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Bears Face Stiff Test at Southern Miss Invitational
 
Erik Shannahan
 
Erik Shannahan
 

Feb. 20, 2013

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (2-1) at Southern Miss Invitational
Dates:
Friday, February 22 vs. Alcorn State (1 p.m.)
Saturday, February 23 at Southern Miss (4 p.m.)
Sunday, February 24 vs. Eastern Illinois (11 a.m.)
Location: Hattiesburg, Miss.
Site: Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field (6,600)
Live Audio and Video: SouthernMiss.com
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com
Twitter: MSUBearBaseball

Leading Off
After a 2-1 start to the 2013 season last week in Texas, the Missouri State Bears will look to build some momentum this weekend at the Southern Miss Invitational in Hattiesburg, Miss. MSU Alcorn State (Friday), host Southern Miss (Saturday) and Eastern Illinois (Sunday) at Pete Taylor Park.

Missouri State is in the midst of a seven-game road stretch to begin the season before it opens the home slate March 1 against Northwestern State. The Bears travel to Lawrence to take on Kansas in the road portion of their home-and-away series with the Jayhawks next Tuesday to conclude the month of February.

Prime 9
♦ The Bears enter the weekend a combined 29-25 all-time versus the Southern Miss Invitational field
♦ Along with Creighton and Illinois State, Missouri State was one of just three Missouri Valley Conference teams to emerge from opening weekend with a winning record
♦ MSU will be looking to snap an eight-game losing streak in Hattiesburg, as well as a 10-game skid in its series with host Southern Miss this weekend
♦ Bears' first basemen went a combined 4-for-7 (.571) at the plate with two RBIs at the CenturyLink Bobcat Invite
♦ RHP Erik Shannahan posted his eighth and ninth scoreless outings last weekend in 11 career appearances
♦ With 1,034 wins as Bears' head coach, Keith Guttin enters Friday's action 14th on the NCAA's Division I active coaching victories list and tied with James Wilson for 42nd on its all-time wins list
♦ With 5.0 scoreless innings to open the season last Friday, junior RHP Nick Petree logged his 11th start without allowing an earned run since the beginning of the 2012 season, a span of 17 starting assignments
♦ RHP Grant Gordon moved into a tie for seventh on the Bears' career pitching appearances (59) list last weekend
♦ DH Koby Peebles leads the MVC with four walks, while SS Travis McComack's three sacrifices is also a league high

Alcorn State Series
Friday's contest will be the first-ever meeting between MSU and Alcorn State. The Bears have compiled an 8-3 mark against the current membership of the SWAC, with their most recent meeting against a league foe coming in 1999 against Jackson State, a 15-3 Bears' victory.

About the Braves
Alcorn State enters the weekend having dropped its first six contests of the season after dropping both ends of a doubleheader with Oklahoma State on Tuesday. The Braves were tabbed for third in the SWAC's Eastern Division in the league's preseason poll after finishing 18-37 in 2012. Fourth-year head coach Barrett Rey will look to junior shortstop Angel Rosa, a preseason All-SWAC selection, to lead the way after the Puerto Rico native batted .292 last spring. Rosa will get help from DH Jordan Boston, who was also named preseason All-SWAC.

On the mound, the Braves will look to preseason All-SWAC reliever Ryan Fuentes, who recorded four saves as a sophomore in 2012.

Southern Miss Series
The Bears enter the weekend with a 5-13 all-time mark against the host Golden Eagles, including a three-game sweep by USM the last time MSU paid Hattiesburg a visit in 2011. In fact, the Bears have dropped 10 straight games in the series and eight in-a-row in Hattiesburg overall dating back to 2005. MSU's last win vs. the Golden Eagles came on March 20, 1995, and the Bears are 8-23 all-time against the current makeup of C-USA.

About the Golden Eagles
Southern Miss welcomes back 22 letterwinners from a club that went 32-24 a year ago, but missed out on postseason play for the first time in a decade. Head coach Scott Berry -- a 1986 MSU graduate and former student assistant under head coach Keith Guttin -- will field a squad that was picked second in Conference USA's preseason poll. Preseason All-Americans OF/RHP Mason Robbins and RHP Andrew Pierce will be the focal points for the Golden Eagles after standout 2012 campaigns. A sophomore, Robbins hit .330, clubbed three homers and drove in 38 runs as a rookie, while posting a 4.01 ERA in 33.2 innings on the mound as the Golden Eagles' Sunday starter. Pierce went 7-4 with a 1.99 ERA in 2012 and leads a weekend rotation that returns No. 2 starter LHP Jake Drehoff (6-2, 3.51 ERA) as well. Additionally, sophomore closer Bradley Roney returns after closing out 11 victories and recording a 2.42 ERA as a freshman.

The USM lineup also features returning senior outfielder Dillon Day (.290 BA, 20 RBI, 7 SB), as well as its top threat on the basepaths, Michael Sterling (.288 BA, 11 SB) and its top power bat from last spring in Blake Brown (.271 BA, 6 HR, 41 RBI).

Eastern Illinois Series
The Bears hold a commanding 24-12 advantage in their series with Eastern Illinois. The former Mid-Continent Conference foes have not faced each other since the 2004 campaign, when EIU claimed a 6-4 decision over the Bears at the Louisiana-Monroe Invitational. MSU brings a 121-76 (.614) all-time mark against the current membership of the Ohio Valley Conference into play this weekend. About the Panthers
Eastern Illinois returns 17 letterwinners from a club that went 29-29 and finished fourth in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2012. Head coach Jim Schmitz will have the benefit of returning Freshman All-American Brett Valach, as well as OVC All-Newcomer Team selection Caleb Howell. The Panthers' regular third baseman, Valach batted .314 with 28 RBIs to earn OVC Rookie of the Year recognition, while Howell hit .316 with a team-best 37 runs scored as EIU's right-fielder. Senior outfielder Nick Priessman (.289 BA, 20 RBI, 9 SB) and junior catcher Jacob Reese also return for the Panthers. Reese turned in a strong sophomore campaign in which he threw out 22 of 42 would-be basestealers, while hitting .271 with 35 runs batted-in.

The Panthers lost top starting pitcher Troy Barton for the season due to injury and will turn to the duo of junior lefty Christian Slazinik and sophomore right-hander Matt Borens to carry the load on weekends.

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.

Bucking the Trend
The Bears' 3-2 win in 11 innings at Texas State last Friday snapped a four-year opening-day losing streak and hiked their all-time record to 31-19 in season openers. In fact, the Bears had not posted a win in either their first or second games of any season since 2008, which was the last time they began a year 2-0. MSU is now 19-12 in season openers under head coach Keith Guttin.

Schumacher Picks Up Valley Honor
Senior right-hander Cody Schumacher was named Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week on Monday after helping lead the Bears to a 2-1 start to the at the CenturyLink Bobcat Invitational last weekend. Schumacher matched a career high with nine strikeouts while allowing just one run on six hits in the Bears' 3-2 victory over Sam Houston State on Saturday. The Topeka, Kan., native followed up a strong opening day effort from the MSU staff with seven solid innings against SHSU, a 2012 NCAA Regional participant, walking just one on the night and striking out six of the first 10 hitters he faced to allow his club time to build a 3-0 lead. The victory--Schumacher's ninth in 10 career decisions--handed the Bears their first 2-0 start to a season since 2008. The weekly Valley award is the first for Schumacher, who was honored by the league along with player of the week Alex Staehely of Creighton.

In Rare Company
Head coach Keith Guttin moved into a tie for 42nd on the NCAA Division I all-time coaching victories list with the Bears' two wins over the weekend. He matched Temple's James Wilson with 1,034 wins and needs nine more victories to catch Mark Johnson (Texas A&M, Sam Houston State) for the 41st spot on the list. Guttin, who enters the weekend with a career record of 1,034-653 (.613), also ranks 14th 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.

Encore Performance
After posting the nation's best team earned run average (2.57) last season, the Bears began 2013 right where they left off last spring, holding their first two opponents without an earned run for the first 16 1/3 innings of the season. Missouri State pitching allowed a pair of unearned runs in Friday's 11-inning victory at Texas State, then blanked Sam Houston State for 5 1/3 innings Saturday in a 3-2 win.

The Bears' Friday and Saturday starters, Nick Petree and Cody Schumacher combined to limit the opposition to just one run on eight hits over 12 innings while striking out 14 and walking four.

 

 

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