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Bears Head to Carbondale for MVC Series With Southern Illinois
 
Koby Peebles
 
Koby Peebles
 

April 11, 2013

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (19-9, 4-2) at Southern Illinois Salukis (16-16, 1-5 MVC)
Dates/Times:
Friday, April 12 - 3 p.m.
Saturday, April 13 - 2 p.m.
Sunday, April 14 - 1 p.m.
Location: Carbondale, Ill.
Site: Abe Martin Field (2,000)
Series History: Missouri State leads 58-33 (SIU won the last meeting)
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: Bears All-Access
GameTracker: MissouriStateBears.com
Twitter: @MSUBearBaseball

Leading Off
The Missouri State Bears embark on their second straight Missouri Valley Conference trip to the Land of Lincoln this weekend when they travel to Carbondale to meet the Southern Illinois Salukis at Abe Martin Field. The two squads will open the three-game set Friday (April 12) afternoon at 3 p.m., then play single games Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) as well.

MSU has posted a strong 4-2 start to the conference season, despite dropping two of three games last weekend to Illinois State in Normal. The Bears (19-9, 4-2 MVC) also suffered a gut-wrenching 5-4 setback to in-state rival Missouri in their lone midweek action. MSU, which trailed by a single run most of the night, left the potential tying run in scoring position in each of the last six innings to see their four-game Hammons Field win streak come to an end.

Southern Illinois enters the series on a hot streak with wins in three straight games and seven of its last nine contests. The Salukis struggled out of the gate in MVC play, dropping their first five games before knocking off Evansville on Sunday. SIU then routed SEMO, 25-3 on Tuesday, and edged an Austin Peay squad that earned votes in this week's NCBWA and USA Today polls on Wednesday.

MSU returns to Hammons Field Tuesday (April 16) to take on nationally-ranked Oklahoma State in the return match of the two clubs' home-and-home season series. OSU squeaked out a 5-4 win in 10 innings March 5 in Stillwater in the teams' first meeting of the season. The Bears will also return the game with Missouri Wednesday (April 17) evening when they travel to Columbia for a 6 p.m. game at Simmons Field.

Prime 9
♦The Bears hold a 58-33 all-time advantage in the series with Southern Illinois, as well as a 24-11 edge vs. the Salukis on their home field since joining the Valley in 1991
♦MSU is 17-2 when out-hitting the opposition and 10-1 in games in which they have played error-free baseball
♦In each of the Bears' last seven wins, a freshman has recorded either a game-winning RBI or a pitching victory; Freshmen Matt Hall and Jon Harris are a combined 9-0 with a 1.94 ERA and 58 K's in 60.1 IP this season
♦Harris leads the MVC and ranks 13th in all of Division I baseball with six victories
♦MSU's pitching staff ranks 16th nationally with a 2.93 K-BB ratio and 24th in team ERA (2.84)
♦RHP Nick Petree leads the Valley and ranks eighth nationally in ERA (0.73)
♦SS Travis McComack has reached base safely in 16 straight games and has a team-high four GWRBI this year
♦OF Tate Matheny is fourth in the MVC in total hits (45) and ranks 85th among all Division I players with a .375 average; the St. Louis native batted .480 over the course of his career-best 11-game hit streak (March 12-31)
♦Matheny's current average of 1.607 hits per game is the highest mark for any freshman in MSU history

Series History
Missouri State holds a commanding 58-33 advantage over Southern Illinois in a series that dates back to 1988. The Bears have enjoyed a recent run of success in the series, having taken 13 of the last 19 meetings dating back to the 2008 season.

Last year the two clubs split four games at Hammons Field, with the Bears winning two out of three regular-season meetings before the Salukis pulled out a 3-2 win in 10 innings to bounce MSU from the MVC Championship. Despite clubbing a total of six home runs over the four games, the Bears were held to a .233 team batting average by Saluki pitching. Keenen Maddox enjoyed a strong showing vs. SIU, however, belting three of his eight home runs on the season in the four-game season series with the Salukis.

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 19 of its first 27 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 4-1 start with the best ERA in the MVC (0.73) through seven starts to pace a staff that has recorded a 2.84 team ERA through 28 games. Freshman right-hander Jon Harris has made a significant impact as well over his first six collegiate starts, claiming wins in each while posting a 1.77 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 .291 batting mark ranks third 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 (.375), slugging percentage (.517), on-base percentage (.429), hits (45), home runs (3) and total bases (62). Senior shortstop Travis McComack has been hot at the plate lately, reaching base safely in each of his last 16 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 17 RBIs and 10 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 .299 batting average after a career day March 31 in which he went 4-for-4 and reached base safely in all six trips to the plate. Finally, junior first baseman Conor Smith has clubbed a pair of homers, slugging .433 to rank second on a squad that has posted a .268 team batting mark through 28 games.

About the Salukis
Southern Illinois has experienced its share of ups and downs over the first half of the 2013 season, bringing a 16-16 overall record and a 1-5 league mark into the weekend after being tabbed fifth in the MVC's preseason poll. Head coach Ken Henderson welcomed back 19 letterwinners from last year's 31-28 squad that came within one win of capturing the MVC Tournament title. The Salukis are led by junior catcher Matt Jones, who leads the MVC in hits (47) and RBIs (29) while pacing the SIU offense with a .351 batting average. Jones is supported in the SIU lineup by senior outfielder Austin Montgomery, a first-team All-MVC performer last spring, who brings a .325 average to go along with a league-leading 11 doubles and season totals of three homers and 21 RBIs into the series. Additionally, Ryan Casillas (.313) and Jake Welch (.307, 11 SB) combine to give SIU a deep lineup that has scored a league-high 183 runs in 32 games this season.

On the mound, the Salukis rely on the left arm of Friday starter Cody Forsythe, who anchors the weekend rotation with a 1-1 mark and 2.28 earned run average to lead a staff that has turned in a 3.31 team ERA, which ranks second in the Valley only to MSU's 2.84 mark. Junior left-hander Derek Fogel (0-1, 2.95) has posted solid numbers as one of the Salukis regular weekend starters, while sophomore right-hander Sam Coonrod (2-2, 3.57) leads the club with 41 strikeouts in 45.1 innings of work. The bullpen is led by junior right-hander Todd Eaton, who ranks among the MVC's leaders with four saves on the season.

At Home at The Abe
Missouri State holds a 58-33 all-time advantge against the Salukis, including a 55-29 edge over SIU since joining the Valley in 1991. The Bears have enjoyed sustained success versus the Salukis on their home field, earning a series split or better in nine of their previous 11 MVC series in Carbondale, with a 26-13 overall mark, including 24 wins in 35 conference games at Abe Martin Field.

McComack Makes His Move
Shortstop Travis McComack has reached base in 16 straight games for the Bears, a season-high for a Missouri State player and just one game shy of his personal-best string of 17 consecutive games reaching safely. McComack has batted .328 with a team-high six doubles as well as a .411 on-base percentage over the course of his streak.

The Bears senior leader has made a move up several of MSU's career charts as well over the first half of the season. McComack enters the weekend third on the Bears' all-time walks list with 103 and needs just one more base-on-balls to match J.J. Scerba in the No. 2 spot on the chart. McComack also ranks among MSU's career leaders in fielding assists (5th), double plays turned (8th) and sacrifice hits (10th) and needs to play in five more games to crack the school's top 15 in that category.

Bears Bats Look to Rebound
Just one week after posting its best offensive stretch of the season, Missouri State's offense was held to just three total hits over the first two games of its series at Illinois State. The Bears managed just one hit on Friday against ISU's Chris Razo, then recorded just two safeties the following day versus Redbird starter Dan Savas. The three hits represent an all-time low for the Bears in consecutive games in Valley play. Their previous two-game low came in a doubleheader at Creighton April 21, 1991, when they were held to seven hits by the Bluejays.

MSU did rebound to pound out 12 hits in an 8-3 win over the Redbirds to close out the series on Sunday, then recorded 10 hits vs. Mizzou in Tuesday's 5-4 setback. Nevertheless, the Bears have hit just .197 and scored a mere 13 runs over their last four games after hitting .279 as a team and averaging 5.5 runs per outing over their first 24 contests this season.

 

 

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