Feb. 22, 2012
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (2-2) at UTA Invitational
Dates: Friday, Feb. 24 vs. Stephen F. Austin (11 a.m.)
Friday, Feb. 24 vs. Stephen F. Austin (6 p.m.)
Saturday, Feb. 25 at UT Arlington (3 p.m.)
Sunday, Feb. 26 vs. Houston Baptist (11 a.m.)
Location: Arlington, Texas
Site: Clay Gould Ballpark (1,600)
Live Audio and Video: None
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com
After splitting four games at last weekend's season-opening stay at the Red Raider Classic in Lubbock, Texas, the Missouri State Bears return to the Lone Star State for another four-game set, this time at the UTA Invitational. The Bears will open the tournament with a pair of games against Stephen F. Austin on Friday, before taking on host UTA Saturday and Houston Baptist Sunday in single contests.
♦ Missouri State ranked 45th in this week's Perfect Game Top 50 poll after going 2-2 last weekend in Lubbock
♦ Freshman left-hander Tyler Burgess became the first Bears' hurler in 10 years to earn wins in each of his first two career pitching appearances last weekend at the Red Raider Classic
♦ MSU suffered its fourth straight loss in a season opener last Friday, falling to Tennessee Tech, 3-2
♦ The Bears turned four double plays in game for the first time in five years in Sunday's 4-2 win at Texas Tech
♦ MSU returns to Arlington for the third consecutive season and the fourth in the last five; the Bears went 3-0 at last year's UTA Invitational to kick-off a season-high seven-game win streak
♦ Keith Guttin needs six victories to become the 46th Division I head coach to reach the 1,000 career win plateau
♦ Junior catcher Luke Voit homered in two of the Bears' first three games of the season (Feb. 17-18)
♦ Senior second baseman Kevin Medrano missed the Bears' final three games at the Red Raider Classic after sustaining a sprained finger on his throwing hand in MSU's opener with Tennessee Tech (Feb. 17)
♦ Spiker Helms led the Bears in hits (5), runs scored (4) and total bases (10), hitting .313 with 4 RBIs to earn a spot on the all-tournament team at the Red Raider Classic
Stephen F. Austin Series
Friday's doubleheader will mark the Bears' first two meetings with Stephen F. Austin out of the Southland Conference. The Bears do have an extensive history against the Southland, bringing a cumulative 27-23 (.540) overall mark against the league's current membership into the season. MSU went 2-0 against the conference last year, defeating both Texas State and UT Arlington on their home fields.
MSU and UT Arlington (also out of the Southland) have met on 15 previous occasions, with the Mavericks holding a slight 8-7 edge in the series. Last year, the Bears claimed a 3-2 victory in Arlington, but UTA took two out of three from MSU the previous season. The Bears, who will be making their eighth appearance in the UTA Invitational since 1994, are 12-9 all-time in the event.
Houston Baptist Series
Sunday's meeting with Houston Baptist will be the first in the series between the Bears and Huskies. MSU enters the weekend with a 14-1 all-time mark against Great West Conference schools, including a three-game sweep of North Dakota last year in Springfield.
About the Bears
Following a disappointing end to an otherwise memorable bounce back 2011 season, Missouri State entered the new year as the preseason choice to capture the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title for the fourth time in the last 12 seasons. The 2012 season promises to be a milestone year for the Bears, who mark their 30th year as a Division I program. It will also be the 30th campaign for head coach Keith Guttin, who enters the weekend just six wins shy of the 1,000 career win mark.
After a rough start to opening weekend in Lubbock, Texas, the Bears rebounded to win their final two games at the Red Raider Classic, topping Tennessee Tech (10-8) and Texas Tech (4-2) to bring a 2-2 mark into the season's second week. As a team, Missouri State struggled to put together a consistent offensive attack, registering just a .197 team batting average over the four-game stretch. MSU was led by senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.313, HR, 4 RBI) at the plate and freshman left-hander Tyler Burgess (2-0, 0.00) on the mound. Both were named to the Red Raider Classic All-Tournament Team after playing critical roles in MSU's two victories. Senior third baseman Brent Seifert, who paced the club with 9 HR and 43 RBIs as a junior, enjoyed a big day Saturday in the Bears' first win of the season against Tennessee Tech. He went 3-for-5, scored a pair of runs and drove in three more, including the game-winning two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Bears' mound corps posted a strong opening weekend, with three of their four starters working into the seventh inning. Nick Petree (0-1, 1.29), who went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA to garner Freshman All-America honors last spring, went 7.0 innings, allowing just one earned run while fanning five dropped a tough-luck 3-2 decision in the opener. Despite a rough first inning, junior right-hander Pierce Johnson (0-1, 2.57) was dominant against Texas Tech Friday, striking-out eight in seven innings of work. Junior righty Clay Murphy (0-0, 0.00) extended his streak of dominance over Big 12 schools with 6+ innings without giving up an earned run in Sunday's win over Texas Tech. Finally, Burgess was sensational in his MSU debut, notching victories in each of his two appearances, the last of which was a perfect 3.0-inning effort to close out Sunday's victory.
About the Lumberjacks
Stephen F. Austin comes into the tournament 1-3 after picking up its first victory of the season Wednesday against Grambling. The `Jacks return 18 letterwinners from last year's squad that went 37-23 and led the Southland in both team hitting (.301) and team ERA (3.57). SFA is led by three returning all-SLC performers in shortstop Hunter Dozier (.533, 3 HR, 7 RBI), first baseman Bobby Loveless (.267) and catcher Jarid Scarafiotti (.071). Dozier has belted a team-high three home runs, incuding a grand slam Wednesday, in the `Jacks first three games and is leading the club in hitting through the first four games of the season. Junior utility Zach Benson has started strong as well, hitting .307 through the season's first four games.
On the mound, SFA will rely on junior transfer Chase Greening (0-1, 15.00) and senior RHP Zack Taylor, who has yet to see the mound following a junior year that saw him go 5-2 with a 3.20 ERA. Senior right-handers Colton Eubanks (0-1, 7.71) and Alex Moshier (0-0, 13.50) should also help bolster a Lumberjacks staff that posted the school's lowest earned run average in 27 seasons last spring.
About the Mavericks
UT Arlington enters the weekend having won three of its first four contests, including a 7-5 victory over No. 9 Texas Tuesday in Austin. The Mavericks took two out of three from Louisiana Tech last weekend and bring a .335 team batting average into the UTA Invitational. Leading the charge has been sophomore shortstop Ryan Walker (.529, 6 R) and rightfielder Preston Beck (.444, 2 HR, 9 RBI). Newcomers Matt Shortall and Derek Miller have performed well in their first four games at UTA. Shortall (.389, HR, 4 RBI), a sophomore transfer, is tied for the team lead in slugging percentage (.778), runs scored (6) and total bases (14), while freshman Miller is hitting .333 coming into the weekend.
On the hill, the Mavericks have a host of options, with sophomore John Beck, senior Collin Reynolds and sophomore Kasey Merck taking the first three starts last weekend. Senior Lance Day (2-0, 6.52) leads the club in innings pitched and strikeouts out of the bullpen, and freshman Chad Nack earned his first collegiate save in Tuesday's win at UT.
About the Huskies
Houston Baptist is off to a 1-2 start after splitting a pair of games with McNeese State last weekend and dropping a 13-inning affair with UTSA Tuesday. The Huskies, who were picked to finish second in the Great West Conference after coming in third a year ago, bring a 3.48 team ERA into the UTA Invitational. HBU has received quality starts from freshman right-hander Tyler Hoelscher (0-0, 3.52) and senior Dalton Schafer (0-0, 3.38). Hoelscher worked 7.2 innings in his collegiate debut, allowing just three earned runs in HBU's 4-3 win over McNeese on Sunday. Schafer was also strong in his 2012 debut, completing 8.0 innings in Tuesday's loss.
At the plate, HBU has hit .254 as a team to date, relying on the red-hot Collin Hetzler (.778), who has seven hits in his first nine at-bats. Junior infielder Josh Foust (.308) and sophomore catcher/infielder Bradley Brown (.300, 4 RBI) have also gotten off to strong starts
It's Not About Where You Start...
The Bears' opening day losses to Tennessee Tech and Texas Tech last Friday marked the third straight year in which they have stumbled from the gate to 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.
Burgess Named Coors Player of the Week
Freshman pitcher Tyler Burgess was instrumental in the Bears' two victories at the Red Raider Classic, posting wins in his first two collegiate appearances to earn all-tournament recognition. For his efforts, the Webb City, Mo., product has been chosen as the first Coors Player of the Week for the 2012 season.
In Missouri State's 10-8 decision over Tennessee Tech Saturday, the left-hander gave up one hit and one walk in one inning of relief work to notch the victory in his MSU debut. Burgess followed that performance with three perfect innings in Sunday's 4-2 win over host Texas Tech, coming on with no outs in the seventh inning to work the Bears out of a bases-loaded jam. In all he would retire the final eight batters of the contest--recording nine outs in the process--to earn his second straight win.
With his opening weekend performance, Burgess became the first MSU pitcher since David Bader in 2002 to post victories in each of his first two career appearances.
Helms Receives Red Raider Classic Recognition
Senior infielder/outfielder Spiker Helms joined Burgess on the Red Raider Classic All-Tournament squad after pacing the Missouri State offense with a .313 batting average. The Washington, Mo., product led the Bears in hits (5), runs scored (4) and total bases (10) and rates among the MVC's top 10 in six different offensive categories entering the second week of the season.
Murphy's Big 12 Mastery Continues
Junior right-hander Clay Murphy has made a career out of stymieing the Big 12 Conference and his first start of the 2012 season offered more of the same. The Wolf Lake, Ill., native held Texas Tech to two unearned runs on seven hits while striking out five Red Raiders through six innings Sunday to allow the Bears to stay close enough to rally late for an eventual 4-2 victory and run their record to 7-3 vs. the Big 12 over the last two seasons.
Murphy's effort ran his streak of not allowing an earned run to 16 2/3 innings against Big 12 opponents. Overall, Murphy has just a 1-2 career mark and a respectable 4.25 ERA in nine appearances vs. Big 12 foes. But since March 1, 2011--the day his current streak began--Murphy has completed 20 innings over four outings, allowing just one earned run on 14 hits while fanning 20 Big 12 batters in three MSU victories.
Watch the Leather, Man
The Bears' two wins to close out opening weekend were made possible in large part by a solid defensive effort. Missouri State committed just two errors in 75 chances in wins over Tennessee Tech (Feb. 18) and Texas Tech (Feb. 19), good for a .976 fielding percentage. Additionally, the Bears turned five of their MVC-leading seven double plays over the two-game stretch. In Sunday's win over Texas Tech, MSU accounted for four of those twin-killings, marking the first time the Bears achieved that feat since March 4, 2007, when they posted a 6-3 win over Middle Tennessee.