March 14, 2012
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (12-5) vs. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (8-7)
Dates/Times: Thursday, March 15 (6:30 p.m.)
Friday, March 16 (3 p.m.)
Saturday, March 17 (2 p.m.)
Sunday, March 18
Location: Tulsa, Okla. (Thursday/Friday); Springfield, Mo. (Saturday/Sunday)
Site: J.L. Johnson Stadium (2,418)/Hammons Field (8,000)
Radio: KBFL AM 1060 (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Video: ORUGoldenEagles.com (Thursday and Friday only)
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com
After concluding a five-game homestand, the Missouri State Bears will meet the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in a split four-game series this weekend. MSU will travel to Tulsa for single games Thursday (6:30 p.m.) and Friday (3 p.m.), before wrapping up the set with a pair of games at Hammons Field, Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).
♦ Missouri State enters the weekend two wins shy of the 1,400-victory mark as a collegiate program
♦ The Bears' bullpen has combined to post a 4-1 record and 2.28 ERA while limiting the opposition to a .168 batting average and recording 43 strikeouts in 43.1 innings so far this season
♦ MSU ranked 47th in this week's Perfect Game Top 50 Poll and received five votes in the USA Today Coaches' Poll
♦ ORU brings a 25-16 overall record against MSU into Thursday's contest, but the Bears have won eight-straight games in the series over the last four seasons
♦ MSU ranked 21st nationally in doubles, 31st in walks and Ks/9 IP, and 32nd in double plays as of March 12
♦ Bears freshmen relievers Tyler Burgess and Zach Merciez are a combined 3-1 with five saves and a 1.73 ERA
♦ Freshman INF/OF Dylan Becker is 8-for-16 with five runs scored and a team-best on-base percentage of .619 over the Bears' last six games
♦ Junior RHP Pierce Johnson has posted back-to-back outings of 10+ strikeouts and ranks fourth nationally with 38 Ks on the season
♦ Senior 3B Brent Seifert has registered the game-winning RBI in each of MSU's last four victories
Oral Roberts Series
ORU holds a commanding 25-16 lead in the series, but the Bears have dominated the Golden Eagles over the last four seasons, winning the last eight meetings. Last year, the Bears swept a rain-shortened two-game series, claiming a 10-5 win in Tulsa and a 6-5 decision at Hammons Field.
About the Bears
Following a disappointing end to an otherwise memorable bounceback 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.
After a rough start to opening weekend in Lubbock, Texas, the Bears rebounded to win 11 of their next 12 games to post their best start to a season since 1995. Senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.388, 3-HR, 16-RBI) ranks among the MVC's top 10 performers in a number of different offensive categories, including league-best totals for runs scored (22) and doubles (9). He recorded a career-best 11-game hit streak from Feb. 18-March 6. Fellow senior Brock Chaffin (.318, 15-RBI) has come on strong as of late, accounting for 12 RBIs over the Bears' last 11 games, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.239, 3-HR, 17-RBI) has three game-winning RBIs and 14 for his MSU career to rank 11th on the Bears' career list. Senior second baseman Kevin Medrano (.273, 5-2B) returned from an early three-game hiatus with hits in six straight trips to the plate (Feb. 26-29) to break into the Bears' top 10 for career hits. Additionally, his five doubles rank eighth in the Valley. Additionally, senior third baseman Brent Seifert (.279, 2-HR, 20-RBI) leads the team in RBIs and has reached base safely in all 17 games and a career-high 22-straight contests dating back to last season.
The Bears' regular weekend rotation has been strong through the first four weeks, combining to strike-out 75 batters through 76 innings of work. Nick Petree (3-1, 2.00), who went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA to garner Freshman All-America honors last spring, picked up his third-straight victory last Friday against SIU Edwardsville, striking-out eight hitters over six innings of a combined two-hit shutout. Junior right-hander Pierce Johnson (1-2, 2.76) has shown stretches of dominance in each of his four outings this season. On Feb. 25, he held UTA hitless through five innings before leaving after seven innings with a no-decision. He's been even stronger over his last two starts, fanning 23 over 15.1 innings to claim a share of the MVC lead in strikeouts (38). Junior right-hander Cody Schumacher (2-0, 5.95) rebounded from a rough first start to post back-to-back victories, including a seven shutout innings at Northwestern State (March 4). Junior righty Clay Murphy (2-1, 1.67, 1 save) permitted just two earned runs over his first 25.1 innings this year and defeated Oklahoma State for the second time in seven days March 6. Finally, freshman lefty Tyler Burgess (3-0, 0.00, 3 saves) has been sensational in his MSU debut, notching a victory or a save in each of his six appearances without allowing a run over 11.1 innings pitched.
About the Golden Eagles
After a slow start that saw ORU win just one of its first six games, the Golden Eagles have rebounded to win seven of their last nine contests. The perennial Summit League power returned 17 letterwinners from last year's 39-22 squad that came within one win of advancing to an NCAA Super Regional. The Golden Eagles entered the week 17th in all of Division I in home runs per game (1.0), thanks in large part to the tandem of senior first baseman Jared Schlehuber (.345, 5-HR, 10-RBI) and junior infielder Cam Schiller (.286, 6-HR, 18-RBI), who have combined for 11 of the club's 16 long balls. Schlehuber also leads the squad in hitting, while Schiller has the top stolen base total (3) on the team. Former Wichita State infielder Nate Goro (.299, 12-RBI) is off to a strong start as well, having scored a team-high 14 runs to date. Additionally, junior outfielder Kevin Cho (.273), junior catcher Bennett Pickar (.271), freshman infielder Jose Trevino (.264, 1-HR, 9-RBI) and senior outfielder Brandon King (.232, 7-RBI) have made all 15 starts for the Golden Eagles.
On the mound, ORU features a deep and versatile assortment of options. Senior right-hander Drew Bowen (2-1, 3.60) returns to anchor the weekend rotation after leading the club with a 6-2 mark and 1.73 ERA a year ago. Senior lefty Mike Torrence (1-2, 4.50) and junior righty Kurt Giller (1-2, 6.53) round out the rotation for a club that has posted a 3.57 team ERA to date. The Golden Eagle bullpen has been a strength through the first month of the season, as four different hurlers enter the series with ERA's of 1.00 of lower. Senior right-hander Matt Rush (0-0, 0.00, 2 saves) has been a reliable stopper, as has senior righty Don Martony (2-0, 0.69, 1 save). The duo has combined to give up just one earned run over 17.2 innings spanning 11 outings.
New Blood Delivers New Life
Missouri State has received a recent boost from a deep and talented crop of newcomers. Over the Bears' last six games, freshman Dylan Becker and Eric Cheray have been two of the clubs' hottest hitters, combining to hit .417 (15-for-36). Additionally, junior transfer Koby Peebles has rebounded from a sluggish start to bat .333 over the same stretch, and freshman Joey Hawkins has continued to flash the leather, maintaining his perfect fielding percentage.
The Bears' mound corps has also benefitted from its newest members, particularly in the bullpen. Freshmen Tyler Burgess and Zach Merciez, and junior transfer Erik Shannahan have been nearly unhittable over the same stretch. The trio has combined for two saves, while allowing just one run on five hits over 11.1 innings spanning seven outings, good for a miniscule 0.79 ERA. Merciez teamed up with sophomore right-hander Nick Petree on the teams' first shutout of the season March 9 vs. SIU Edwardsville, and junior transfer Cody Schumacher gave the Bears a lift with seven shutout innings March 4 at Northwestern State to earn his second-straight victory and complete a three-game road sweep of the Demons.
With his recent hot streak, Becker enters the weekend third on the team in hitting (.303), while Burgess and Shannahan have yet to allow a run in 10 combined outings to begin their MSU careers.
Bears Bring the `O' Against ORU
Over the course of its eight-game win streak in the series with ORU, Missouri State has thrived at the plate. The Bears have scored 71 runs in the eight-game stretch, an average of 7.9 per game. Additionally, MSU has hit a collective .325 (94-for-289) with 14 homers against Golden Eagle pitching over the course of the streak. Individually, Kevin Medrano is a .419 (13-for-31) hitter in seven career games against ORU, and Brent Seifert went 3-for-8 (.375) with a pair of taters in last year's two-game sweep.
The Bears made the most of their season-opening 12-game road swing, winning nine games--including six true road tilts. By contrast, it took the 2011 MSU squad until its 27th game on April 5 at Kansas to claim its sixth road win, and the 2010 Bears only won six road contests all season long. The recent gold standard for road success is the 2008 squad's 15 road victories. MSU's current streak of six consecutive road wins is its longest since May 2009. The Bears have not won seven in-a-row on the road since the 2002 season, when they posted a 10-game win streak.
Watch the Leather, Man
The Bears' rebound from an 0-2 start has come thanks in large part to a standout team defensive effort. MSU has committed just 17 errors in 607 chances in the field to go 12-3 over its last 15 games, good for a .972 fielding percentage. Additionally, the Bears have turned 14 of their 16 double plays on the year over the 15-game stretch. In its Feb. 19, 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. Joey Hawkins was involved in all four DPs, just missing the school record held by Ryan Howard (March 30, 1999).