MSU Lifts Lid on MVC Season With Three-Game Series Against Defending League Champs
March 28, 2013
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (15-6, 0-0 MVC) vs. Indiana State Sycamores (11-8, 3-0 MVC)
Game 1: Friday, March 29 - 4 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, March 30 - 2 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, March 31 - 1 p.m.
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Hammons Field (8,000)
Series History: Missouri State leads 58-37 (MSU has won two straight)
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: Bears All-Access (Saturday)
Tickets: (417) 836-7678
Promotions: Bears Bingo (Saturday)
The Missouri State Bears will open their 23rd Missouri Valley Conference season Friday when they begin a three-game series with the Indiana State Sycamores at Hammons Field. For the second consecutive year, the Bears were the MVC coaches' preseason choice to capture the conference crown, while Indiana State is coming off its first regular-season Valley title last spring.
The Bears (15-6) enter conference play on two-game win streak after an 11-4 home victory over SEMO and Wednesday and an 8-2 win at New Mexico March 19 in the second game of the two clubs' doubleheader.
Indiana State (11-8, 3-0 MVC) already has a three-game sweep of Southern Illinois under its belt in MVC play. The Sycamores dropped a midweek contest to Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday, but still enter the weekend with victories in five of their last six games.
♦Missouri State holds a 58-37 advantage in the series with Indiana State and has won 11 of the last 15 meetings
♦The Bears have won seven straight Valley openers and six of their last seven MVC-opening weekend series
♦MSU freshmen Matt Hall and Jonathan Harris are a combined 6-0 with a 1.55 ERA and 44 K's this season
♦RHP Nick Petree ranks second in the Valley and 25th nationally in ERA (1.09); three Bears -- Petree, Harris and Tyler Thompson -- rank among the top 10 in individual strikeouts in the MVC
♦OF Tate Matheny is hitting .500 (18-for-36) over the course of his current eight-game hit streak
♦Led by Matheny's .500 (15-for-30) batting average, MSU has hit a collective .315 in winning six of its seven games at Hammons Field this year
♦Matheny's current average of 1.667 hits per game is the highest mark for any freshman in MSU history
♦DH Koby Peebles leads the MVC in doubles (9) and ranks 28th nationally in doubles per game (0.45)
♦Peebles has hits in each of his last seven at-bats and has reached base safely in eight straight plate appearances dating back to MSU's March 19 doubleheader at New Mexico
The Bears hold a commanding 58-37 lead in their series with Indiana State after taking two of three meetings each of the last two seasons. MSU has been dominant in the series over the last five seasons, claiming 11 victories while dropping just four games. The Bears have posted a 5-1 mark against ISU at Hammons Field over the same span.
Last year, Indiana State won the first game of the series in Terre Haute to wrap up the MVC regular-season crown. But the Bears rebounded to pull out a 7-5 game-two win, before Pierce Johnson and Tyler Burgess combined on a five-hit shutout in the rubber game of the series.
About the Bears
Coming off a 40-22 campaign and their eighth NCAA Division I Regional appearance, Missouri State is once again on course to compete for the top spot in the Missouri Valley Conference with wins in 15 of its first 21 games this season. For the second straight year head coach Keith Guttin's Bears were tabbed as the MVC's preseason favorite by the league's coaches, thanks largely to the return of 17 letterwinners, including the bulk of a pitching staff that led the nation in team earned run average last spring. Leading the way once again is 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 is off to a 3-0 start with the second-best ERA in the MVC (1.09) through five starts to pace a staff that has recorded a 2.79 team ERA through 21 games. Freshman right-hander Jonathan Harris has made a significant impact as well over his first four collegiate starts, claiming wins in each while posting a 1.80 ERA. Sophomore NCBWA National Stopper of the Year candidate Tyler Burgess has been strong out of the bullpen for MSU, logging three wins, a pair of saves and a 0.73 ERA thus far after earning Freshman All-America and MVC Freshman of the Year recognition in 2012.
In the field, the Bears return five regulars from last year's club, including senior catcher Luke Voit, a Johnny Bench Award candidate for the second consecutive season. Voit's 17 RBIs and five steals lead MSU, while his .322 batting mark ranks second on the squad. Freshman outfielder Tate Matheny, who ranks among the Valley's top 10 in hitting (.402), slugging percentage (.563), on-base percentage (.465), hits (35), home runs (2), RBIs (15) and total bases (49). Infielders Travis McComack and Eric Cheray have driven in nine runs apiece while ranking among the league's leaders in sacrifices and walks, respectively. Senior DH Koby Peebles has been one of the Bears' most consistent contributors, registering 11 RBIs and an MVC-best nine doubles so far. Finally, junior first baseman Conor Smith shares the team lead with a pair of homers, slugging .500 to rank second on a squad that has posted a .273 team batting mark through 21 games.
About the Sycamores
Indiana State returns 14 letterwinners from last year's club that went 41-19 and edged the Bears for the MVC title by one-half game. Head coach Rick Heller's squad relies heavily on a talented pitching staff, led by potential first-round MLB Draft choice Sean Manaea. The junior left-hander has been dominant this season, posting a 3-1 mark, league-leading 0.84 ERA and 41 strikeouts in just 32.0 innings over five starts. Regular Saturday starter Devin Moore (2-1, 2.15 ERA) has been outstanding for the Sycamores as well, entering the weekend with a .190 batting average against, which is second only to Manaea (.158) in the Valley. Junior right-handers Josh Dove (2-0, 1.46 ERA, 2 saves) and Kurt Kudrecki (0-1, 1.72 ERA, 1 save, 16 K's) give ISU a potent one-two punch out of the bullpen.
At the plate, the Sycamores have struggled to find consistency with a .240 team batting mark to date. Senior outfielder Casey McCurdy brings a team-high .293 average into the weekend, while sophomore outfielder Landon Curry (.267 BA) leads the club with 14 runs scored and 11 steals. Senior infielders Koby Kraemer and Robby Ort have been the Sycamores top run producers, combining to account for 25 of the team's 81 RBIs this season.
Valley Arms Race
This weekend's series figures to showcase some of the top arms the Valley has to offer in 2013. The Bears lead the MVC in team ERA with a 2.79 staff mark, but the Sycamores have been nearly as impressive this season with a 3.22 team ERA, good for second in the conference. Hits could be at a premium with ISU's .237 opponent batting average ranking second in the league, and MSU's .241 BAA mark close behind in third.
Individually, Friday's opener features two early front-runners for MVC Pitcher of the Year honors in Nick Petree and ISU lefty Sean Manaea. Petree, a unanimous All-America choice and the national earned run average leader in 2012, brings a 1.09 season ERA into the series, which is second only to Manaea's 0.84 figure in the MVC this year. The two clubs' No. 2 starters have posted impressive numbers in 2013 as well, with MSU's Jonathan Harris (1.80 ERA) and ISU's Devin Moore (2.15 ERA) ranking third and fourth in the circuit, respectively. Moore's .190 batting average against is the second-best figure in the conference to Manaea's .159 mark, while Harris's .202 BAA is third and Petree's .210 rates fifth.
Harris, who shares the MVC lead with four wins, and Petree have combined for seven victories on the year for MSU. Like Petree, Manaea has three wins to rank fourth in the Valley in 2013.
The Peebles Choice
Bears DH Koby Peebles has been one of MSU's most dependable performers over the first six weeks of the season. The switch-hitting senior recorded at least one hit and one RBI in four consecutive games (Feb. 17-24), in addition to driving in the game-winning run in three of the Bears' first five victories of the season.
The Clever, Mo., product has been especially dialed in over the last two games, recording hits in seven straight at-bats and reaching base safely in eight consecutive plate appearances. That streak represents the longest string of successful plate appearances for a Bear in three years, equaling a three-game stretch turned in by Travis McComack in March 2010. The Bears then-sophomore shortstop went 6-for-6 with a walk and a hit by pitch March 19-24 against Oklahoma State and Central Arkansas.
Four of a Kind
In addition to extending his remarkable streak, Koby Peebles became the first Bear to record a four-hit game in 2013 with his 4-for-4 effort Wednesday vs. SEMO. Two innings after Peebles registered his fourth hit of the afternoon in the bottom of the sixth, freshman Tate Matheny doubled for the third time in the game to match a Missouri State school record and notch his first career four-hit outing as well.
With their twin four-hit efforts, Peebles and Matheny became the first MSU players to rack up four safeties in the same game since Luke Voit joined the aforementioned Travis McComack in achieving the feat on March 23, 2010, in a 14-5 win over Central Arkansas at Hammons Field.
Missouri State has been dominant in series openers over the last 11 months, registering a Friday (or series-opening) victory in 10 of its last 11 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 10 of the 11 series, posting a 23-7 overall mark in weekend series or tournaments over the same span.
MSU will have the opportunity to avenge its only series opening loss over the stretch this weekend. Indiana State dealt the Bears a 6-3 setback on May 17 of last year in the first game of the two clubs' series in Terre Haute.