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Bears Look to Solidify Position in MVC Race Against Illinois State
 
Head coach Keith Guttin
 
Head coach Keith Guttin
 

April 12, 2012

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Illinois State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (25-10, 4-2 MVC) vs. Illinois State Redbirds (20-10, 2-4 MVC)
Dates/Times:
Friday, April 13 (6:30 p.m.)
Saturday, April 14 (2 p.m.)
Sunday, April 15 (1 p.m.)
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Hammons Field (8,000)
TV: None
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: Bears All-Access
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com

Leading Off
The Missouri State Bears (25-10, 4-2 MVC) return to Missouri Valley Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against the Illinois State Redbirds (20-10, 2-4 MVC) at Hammons Field. The Bears will put their nine-game home win streak on the line, as well as a seven-game home win streak in conference play dating back to last May.

Missouri State, which has not dropped a home game since a March 13 loss to No. 28 Purdue, shut out Kansas State on Wednesday to continue its string of dominance over the Big 12 Conference in 2012. The Bears have won five-straight games against the league and are now 11-3 against Big 12 foes over the last two seasons.

Illinois State is coming off a 22-3 massacre of Northern Illinois on Tuesday after dropping two of three Valley games to Wichita State last weekend. The Redbirds bring one of the nation's top scoring offenses into the series, as well as a running game that generates an average of nearly two stolen bases per game to rank 14th in all of NCAA Division I baseball.

Prime 9
♦ The Bears lead the overall series with the Redbirds 48-33, including a 10-3 all-time mark at Hammons Field
♦ The Bears have won nine straight home games and are 12-2 overall at Hammons Field in 2012; MSU needs just one more victory to match its longest home win streak since moving into their new home in 2004
♦ Missouri State collected just two hits in its 3-0 win over Kansas State Wednesday, marking the Bears' lowest total in a winning effort in 24 years
♦ MSU paces the MVC in total strikeouts, with four Bears ranking among the league's individual leaders
♦ Junior OF Keenen Maddox is hitting .441 (15-for-34) over the course of a career-best nine-game hit streak
♦ Senior 2B Kevin Medrano is tied with Brayden Drake for fifth place on the Bears' career hits list and needs 11 more to catch Dant'e Brinkley in the fourth position
♦ Medrano became just the fourth player in school history to record 500 fielding assists Wednesday against KSU
♦ Sophomore RHP Nick Petree leads the MVC and ranks seventh nationally in both victories and ERA; Petree has not allowed an earned run since March 2, a string of 38.0-straight innings over six starts
♦ Junior RHP Cody Schumacher became the fourth different MSU pitcher this season to post a streak of at least 10 consecutive scoreless innings (11.2) over two starts last week

Illinois State Series
The Bears hold a 48-33 lead in the series with Illinois State, but the Redbirds have had the better end of things lately, claiming six of the last 10 meetings over the previous seasons.

Last year, Missouri State took two of three games from the Redbirds in Normal after swiping 11 bases in the series. Luke Voit went 6-for-13 (.462) on the weekend, clubbed a pair of home runs and drove in five runs to lead the Bears' charge, while Nick Petree and Pierce Johnson turned in strong mound efforts to earn victories. Illinois State swept the Bears in their last trip to Hammons Field in 2010, snapping a 13-game road losing streak in the series.

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 under 30th-year head coach Keith Guttin.

After a rough start to opening weekend in Lubbock, Texas, the Bears rebounded to win 20 of their next 24 games to post their best start to a season in a decade. Junior outfielder Keenen Maddox brings a career-best nine-game hit streak and a team-high .347 batting mark into the series after hitting .526 with a pair of homers and six runs batted in last week. Senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.304, 4-HR, 27-RBI) ranks among the MVC's top 10 performers in a number of different offensive categories, including a league-leading 16 doubles. Fellow senior Brock Chaffin (.296, 28-RBI) has 11 multi-hit games and at least one RBI in 19 contests, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.298, 4-HR, 28-RBI) has a team-high five game-winning RBIs and is hitting a club-best .340 at home this season. Senior second baseman Kevin Medrano (.302, 12-2B, 7-SB) has been hot at the plate lately after a sluggish start to move into the school's top five for career hits. Senior third baseman Brent Seifert (.289, 5-HR, 29-RBI) leads the club in homers and RBIs and has reached base safely in 33 of the Bears' 35 games. Finally, sophomore outfielder Trey Massenberg (.282, 2-HR, 13-RBI, 5-3B) has blossomed in his second season as a Bear. He has an MVC-leading five triples and has scored 11 times over MSU's last 12 contests.

The Bears' top three starting pitchers have been strong through the first eight weeks of the season, combining to strike out 179 batters through 167.1 innings of work. Nick Petree (6-2, 0.92), who went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA to garner Freshman All-America honors last spring, won six-straight decisions before dropping a 2-1 game last Friday at Bradley and leads the MVC in both wins and ERA. Junior right-hander Pierce Johnson (2-3, 2.01) has been dominant over his first seven starts of the season, bringing the nation's third-highest strikeout total into the week. However, forearm tightness plagued Johnson in his last start at Dallas Baptist and forced him to skip his normal Friday start last week. Junior righty Clay Murphy (5-1, 1.37, 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 both innings pitched (59.0) and ERA and fourth in strikeouts (55), but will miss his regular Sunday start this weekend with an apparent elbow injury. Finally, the Bears' bullpen has been nearly as dominant, 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, 1.47, 7 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 without allowing an earned run. On Wednesday, Burgess wrapped up the Bears' 3-0 win over K-State with three strikeouts over 1 1/3 innings to match the Missouri State freshman record for saves.

About the Redbirds
Illinois State, which returns 19 letterwinners from last year's 36-18 squad, brings a 20-10 season mark into the series after blasting Northern Illinois, 22-3, on Wednesday. Third-year head coach Mark Kingston's club was the seventh-highest scoring team in the nation entering the week, and Wednesday's outburst hiked the Redbirds' team average to .312. Outfielder Ty Wiesemeyer (.354, 2-HR, 24-RBI) paces an offensive attack that boasts seven regulars with averages of .317 or better. Infielder Zac Johnson (.339, 4-HR, 33-RBI) ranks among the MVC's RBI leaders, while outfielder Eric Aguilera (.339, 6-HR, 26-RBI) is fourth in the circuit in home runs. Preseason All-MVC choice Mike Hollenbeck (.330, 2-HR, 20-RBI) hasn't disappointed, while second baseman and 2010 Joe Carter MVC Player of the Year Kevin Tokarski (.321, 3-HR, 27-RBI, 9-SB) has regained his stroke at the plate to bolster the ISU lineup. The Redbirds lead the Valley in stolen bases, thanks in large part to the duo of infielder Brett Kay (.292, 2-HR, 11-RBI, 10-SB) and outfielder Chad Hinshaw (.250, 2-HR, 17-RBI, 16-SB), who have combined for 26 steals in 28 attempts on the year.

On the hill, ISU relies on a solid bullpen, led by two-time All-MVC honoree Kenny Long. The senior left-hander has posted seven of the Redbirds eight saves on the year after posting a 0.92 ERA as a junior in 2011. The weekend rotation is anchored by junior right-hander Chris Razo (4-2, 4.53) and freshman lefty Dylan Craig (4-1, 5.59).

Home Cookin'
Already off to a 4-2 MVC start, the Bears kicked off a stretch that will see them play nine of their next 12 games at home Wednesday against Kansas State. Missouri State's 3-0 win over the Wildcats moved the Bears to within one game of the Hammons Field record for consecutive wins. MSU has posted 10-straight home wins on two separate occasions since moving into the facility in 2004, with the most recent streak occurring April 11-May 11, 2008.

The Bears, who are 12-2 at home this season, are within striking distance of their best home mark at Hammons Field. MSU went 21-5 at home in 2008 to set the gold standard at Hammons, now in its ninth season as home of the Bears.

History in the Ma-K-ing
With four different pitchers ranked among the MVC's individual strikeout leaders, the MSU staff is piling up K's at a record-setting pace in 2012. The Bears' season total of 312 strikeouts through 35 games equates to an average of 8.91 per game, which is well ahead of the 2003 MSU staff's pace of 8.03 per outing. That Bears staff set the school's single-season record with 530 strikeouts over a 66-game schedule.

Junior Pierce Johnson leads the Valley and ranked third in all of Division I baseball with 71 strikeouts coming into the week, despite missing his last start due to tightness in his right forearm. Junior Clay Murphy's 55 K's rate fourth in the MVC, while sophomore Nick Petree is tied for sixth with 53 punchouts on the year. Additionally, junior Cody Schumacher ranks just outside the league's top 10 with 40 strikeouts.

Petree Near Perfect
Sophomore right-hander Nick Petree shrugged off an opening-day loss to post wins in six of his last seven starts and brings the MVC's lowest ERA into the weekend. In particular, Petree enjoyed a nearly unblemished month of March, posting a 5-0 mark and 0.24 ERA, while allowing just one earned run and striking out 37 hitters over 37.0 innings.

The Clinton, Mo., product has been the model of consistency, recording quality starts in seven of his eight appearances this season and in 17 of 19 overall in his career as a Bear. Additionally, Petree has worked at least six innings in each of his 19 starts as a collegiate.

If Petree's season ended today, his 0.92 ERA would be the lowest for any Valley pitcher reaching the qualifying minimums in a single season since former SIU Saluki and current Missouri State pitching coach Paul Evans posted an 0.84 mark in 1979. Petree leads the MVC in victories (6) and ERA, and ranks second in innings pitched (59.0) and sixth in strikeouts (53). Additionally, Petree's win total and ERA both ranked seventh in all of Division I through games of April 8.

 

 

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