Bears Will Square Off Against Texas State, Sam Houston State and Tulane in San Marcos
Feb. 13, 2013
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (0-0) at CenturyLink Bobcat Invitational
Dates: Friday, February 15 at Texas State (2 p.m.)
Saturday, February 16 vs. Sam Houston State (5 p.m.)
Sunday, February 17 vs. Tulane (11 a.m.)
Location: San Marcos, Texas
Site: Bobcat Baseball Stadium (2,400)
Live Audio and Video: TXStateBobcats.com
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com
The Missouri State Bears will open their golden season of varsity baseball this weekend at the CenturyLink Bobcat Invitational in San Marcos, Texas. MSU will play single games against host Texas State (Friday), Sam Houston State (Saturday) and Tulane (Sunday) at Bobcat Baseball Stadium.
Missouri State will play its first seven games of the new season on the road before opening the home slate March 1 against Northwestern State. The Bears travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., next weekend for three games in the Southern Miss Invitational, before taking on Kansas in the road portion of their home-and-away series with the Jayhawks on Feb. 26.
♦ For the fifth time in 11 years, the Bears open as the preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite
♦ Missouri State enters the season No. 31 in Collegiate Baseball's preseason poll for the second straight year
♦ The Bears will be opening the season in Texas for the 11th time in 13 years
♦ MSU also opened the 2009 season in San Marcos, going 1-3, including a 12-8 win over host Texas State
♦ MSU will be looking to snap a four-game skid in season openers Friday; the Bears are 18-12 in openers under head coach Keith Guttin and 30-19 overall in debut contests
♦ Guttin enters the season 14th on the NCAA's Division I active coaching victories list with 1,032 wins and needs two more wins to climb to 42nd on the all-time victories list
♦ Junior Nick Petree was a preseason All-America pick by Collegiate Baseball, the NCBWA and Perfect Game
♦ Missouri State placed four players on the MVC's preseason all-conference squad, including Petree, Luke Voit, Tyler Burgess and Keenen Maddox
♦ Burgess was tabbed for the NCBWA's Stopper of the Year Award preseason watch list after picking up Freshman All-American honors in 2012
Texas State Series
Friday's season opener will mark the Bears' second meeting with host Texas State out of the Western Athletic Conference. MSU took the only previous game in the series with a 12-8 victory against the Bobcats in San Marcos (Feb. 19, 2011). The Bears are a combined 16-14 (.533) overall mark against the WAC's current membership into the tournament.
About the Bobcats
Texas State enters the 2013 season with an experienced roster that includes 19 letterwinners back from last year's 32-24 squad that finished third in the Southland Conference. This year, head coach Ty Harrington's club makes the move to the Western Athletic Conference, where they were picked second in the league's preseason poll. Leading the way for the Bobcats will be a deep and experienced pitching staff that posted a 3.02 team ERA in 2012. Junior right-hander Kyle Finnegan is TSU's top returning starter after going 5-6 with a 3.28 ERA in 14 starts a year ago. Junior right-hander Hunter Lemke was lights-out in relief for the Bobcats last spring, finishing with a minuscule 1.25 ERA in 21 appearances.
The Texas State offense will look to catcher/infielder Andrew Stumph to provide stability after the senior hit .253 and finished third on the squad in both home runs (3) and RBIs (28). Sophomore infielder/outfielder Colby Targun (.304) is the lone returning Bobcat to hit better than .300 last year, and senior outfielder Morgan Mickan represents the club's top base-stealing threat after swiping 11 bags as a junior.
Sam Houston State Series
MSU and Sam Houston State met for the only time in their histories on Feb. 28, 2009, a 15-11 setback for the Bears at the SHSU Bearkat Classic in Huntsville, Texas. MSU enters the season with an overall record of 42-40 (.512) against the current membership of the Southland Conference, including an 8-1 cumulative mark against the circuit in 2012.
About the Bearkats
Sam Houston State welcomes back 17 letterwinners, including seven of its top eight hitters, from a club that went 40-22 and won the Southland title en route to an NCAA Regional appearance. Head coach David Pierce's squad was picked to once claim the Southland crown in the league's annual preseason poll. A trio of preseason All-SLC picks will power the Bearkat offense, led by junior catcher/infielder Anthony Azar, the club's leading hitter with a .354 average, three homers and 38 RBIs in 2012. Senior third baseman Kevin Miller also returns atfer batting .315, scoring a team-high 38 runs and driving in 33 more last spring. Sophomore outfielder Colt Atwood turned in a strong debut season, hitting .316 and stealing a club-best 11 bases a year ago. Additionally, sophomore Ryan O'Hearn batted .304 and matched Miller's team-leading total of 69 hits as a freshman.
On the mound, SHSU will look to preseason All-SLC selection Caleb Smith to lead the charge. The junior notched eight wins to go along with a 3.23 earned run average last year, while projected No. 2 starter and fellow left-hander Cody Dickson was nearly as effective, posting a 3.25 ERA in 14 starts as a sophomore. Senior right-hander Michael Burchette (4-3, 3.35 ERA, 10 saves) was named to the NCBWA's Stopper of the Year Award preseason watch list and gives the Bearkats stability out of the bullpen.
Sunday's meeting with Tulane will be the first in the series between the Bears and Green Wave. MSU has struggled against Conference USA clubs, going just 8-22 (.267) all-time versus the current league lineup.
About the Green Wave
Tulane returns 20 letterwinners from a club that went 38-20 and finished third in always-competitive Conference USA in 2012. Head coach Rick Jones will have the benefit of returning all-conference performers Brennan Middleton and Brandon Boudreaux to lead an offense that posted a .305 team batting mark last spring. A senior infielder, Middleton led the club with a .357 average and 14 stolen bases last year. Boudreaux enters the 2013 campaign as one of C-USA's top all-around players following a year in which the senior outfielder hit .330 with eight homers, while slugging a team-best .541 to rank fourth in the league in the latter category. Finally, preseason all-conference pick Garrett Cannizaro (.305) is one of three additional returning regulars that hit better than .300 for the Green Wave in 2012.
The Green Wave also return experience and depth on the mound. Senior left-hander David Napoli (7-3, 2.86 ERA) was a second-team all-league choice, while senior righty Alex Byo (9-4, 3.38 ERA) shared the C-USA lead in victories with nine last year. The bullpen should be deep as well, with junior right-hander Alex Facundus (3-2, 1.98 ERA) expected to step into the role of closer. Four additional veterans who posted sub-4.00 ERAs last year return to give TU a number of option for relief.
About the Bears
Coming off a 40-22 season and their first NCAA Regional appearance since 2003, Missouri State will welcome back 17 letterwinners, including seven members of its 2012 pitching staff that posted the lowest team earned run average (2.57) in all of Division I baseball last spring. Leading the way once again will be junior hurler Nick Petree, who was named Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball last year after going 10-4 with a Division I-best 1.01 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 115.1 innings pitched. The right-hander will be backed by a host of veteran returners, including senior weekend starter Cody Schumacher, who went 8-1 with a 3.71 ERA in a school-record 17 starts in his first season with the Bears, senior right-hander Grant Gordon and sophomore lefty Tyler Burgess. Burgess went 5-2 with a 2.08 ERA and 11 saves to lead the Bears' relief corps, notching a victory or a save in each of his first seven appearances without allowing an earned run to earn Freshman All-America and First-Team All-MVC honors, as well as NCBWA National Stopper of the Year consideration. The Webb City, Mo., product served as the linchpin of the Bears' bullpen throughout his freshman season, setting unprecedented standards for MSU rookie pitchers in the process while ranking second in the Valley and 30th nationally in saves.
In the field, the Bears return five regulars from last year's club, including senior outfielder Keenen Maddox, who led MSU with eight homers en route to earning team MVP honors in 2012. Additionally, senior catcher Luke Voit should once again backstop the Bears' infield, following a strong junior campaign in which he drove in a team-high 46 runs. Junior Trey Massenberg returns to patrol the Bears' outfield after a breakthrough sophomore year in which he established career-best numbers in nearly every offensive category. Two versatile sophomores in Dylan Becker and Eric Cheray also return after seeing significant time in the Bears' lineup as rookies last spring. MSU also regains the services of three-year starter Travis McComack at shortstop, after the senior missed the 2012 season as a redshirt.
Lifting the Lid
Missouri State is 18-12 in season openers under head coach Keith Guttin and 30-19 overall. MSU has dropped its last four openers, falling to Tennessee Tech in Lubbock, Texas, to kick off the 2012 campaign. In fact, MSU has dropped at least two straight games to open each of the last four seasons. Additionally, this weekend's action marks the 11th time in the last 13 years the Bears have opened a season in Texas.
For the fifth time in the last 11 seasons, Missouri State has been tabbed to capture the Missouri Valley Conference title in a preseason poll of the league's coaches. The Bears have fulfilled their preseason promise in three of the previous four instances in which they were chosen as the league favorite over the same span, bringing home crowns in 2002, 2003 and 2009, before finishing second in 2012.
MSU has garnered some national attention as well, earning the No. 31 spot in Collegiate Baseball's Preseason Top 40, and garnering the pole position in Baseball America's and CollegeBaseballInsider.com's preseason MVC forecasts as well.
Individually, senior outfielder Keenen Maddox, senior catcher Luke Voit, sophomore left-hander Tyler Burgess and junior right-hander Nick Petree were selected preseason All-MVC by the league's coaches. Additionally, Petree and Burgess picked up some national recognition, as each was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association preseason All-America squad in December. Petree, who earned first-team All-America honors from the NCBWA, Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and CollegeBaseballInsider.com last year, was also tabbed for preseason All-America honors by Perfect Game and Collegiate Baseball. Finally, Burgess earned a spot on the NCBWA's Stopper of the Year Award watch list for the second straight year.
It's Not About Where You Start...
The Bears' opening day losses to Tennessee Tech and Texas Tech in 2012 marked the third-straight year in which they stumbled from the gate with at least two straight defeats.
However, Missouri State has had some success in turning things around under head coach Keith Guttin, including four .500 finishes or better in the five previous instances in which it has lost two straight games to begin a season. Most recently, MSU won 34 of its final 50 contests and captured the MVC regular-season title in 2009 after starting the year 0-4.
True to form, the 2012 Bears righted the ship to record their best start through 26 games in 10 years with a 20-6 mark through March 27. MSU won 20 of its first 26 games on seven previous occasions, but had not done so since 2002. Additionally, the Bears' sweep of Creighton (March 23-25) not only included their seventh-consecutive opening-night win in MVC play, but also gave them six series victories on opening weekend over the last seven years.
In Rare Company
Missouri State head coach Keith Guttin (Missouri-St. Louis, 1978) begins his 31st season as head coach of the baseball Bears already entrenched among some of the all-time coaching greats in college baseball history. Guttin, who enters the season with a career record of 1,032-652 (.613), ranks 14th on the NCAA's Division I active coaching victories list and 43rd on its all-time wins list. He needs two more victories to catch Temple's James Wilson for the 42nd spot on the NCAA's all-time Division I 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.