March 29, 2012
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (20-6) at Dallas Baptist Patriots (15-8)
Dates/Times: Friday, March 30 (6:30 p.m.)
Saturday, March 31 (2 p.m.)
Sunday, April 1 (1 p.m.)
Location: Dallas, Texas
Site: Patriot Field (400)
Live Video: DBUPatriots.com
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com
Riding their longest win streak in three years, the Missouri State Bears (20-6) head south for a three-game series with the Dallas Baptist Patriots (15-8) this weekend. MSU has won its last eight contests, including a thrilling 9-8 walk-off victory over Kansas on Tuesday, as well as a three-game sweep of defending Valley champ Creighton last weekend.
After a 3-5 start, the Patriots have rebounded with wins in 12 of their last 15 games. DBU, an NCAA Super Regional qualifier a year ago, saw its own seven-game win streak come to an end last weekend at Louisiana Tech, then dropped a 5-3 decision at Sam Houston State on Tuesday.
♦ Missouri State is No. 29 in this week's Collegiate Baseball Top 30 and Perfect Game Top 50 polls; the Bears also received votes in both the NCBWA and USA Today/ESPN Coaches' polls
♦ With their win over Kansas Tuesday, the Bears are 4-1 against the Big 12 in 2012 and 10-3 against the league over the last two seasons
♦ Junior RHP Pierce Johnson leads the nation in strikeouts and is Collegiate Baseball's National Pitcher of the Week after logging a career-best 16 strikeouts in a five-hit, 3-0 shutout of Creighton last Friday
♦ Sophomore RHP Nick Petree brings a career-best streak of 23.0 consecutive scoreless innings into the week
♦ Senior OF Spiker Helms is hitting .435 vs. lefties and .480 with runners in scoring position on the year
♦ Missouri State is 14-0 when scoring first and 16-2 when out-hitting the opposition
♦ The Bears' 14-3 record in March represents their best mark in a single month since going 12-2 in May 2005
♦ MSU ranked third nationally in K's per nine innings and fifth in earned run average entering the week
♦ The Missouri State bullpen posted a 0.53 ERA over a 17-game stretch, Feb. 29-March 25, and turned in 18.1 consecutive scoreless innings over nine contests, March 13-25
Dallas Baptist Series
The Bears and Patriots have met five previous times, with MSU taking the last two contests and holding a 3-2 edge in the series overall. Last year, the Bears pounded out 11 hits and drew 11 walks to post a season-high for runs in a 17-3 victory over the Patriots at the UT Arlington Invitational (Feb. 25). The Bears also claimed a season-opening 11-10 win over DBU in 2008, and dropped two of three to the Patriots in 2007.
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 have rebounded to win 20 of their last 24 games to post their best start to a season since 1989. Senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.363, 3-HR, 18-RBI) ranks among the MVC's top 10 performers in a number of different offensive categories, including league-leading totals in doubles (14) and runs scored (29). He recorded a career-best 11-game hit streak from Feb. 18-March 6. Fellow senior Brock Chaffin (.293, 22-RBI) has eight multi-hit games, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.291, 3-HR, 25-RBI) has hits in 10 of his last 11 games, as well as a team-high five game-winning RBIs and 16 for his MSU career to rank ninth on the Bears' career list. Senior second baseman Kevin Medrano (.284, 8-2B) 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. Medrano has been the Bears' hottest hitter as of late, going 8-for-18 with four runs scored and four RBIs in his last four outings. Senior third baseman Brent Seifert (.292, 4-HR, 27-RBI) leads the club in homers and RBIs and has reached base safely in 25 of the Bears' 26 games.
The Bears' top three starting pitchers have been strong through the first six weeks of the season, combining to strike-out 155 batters through 137.1 innings of work. Nick Petree (5-1, 1.23), who went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA to garner Freshman All-America honors last spring, picked up his fifth-straight victory last Saturday with his first career complete-game shutout and his third-straight scoreless outing. Junior right-hander Pierce Johnson (2-3, 1.94) has been dominant over his first six starts of the season, bringing the nation's top strikeout total into the week. Johnson fanned 16 Creighton hitters last Friday in a five-hit shutout, just missing the school single-game record of 17 punchouts. Junior righty Clay Murphy (4-1, 1.72, 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. Murphy ranks second in the MVC in innings pitched (47.0), third in strikeouts (47) and fourth in ERA (1.72). Finally, the Bears' bullpen has been nearly as dominant as the starting rotation, fashioning a string of 18 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over nine outings (March 13-25), and a 0.53 ERA over a 17-game span (Feb. 29-March 25). Freshman lefty Tyler Burgess (3-0, 0.00, 5 saves) has been sensational in his MSU debut to lead the group, notching a victory or a save in each of his first seven appearances as a Bear and in nine of 10 overall without allowing an earned run.
About the Patriots
Dallas Baptist returns 17 letterwinners from last year's 42-20 squad that won the Forth Worth Regional, before falling to Cal in the Santa Clara Super Regional. This year's squad has won 12 of its last 15 games after a 3-5 start, thanks to solid performances across the board. The Patriots bring a .282 team batting average, a 3.54 cumulative ERA and a .975 fielding average into the series to rank among the top 100 Division I clubs in all three categories. A trio of upperclassmen lead the offensive attack with averages above .300 and 16 or more RBIs. Junior infielder Austin Elkins (.343, 3-HR, 16-RBI) paces the squad in hitting, while junior outfielder Boomer Collins (.314, 5-HR, 21-RBI, 11-SB) provides both power and the speed. Senior infielder Joel Hutter (.321, HR, 20-RBI) shares the team lead with Collins with 27 hits, and senior outfielder Landon Anderson (.295, 11 RBI) is right on their heels with 26 hits after batting .356 as a junior last year.
The Patriots have been strong on the mound as well, with freshman right-hander Cy Sneed (4-2, 1.91) stepping into the Friday starter role with immediate success. Two lefties round out the weekend rotation, with senior Taylor Massey (4-1, 3.48) and junior Andrew Elkins (2-0, 2.53) putting up solid numbers through the first 23 games for DBU as well. In relief, five different Patriots have posted ERAs of 2.45 or better, led by junior righties Michael Smith (1-1, 1.73, 2 saves) and Stuart Pudenz (1-0, 1.46, 1 save).
On the Road Again
The Bears make their third trip to the state of Texas this weekend, meaning they'll have played more games in the Lone Star State than in their home ballpark by the end of the three-game series with Dallas Baptist. MSU has found the road hospitality to its liking thus far,with eight wins in 10 true road games to date. 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 school record for single-season road wins is 20, established by the 2003 squad, and MSU's streak of six consecutive road wins (Feb. 19-March 4) represented its longest since May 2009.
The Missouri State pitching staff enjoyed perhaps its finest week in what has been a banner year, holding its four opponents to just two earned runs over 36.0 innings last week. Sparked by their first back-to-back shutouts in six years, the Bears put up 24 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over four games versus SEMO and Creighton. MSU held the Bluejays to a .163 average and just one extra-base hit, while recording 34 strikeouts in 27 innings over its three-game sweep of CU.
Riding the crest of a season-best seven-game win streak, the Bears secured their first regular-season top 30 rankings in nearly three years March 26, when they were tabbed 29th in both the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Division I Baseball and Perfect Game Top 50 polls. MSU also received votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA) Top 30 for the first time this season and earned 30 votes in this week's USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches' Poll, good for 30th among all Division I programs.
For the Bears, who were ranked 31st in Collegiate Baseball's preseason poll, this week's citations mark their first regular-season top 30 rankings since holding the No. 30 spot in the same poll the week of May 18, 2009.
Missouri State has been ranked in Collegiate Baseball's top 30 poll on 11 previous occasions: May 18, 2009 (28th), April 20, 2009 (30th), June 9, 2003 (8th), June 2, 2003 (14th), May 27, 2002 (28th), April 15, 2002 (25th), April 8, 2002 (27th), June 21, 1999 (27th), June 7, 1999 (27th), May 31, 1999 (27th) and April 12, 1999 (26th).
Pick Your Poison
The Bears' one-two punch of junior Pierce Johnson and sophomore Nick Petree were nearly unhittable once again last week, combining to hold Creighton to just nine hits in back-to-back complete-game shutouts.
Johnson fanned a career-high 16 hitters to stretch his string of consecutive scoreless innings to a personal-best 13.1 straight Friday in a 3-0, five-hitter, while Petree pushed his own scoreless streak to 23.0 innings over three outings--just 6 1/3 innings shy of the Bears' single-season record (Greg Reed, 1988) and 11 2/3 innings short of MSU's overall scoreless streak, established by Ken Watkins during the 1968 and 1969 seasons. Over their last eight combined starts, the tandem has given up just five earned runs over 62.1 innings, for an ERA of 0.72, while striking out 83 hitters and walking just 16.
For his effort, Johnson joined Petree as the Bears' second-straight MVC Pitcher of the Week honoree, and earned National Player of the Week laurels from Collegiate Baseball (March 26).