MSU Will Look to Sustain Series Dominance Over Leathernecks in Three-Game Set at Hammons Field
March 14, 2013
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (11-4) vs. Western Illinois Leathernecks (3-11)
Dates/Times: Friday, March 15 (3 p.m.)
Saturday, March 16 (2 p.m.)
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Hammons Field (8,000)
Series History: Missouri State leads 24-4
Radio: KBFL AM 1060 (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: None
Tickets: (417) 836-7678
Promotions: Kids get in free Friday with the purchase of an adult ticket; Bears Bingo (Saturday)
Coming off a split of its two-game midweek series at Arkansas State, the Missouri State Bears return home to take on the Western Illinois Leathernecks in a three-game set at Hammons Field this weekend. The Bears and Leathernecks will meet at 3 p.m. Friday (March 15) to open the series then play single contests Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).
The Bears (11-4) swept Northwestern in a three-game series to open the home portion of its 2013 schedule last weekend, claiming two walk-off victories against the Wildcats. MSU defeated ASU in 11 innings Tuesday night in Jonesboro, before falling to the Red Wolves, 7-5, in the series finale Wednesday afternoon.
Western Illinois (3-11) snapped an eight-game losing skid Tuesday at Saint Louis, splitting its two-game series with the Billikens.
Up next, the Bears will travel to Albuquerque, N.M., for a Tuesday (March 19) doubleheader with New Mexico, before enjoying the lone weekend break in their schedule next weekend. MSU will host Kansas (March 26) and SEMO (March 27), before opening Missouri Valley Conference play March 29 against defending league champ Indiana State at Hammons Field.
♦MSU is 24-4 all-time against the Leathernecks, with wins in 23 of the last 24 meetings
♦The Bears are 3-0 at Hammons Field this season and 14-1 all-time at home vs. Western Illinois
♦Missouri State pitchers have posted a 2.47 team ERA through the first 15 games of the season; Bears' starters have recorded a 1.50 ERA over 84.0 innings of work
♦MSU's pitching staff ranked eighth nationally in strikeouts per nine innings (9.2) coming into the week
♦The Bears are 3-1 in extra-inning games and have claimed wins with scoring rallies in their last at-bat in five games this season
♦With 1,043 wins as Bears' head coach, Keith Guttin enters the weekend 14th on the NCAA's Division I active coaching victories list and tied for 41st on the NCAA's all-time Division I victories list
♦Guttin will coach his 1,700th Division I contest Friday
♦MSU freshmen Andy Cheray, Matt Hall and Jonathan Harris have combined to strike out 33 batters, allowing just four earned runs over 32.0 innings pitched, good for an ERA of 1.12
♦C Luke Voit and 1B/OF Spencer Johnson have reached base safely in each of their last 10 games
Missouri State holds a commanding 24-4 advantage in the series with Western Illinois, but the Leathernecks enter the weekend having taken the last meeting from the Bears (March 20, 2011). The two former Mid-Continent Conference foes have played just one three-game series since the Bears joined the MVC in 1991, with MSU taking two of three contests. The Leathernecks' 9-8 win at Hammons Field two years ago snapped a remarkable 23-game MSU win streak in the series that dated back to the 1985 season. The Bears are 14-1 at home against WIU, including a 2-1 mark at Hammons Field.
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.
About the Leathernecks
Western Illinois brings a 3-11 season mark into the series, despite logging road wins over then-No. 1 Arkansas and a pair of clubs expected to contend for titles in their respective leagues in Arkansas State and Saint Louis. First-year head coach Ryan Brownlee welcomed back 15 letterwinners from last year's 17-35-1 squad, including the club's leading hitter, Dan Dispensa (.245 BA, HR, 5 RBI). The senior outfielder batted .344 and logged a .423 on-base percentage in 2012. Catcher Manny Reyes is also back for the Leathernecks and the senior has been one of the club's top hitter thus far with a .242 batting mark. As a team, the Leathernecks bring a .217 batting average into the series.
On the mound, WIU has struggled for consistency, posting a 6.57 team earned run average through the first 15 games of the season. Junior RHP John White leads the weekend rotation with a 2.00 ERA in 18.0 innings pitched. Senior RHP Brian Loconsole has given the Leathernecks stability out of the pen, posting a 1-0 season mark to go along with a 2.45 ERA and a pair of saves.
Just 15 games into the 2013 season, the Bears have already turned in a series of heart-stopping finishes to match their best start to a season since 2002. Missouri State has already taken four games into extra frames this season after playing just four extra-inning games all of last year. The Bears set the tone in their season opener, needing 11 innings to pull out a 3-2 win at Texas State. Earlier this week they took Arkansas State to 11 innings as well, and have also played 10-inning games against Oklahoma State (March 5) and Northwestern (March 8), posting wins in three of the four games.
Additionally, the Bears have recorded walk-off wins in three games (Feb. 24 vs. Eastern Illinois and March 8 and 10 vs. Northwestern) and have claimed victories with scoring rallies in their last at-bat in a total of five contests to date (including the 11-inning road wins at Texas State and Arkansas State). MSU also lost in walk-off fashion March 5 at No. 27 Oklahoma State, dropping a 5-4 decision on a walk-off, bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
After turning in one of the most-memorable mound stretches in Missouri State history last season, Nick Petree has been at it again in the first month of the 2013 season. The junior has allowed just two earned runs over his first four starts spanning 25.0 innings, twice posting scoreless streaks of at least 10 innings. He brings an active streak of 10.2 consecutive scorelss innings into Friday's series opener and leads the MVC with a 0.75 earned run average, while ranking 31st nationally as of March 11.
Petree's early success this season shouldn't come as a surprise after the Clinton, Mo., native choked the life out of the opposition over a two-and-a-half-month span last spring to the tune of 73 consecutive innings without allowing a single earned run (March 2-May 17). As a result, the right-hander earned Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year honors, as well as first-team All-America recognition from Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association after leading all of Division I with a 1.01 ERA.
Missouri State has been dominant in series openers over the last 11 months, registering a Friday (or series-opening) victory in nine of its last 10 regular-season series or weekend tournaments since a 14-4 win over Illinois State on April 14, 2012. The Bears have gone on to claim nine of the 10 series, posting a 22-7 overall mark in weekend series or tournaments over the same span.
In Rare Company
Head coach Keith Guttin moved into a tie with Mark Johnson (Texas A&M, Sam Houston State) for the 41st spot on the NCAA's all-time Division coaching victories list. Guttin, who enters the weekend with a career record of 1,043-656 (.614), 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.
Holding A Late Lead
Despite letting a two-run lead slip away in the eighth inning March 5 at No. 27 Oklahoma State, Missouri State has won 92 percent of its games over the last 14 seasons when leading after the seventh inning. Additionally, the Bears have won 329 of the last 341 games in which they have taken a lead into the ninth inning.