lobo Invite (Feb. 21-23) in Albuquerque, N.M. The Bears also travel to Tulsa to take on Oral Roberts Feb. 25 before opening the home slate Feb. 28 against Purdue.

Prime 9
♦ Missouri State will be looking for its second consecutive opening day win Friday; the Bears are 19-12 in openers under head coach Keith Guttin and 31-19 overall in season lid-lifters
♦ The Bears were picked to finish second in the MVC preseason poll, one point behind league favorite Wichita State
♦ Missouri State leads the all-time series with UCA by a slim 4-3 margin; the two clubs last squared off in 2010, with MSU taking two of three contests in Springfield
♦ Coming off a 31-23 season in 2013, the Bears will be seeking their fourth 30+ win campaign in a row this spring under Guttin, who ranks 13th among all active Division I head coaches with 1,063 career wins
♦ After ranking among the nation's elite in team ERA each of the last two seasons, the Bears pitching staff returns six pitchers who have combined to make 74 starts over their MSU careers, as well as three relievers who have totaled 16 saves in 81 appearances over the last two years
♦ MSU rookies have excelled in recent years, capturing each of the last three MVC Freshman of the Year awards and four out of the last five, with current Bears Tate Matheny and Tyler Burgess claiming the honor the last two seasons; the Bears have placed at least one rookie on Freshman All-America squads each of the last three years
♦ Junior Eric Cheray was a first-team All-MVC honoree in 2013 after recording a .379 batting mark in league play and reaching base safely in 23 consecutive games late in the season; fellow infielders Spencer Johnson (10-game hit streak) and Conor Smith (10 consecutive games reaching base safely) also posted strong finishes to last year and bring significant streaks into the new season
♦ The Bears return five different players who have been cited for All-MVC honors during their careers, including Burgess, Cheray, preseason all-conference honorees Matheny and sophomore pitcher Jon Harris, as well as senior pitcher Cody Schumacher
♦ Sophomore pitcher Matt Hall logged one of the strongest debut campaigns for a Bear in 2013, finishing the year with a 5-3 record and 2.50 ERA, which ranks third on MSU's all-time freshman ERA list; Hall held the opposition to a mere .192 batting average, good for third in the MVC, while his 6.17 hits allowed per nine innings rated as the 21st-best average in all of Division I baseball

Series History
MSU holds a 4-3 edge in the all-time series with UCA, including a 2-2 mark against the Bears in Conway. The two clubs last met in Springfield four years ago, with MSU claiming both contests in the two-game series (March 23-24, 2010). The Bears will match up against a total of three Southland Conference foes in 2014, with a meeting against Abilene Christian on tap during MSU's trip to the UTA Hilton Invitational (March 7), as well as three games against Oral Roberts. MSU brings a 37-42 overall mark against the current membership of the conference into the season.

Lifting the Lid
Missouri State is 19-12 in season openers under head coach Keith Guttin and 31-19 overall. MSU stopped a string of four straight opening day losses last year with a 3-2 win at Texas State to kick off the 2013 slate.

Additionally, this weekend's action marks the 14th consecutive year the Bears will open their season on the road. MSU took two of three on opening weekend in San Marcos last season, and also claimed two of their three games against Northwestern State last March when the two clubs met at Bear Stadium in a neutral-field series after inclement weather postponed the Bears' home-opening series with the Demons.

In Rare Company
With the Bears' win over Bradley on April 19, head coach Keith Guttin moved past Bob Hannah (Delaware) for the 40th spot on the NCAA's all-time Division coaching victories list. Guttin, who ended the season with a career record of 1,063-675 (.612), also ranks 13th on the NCAA's Division I active coaching wins list.

Guttin became the 46th Division I baseball coach and the third Valley mentor to reach the 1,000 career-win mark with MSU's 3-2 victory at Northwestern State on March 3, 2012. He is the first coach at Missouri State in any sport to reach the milestone and the 20th Division I baseball coach to accomplish the feat while guiding just one school.

Bears Second in MVC Preseason Poll
With one of the most experienced rosters in the Missouri Valley Conference returning in 2014, the Bears were chosen by the league's head coaches for the second spot in the Valley's annual preseason baseball poll. Additionally, MSU sophomores Tate Matheny and Jon Harris were selected by the Valley coaches for the preseason all-conference squad following impressive rookie campaigns in 2013.

The Bears tallied 55 points in the poll, trailing league favorite Wichita State by just one point in the balloting. The Shockers, who finished second in the conference race last year before claiming the MVC Tournament crown, claimed six of the eight first-place votes, while the Bears garnered the remaining two.

Defending regular-season champ Illinois State (46 points) earned the No. 3 spot, while league newcomer Dallas Baptist (44 points) was tabbed for the fourth position. Southern Illinois (28 points) earned the fifth position in the poll, followed by Evansville (25 points), Indiana State (23 points) and Bradley (11 points).



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