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Bears Look to Keep Hot Streak Going in MVC Set With Illinois State
 
Cody Schumacher
 
Cody Schumacher
 

April 4, 2013

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (18-6, 3-0 MVC) at Illinois State Redbirds (12-14, 1-2 MVC)
Dates/Times:
Friday, April 5 - 6 p.m.
Saturday, April 6 - 2 p.m.
Sunday, April 7 - 1 p.m.
Location: Normal, Ill.
Site: Duffy Bass Field (1,500)
Series History: MSU leads 50-33 (MSU has won two straight)
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: Bears All-Access
Gametracker: MissouriStateBears.com
Twitter: @MSUBearBaseball

Leading Off
After going 4-0 last week to earn their first Top 25 ranking in nearly a decade, the Missouri State Bears will look to extend their season-high five-game win streak and perfect Missouri Valley Conference mark this weekend in a three-game conference set against the Illinois State Redbirds at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Ill.

The Bears (18-6, 3-0 MVC) swept Indiana State in a three-game series over the weekend to open MVC play and cap their first unbeaten week this season. MSU turned in its best offensive week of the year, batting .347 in its four wins, while Bears hurlers held the opposition to a mere .203 average.

Illinois State (12-14, 1-2 MVC) dropped two of its three road games with Wichita State to begin its conference slate last weekend, as well as a midweek contest against Eastern Illinois on Wednesday.

MSU returns home for a Tuesday (April 9) evening tilt with in-state rival Missouri before hitting the road once again for a Valley series against Southern Illinois in Carbondale next weekend.

Prime 9
♦ Missouri State is hitting .339 as a team over the course of its current five-game win streak
♦The Bears bring a 50-33 all-time record vs. Illinois State and a 22-17 mark against the Redbirds on their home field into this weekend's action
♦MSU is ranked No. 25 in this week's Perfect Game USA College Top 25 poll -- its first top 25 ranking since 2003
♦In each of the Bears' last six wins, a freshman has recorded either the game-winning RBI or a pitching victory; Freshmen Matt Hall and Jon Harris are a combined 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA and 50 K's in 50.2 IP this season
♦MSU has hit .308 as a team in averaging 8.5 runs per game against ISU in 12 meetings over the last five years
♦RHP Nick Petree leads the Valley and ranks seventh nationally in ERA (0.86)
♦OF Tate Matheny is second in the MVC in total hits (41) and ranks 34th among all Division I players with a .406 average; the St. Louis native is hitting .480 (24-for-50) over the course of his career-best 11-game hit streak
♦Matheny's current average of 1.708 hits per game is the highest mark for any freshman in MSU history
♦SS Travis McComack has reached base safely in 12 straight games and has a team-high four GWRBI this year

Series History
The Bears hold a 50-33 lead in the series with Illinois State and have claimed each of the last two season series with ISU. Last year, Missouri State took both meetings at Hammons Field in a rain-shortened weekend over which the Bears pounded out 35 hits and scored 24 runs. MSU claimed wins in two of three contests with the Redbirds in its last trip to Duffy Bass Field in 2011, swiping 11 bases in the series.

Missouri State has captured either a series win or split in eight of its previous 11 visits to Normal for a Missouri Valley Conference set.

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 18 of its first 24 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 4-0 start with the best ERA in the MVC (0.86) through six starts to pace a staff that has recorded a 2.71 team ERA through 24 games. Freshman right-hander Jon Harris has made a significant impact as well over his first five collegiate starts, claiming wins in each while posting a 1.36 ERA. Sophomore NCBWA National Stopper of the Year candidate Tyler Burgess has been strong out of the bullpen for MSU, logging three wins and a pair of saves 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 19 RBIs and five steals lead MSU, while his .306 batting mark ranks fourth on the squad. Freshman outfielder Tate Matheny has been nothing short of outstanding in his first month of collegiate action, ranking among the Valley's top 10 in hitting (.406), slugging percentage (.545), on-base percentage (.465), hits (41), home runs (2), RBIs (18) and total bases (55). Senior shortstop Travis McComack has been hot at the plate lately, reaching base safely in each of his last 12 games while driving in the game-winning RBI in a team-best four contests this year. Senior DH Koby Peebles has been one of the Bears' most consistent contributors, registering 13 RBIs and nine doubles so far. Sophomore Joey Hawkins has taken hold of the everyday third base job and established himself as an offensive threat as well. The Whitby, Ontario native is second on the club with a .321 batting average after a career day Sunday in which he went 4-for-4 and reached base safely in all six trips to the plate. Finally, junior first baseman Conor Smith shares the team lead with a pair of homers, slugging .509 to rank second on a squad that has posted a .279 team batting mark through 24 games.

About the Redbirds
Illinois State enters the weekend 12-14 overall and 1-2 in the Valley after losing two of three games at Wichita State to open conference play last week. Head coach Mark Kingston's club boasts one of the top offenses in the MVC with a .283 team batting mark through its first 26 games of the season. The Redbirds are led at the plate by senior outfielder Eric Aguilera, who leads the league with 42 hits and 23 runs batted-in, while ranking among the top 10 individuals in batting (.389 BA), slugging (.519), doubles (9) and total bases (56) as well. Senior infielder Zac Johnson (.321 BA/20 RBIs) has also turned in a standout first half of the season for ISU, entering the series second in the MVC in home runs (5) and runs scored (27). Senior infielder Kyle Stanton and sophomore infielder/outfielder Brock Stewart also bring .300-plus batting marks into the weekend for ISU. Stanton's three homers rank second on a squad that leads the league in round-trippers (15), while Stewart's .323 average is second only to Aguilera among Redbird regulars. Finally, senior outfielder Chad Hinshaw fuels the ISU running game with 13 steals on the year.

On the mound, Illinois State is led by right-hander Dan Savas (3-0, 2.75 ERA), who ranks among the Valley's leaders in strikeouts (5th), opponent average (6th), wins (7th) and earned run average (8th). The redshirt sophomore is joined in the weekend rotation by senior right-hander's Chris Razo (1-0, 2.33 ERA) and Brad Sorkin (4-3, 4.71 ERA). Razo has fanned 24 hitters in 19. 1 innings and recently rejoined the rotation after posting a team-high four saves. Sorkin, meanwhile, is tied for fourth in the Valley in wins.

Red-Hot Rookies
Missouri State has received a boost from its talented freshman class throughout the first seven weeks of the season, especially over the course of its season-best five-game win streak. Bears freshman have either driven in the game-winning run or posted a mound victory in each of MSU's last six wins dating back to a March 16 win over Western Illinois. Tate Matheny has batted a combined .500 (14-for-28) in the six games as part of his own personal-best 11-game hit streak, over which he has hit .480 (24-50). The St. Louis native recorded the first two game-winning RBIs of his MSU career in last weekend's sweep of Indiana State.

On the mound, left-hander Matt Hall has notched three wins in the last six Missouri State victories. Additionally, right-hander Jon Harris continued his fast start with his fifth-straight win to begin his MSU career in Saturday's victory over ISU. Along with a third MSU freshman hurler, lefty Andy Cheray, the duo has combined to post five of MSU's last six wins, going 4-0 with a 0.47 ERA over the Bears' five-game streak.

Opening Act
The Bears' three wins versus Indiana State last weekend marked the second-straight series sweep of a defending MVC regular-season champ on the opening weekend of Valley play for Missouri State. Nick Petree's two-hit, 3-0 shutout on Friday not only represented the Bears' eighth-consecutive opening-day win in MVC play, but also marked the second year in a row Missouri State has blanked the opposition in its conference opener. Last year, Pierce Johnson worked a five-hitter to beat 2011 league titlist Creighton by the same 3-0 score in the Bears' MVC lid-lifter. MSU went on to sweep the Bluejays, allowing just three runs in the entire series.

This year's sweep of Indiana State handed the Bears their seventh series win on opening weekend of conference play in the last eight years.

Poll Position
Riding the crest of a five-game win streak and a three-game sweep of ISU to kick off the Valley season, the Bears secured their first regular-season top 25 ranking in nearly a decade Monday, when they were tabbed for the No. 25 spot in Perfect Game USA's College Top 25 poll. MSU also received votes in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA) Top 30 for the first time during the 2013 regular season.

For Missouri State, which ranked 31st in Collegiate Baseball's preseason poll, this week's citation marks their first regular-season top 25 ranking since the final 2003 polls, in which the Bears peaked at No. 8 (Collegiate Baseball) following their College World Series appearance.

TGIF
Missouri State has been dominant in series openers over the last 11 months, registering a Friday (or series-opening) victory in 11 of its last 12 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 11 of the 12 series, posting a 27-8 overall mark in weekend series or tournaments over the same span.

Last weekend MSU avenged its only series opening loss over the stretch, sweeping Indiana State to open MVC play. The Sycamores 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 for MSU's lone series-opening loss since April 6 of last year.

Reunited and It Feels So Good
Missouri State's weekend rotation got a much-welcomed boost Sunday with the return of senior right-hander Cody Schumacher, who made his first appearance since March 5 with eight shutout innings vs. Indiana State. Schumacher struck out seven and held the Sycamores to just three base-runners -- two singles and a walk -- and retired the final 11 batters he faced before handing the ball off to his bullpen with a four-run lead.

With Schumacher's effort Sunday, the Bears' three weekend starters -- Schumacher, Nick Petree and Jon Harris -- combined to strike out 22 batters while allowing just eight total hits and a single unearned run in 25.0 innings against ISU. On the year, the trio is now a combined 10-0 with a 1.11 ERA and 99 strikeouts over 97.0 innings.

Bears Go Streaking
Freshman outfielder Tate Matheny stretched his career-best hit streak to 11 games with a 2-for-6 effort in Sunday's win over Indiana State. The St. Louis native piled up four multi-hit games in as many outings last week to help the Bears go 4-0, and now has hits in 21 of his last 22 contests. Matheny has batted .480 (24-for-50) with nine multi-hit performances over his 11-game streak to climb to No. 2 in the Valley in total hits (41).

Matheny wasn't the only Bear to go streaking, as DH Koby Peebles recorded hits in eight straight at-bats and reached base safely in nine consecutive plate appearances, March 19-29. That streak represented the longest string of successful plate appearances for a Bear in three years. Fellow MSU senior Travis McComack was the last MSU player to achieve the feat, reaching base safely in eight-straight plate appearances March 19-24, 2010, going 6-for-6 with a walk and a hit by pitch over three games against Oklahoma State and Central Arkansas.

Sophomore infielder Joey Hawkins got into the streaking act Sunday, logging the first four-hit game of his MSU career and reaching base safely in all six of his plate appearances. The last Bear to accomplish that feat in a single game was -- once again -- McComack, during the aforementioned streak on March 23, 2010.

Matheny, Petree Grab Valley Honors
On the heels of a perfect 4-0 week and a three-game sweep of Indiana State to open Missouri Valley Conference play, Tate Matheny and Nick Petree were tabbed MVC Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively, the league office announced Monday. Petree improved to 4-0 on the season by fanning a season-high 10 hitters in his two-hit shutout of the Sycamores, while Matheny batted .500 for the week and stretched his career-best hit streak to 11 games in helping the Bears garner their first top 25 ranking in nearly a decade.

The duo joined MSU senior right-hander Cody Schumacher on the Bears' list of 2013 honorees. Schumacher was named MVC Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 18, after helping lead the Bears to a 2-1 start at the CenturyLink Bobcat Invitational. Schumacher matched a career high with nine strikeouts while allowing just one run on six hits in the Bears' 3-2 victory over Sam Houston State (Feb. 16).

 

 

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