MSU Begins Three-Game Series, Valley Season Friday With Nationally Televised Game on ESPNU
March 20, 2014
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (8-10, 0-0 MVC) at Wichita State Shockers (12-7, 0-0 MVC)
Date: Friday, March 21 - 5:33 p.m.
Saturday, March 22 - 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 23 - 1 p.m.
Location: Wichita, Kan.
Site: Eck Stadium (7,841)
Series History: WSU leads 62-35
TV (Friday): ESPNU (Mike Morgan, Mike Rooney)
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM/99.9 FM (Art Hains)
Live Audio: RadioSpringfield.com
Live Video: ShockerVision.TV
The Missouri State Bears (8-10) will open their 24th Missouri Valley Conference season Friday (March 21) when they begin a three-game series with the Wichita State Shockers (12-7) at Eck Stadium in Wichita, Kan. Friday's opener featuring the top two vote-getters in the Valley's preseason poll will be televised nationally on ESPNU at 5:33 p.m. (CDT), followed by a 2 p.m. contest Saturday and a 1 p.m. tilt Sunday to conclude the series.
Missouri State enters league play looking to stop a seven-game slide, which matches the Bears' second-longest losing streak as a varsity program. MSU, which is 16-7 all-time in Valley openers, dropped all three games of its non-conference series with Dallas Baptist last weekend as part of an 0-4 homestand. Wichita State dropped two of three at No. 20 UC Santa Barbara last weekend, then split a pair of midweek games at Arizona State to enter Valley play with wins in five of its last eight contests.
♦ Missouri State has won eight straight Valley openers and seven of its last eight MVC-opening series
♦ Wichita State leads the all-time series with MSU by a 62-35 margin, but the Bears won two of three from the Shockers in their last visit to Eck Stadium in April 2012
♦ The Bears have played more games at Eck Stadium than any other road venue, going 12-38 vs. the Shockers on their home turf and 21-20 vs. the rest of the Valley thanks to their 15 MVC Tournament trips to Wichita
♦ Missouri State has recorded at least 12 hits in seven of its 18 games after reaching the same mark just 10 times over the entire 2013 campaign; the Bears' 56 extra-base hits is tied with Illinois State for the top total in the league
♦ The Bears have been shut out in four consecutive contests for the first time in 2,381 varsity games covering the entire 51-year history of the program; their current 41-inning scoring drought also represents their longest ever
♦ MSU is hitting just .205 as a team over its current seven-game losing streak, but the Bears pitching staff has logged a 3.25 ERA and held the opposition to a .224 batting average during the same stretch
♦ Topeka native Cody Schumacher is 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in his MSU career vs. Wichita State; the right-hander brings a streak of 15.2 consecutive scoreless frames against the Shockers into Friday's game, as well as an overall string of 10.1 straight shutout innings over his last two starts
♦ Fellow Kansan Eric Cheray has gashed the Shockers as well, hitting .364 (8-for-22) in seven career games vs. WSU, including .455 (5-for-11) with a home run in three meetings last season
♦ Matt Fultz has thrown out 10-of-13 (.769) would-be base-stealers on the season, while slugging .519 with six multi-hit games and three multi-RBI performances in his first 17 games as a Bear
Friday's series opener will mark the 98th meeting in the series, with Wichita State holding a commanding 62-35 edge. Last year, the Shockers swept the Bears in their three-game series in Springfield to squash Missouri State's MVC title hopes.
The Shockers have been dominant on their home field vs. the Bears, claiming 38 of the previous 50 meetings in the series. MSU has enjoyed some recent success at Eck Stadium, claiming its first regular-season series win in Wichita two years ago. The Bears have also won 21 neutral-field contests in Wichita in their 15 MVC Championship appearances at Eck Stadium.
Bears, Shockers Picked to Click in MVC
This weekend's series will pit the top two teams in this year's Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll against one another. With one of the most experienced rosters in the MVC returning in 2014, the Bears were chosen by the league's head coaches for the second spot in the Valley's annual preseason baseball poll. Additionally, MSU sophomores Tate Matheny and Jon Harris were selected by the Valley coaches for the preseason all-conference squad following impressive rookie campaigns in 2013.
The Bears, who tallied 55 points in the poll, trailed only Wichita State, which just edged MSU by one point in the balloting. The Shockers, who finished second in the conference race last year before claiming the MVC Tournament crown, picked up six of the eight first-place votes, while the Bears garnered the remaining two. Led by preseason All-America candidate Casey Gillaspie, WSU placed four regulars on the Valley's preseason club. Outfielder Garrett Bayliff, catcher Tyler Baker and reliever Aaron LaBrie were also selected for the All-MVC squad by the coaches.
Defending regular-season champ Illinois State (46 points) earned the No. 3 spot, while league newcomer Dallas Baptist (44 points) was tabbed for the fourth position. Southern Illinois (28 points) earned the fifth position in the poll, followed by Evansville (25 points), Indiana State (23 points) and Bradley (11 points).
This weekend's series with the Shockers will mark the first three of the Bears' four scheduled games in the Sunflower State this season, much to the delight of the four Kansas natives on the MSU roster. Thanks to inclement weather the Bears' only scheduled game in Kansas last season was canceled, marking the first year since 1995 that MSU did not play at least one contest in the neighboring state. Two seasons ago, the Bears went a combined 6-1 against Wichita State, Kansas and Kansas State, with three Kansas natives playing key roles for the Maroon and White. The Bears recorded a minuscule 1.12 staff ERA and hit . 312 as a club in those games, outscoring the opposition by a 46-11 margin in their six victories.
Most notably, Cody Schumacher earned two of the Bears' three wins over the Shockers in 2012, allowing just one earned run while striking out 16 hitters over 17.0 total innings in two starts against WSU. The fifth-year senior blanked the Shockers with a complete-game two-hitter at the MVC Championship in Springfield, and brings a 15.1 inning scoreless streak vs. WSU into Friday's game. The Bears are a combined 4-0 in Schumacher's starts on Kansas soil or against teams from his home state. Fellow Topeka native Eric Cheray, who hit .455 against the Shockers last year, led the Bears' offensive charge in those two 2012 victories, hitting .500 with a pair of RBIs and a run scored to help MSU outscore the Shockers by a 14-2 spread. Additionally, Leawood, Kan., product Dylan Becker logged a .333 batting average against WSU in 2012 and hit his first collegiate home run in MSU's 7-2 victory in Schumacher's first win over the Shockers (April 21). Sophomore left-hander Andy Cheray (Overland Park) got his first crack at a team from his home state last year against the Shockers (May 5), working a career-best 8 2/3 innings over which he surrendered just two runs on two hits.
One thing has been certain for the Bears in 2014--with Cody Schumacher on the mound, MSU's chances for victory are outstanding. The Bears have claimed wins in four of his five appearances this season, thanks in large part to a string of 16 1/3 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run from Feb. 14-March 7. In fact, Schumacher has been nearly unbeatable throughout his MSU career, with the Bears recording wins in 20 of his 27 appearances, allowing the Topeka, Kan., native to climb all the way to third on the school's all-time win percentage list for pitchers. Schumacher's 13-2 career mound mark gives him an .867 win percentage, which trails only Greg Reed (.909) and Darren Garrison (.870) among all MSU hurlers with at least 10 career victories.
The Strange Case of the Streak
Missouri State's current slide has given the Bears' season a Jekyll-and-Hyde feel that would make Robert Louis Stevenson proud. After posting a notable offensive turnaround over the first four weeks of the new campaign, the Bears' lineup has experienced a collective power outage over the course of their seven-game losing streak. MSU has hit just .205 (44-for-215) on its slide after registering a .288 team batting mark through its first 11 contests. Perhaps even more staggering is the contrast between the Bears' power numbers, with MSU totaling just 11 extra-base hits in its last seven outings--none of which came over its four-game scoreless spell--after piling up a Missouri Valley Conference-high 45 in its initial 11 games of the season. Meanwhile, MSU's pitching allowed just three earned runs over 27.0 innings vs. Dallas Baptist and held the Patriots scoreless through the first eight innings of each game. However, DBU scored in the ninth in all three, leaving the Bears empty handed despite logging a 1.00 ERA and holding the visitors to a .151 average and only two extra-base hits for the weekend.
In spite of their struggles at the dish, the Bears still share the MVC lead in extra-base hits (56) with Illinois State entering league play. MSU leads the Valley in triples (7), ranks second in doubles (39) and third in home runs (10).