MSU Looks to Build Momentum in Conference Play With Strong Showing Against Braves
April 18, 2013
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (21-11, 6-3 MVC) vs. Bradley Braves (12-19, 1-8 MVC)
Dates/Times: Friday, April 19 - 5 p.m.
Saturday, April 20 - 2 p.m.
Sunday, April 21 - 1 p.m.
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Hammons Field (8,000)
Series History: Missouri State leads 50-33 (MSU won the last meeting)
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: Bears All-Access (Friday and Saturday)
Tickets: (417) 836-7678
The Missouri State Bears will be looking to snap a two-game losing skid Friday (April 19) evening when they take on the Bradley Braves to open a three-game Missouri Valley Conference set in a 5 p.m. contest at Hammons Field. The two clubs will also play single games Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) to conclude up the series.
Missouri State (21-11), which dropped a 6-4 decision to No. 27 Oklahoma State Tuesday evening, will be looking to improve on a 6-3 start to its conference season after taking two of three games from Southern Illinois in Carbondale last weekend.
The Braves (12-19) were swept in their Valley series with Wichita State last weekend in Peoria, but rebounded to pummel Northern Illinois by a 19-0 score Tuesday. The MVC's top hitting club, BU figures to give the Bears' pitching staff -- also tops in the league -- a test as it looks to climb out of the league's basement after posting just one win in its first nine conference games to date.
♦Missouri State brings a commanding 50-33 all-time advantage over the Braves into this weekend's series
♦In each of the Bears' last nine wins, a freshman has recorded either a game-winning RBI or a pitching victory
♦Missouri State's pitching staff ranks 20th nationally in K-BB ratio and 24th in K/9 IP entering the series
♦The Bears have outscored the opposition by a combined 29-7 margin in the first inning this season
♦OF Keenen Maddox's current string of six consecutive multi-hit games is the longest for a Bear since Kevin Medrano's six-game streak in April 2010
♦C Luke Voit has reached base safely in 12 straight games and in 26 of his last 27 contests overall
♦RHP Erik Shannahan fanned six hitters over 4.0 innings Tuesday vs. Oklahoma State, both figures representing career highs for the senior
♦OF Tate Matheny's average of 1.531 hits per game is the highest mark for any freshman in MSU history
♦IF Eric Cheray moved up to second on the Bears' all-time sacrifice hits list Tuesday with the 20th of his career
In a series that dates back to 1982, the Bears hold a 50-33 overall advantage over Bradley and have taken 15 of the last 23 meetings dating back to the 2006 season. BU won two of three games against the Bears during the two clubs' 2012 regular-season series in Peoria, then split a pair of games at the MVC Championship at Hammons Field.
MSU is 27-12 all-time against Bradley in Springfield, including an 11-4 mark vs. the Braves at Hammons Field, thanks to three-game series sweeps in each of BU's last two regular-season trips to Springfield.
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 21 of its first 32 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 5-1 start with the best ERA in the MVC (1.12) through eight starts to pace a staff that has recorded a 3.15 team ERA. Freshman right-hander Jon Harris has made a significant impact as well over his first seven collegiate starts, claiming wins in each while posting a 2.68 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 five steals lead MSU, while his .298 batting mark ranks second and his 19 RBIs are third on the squad. Freshman outfielder Tate Matheny has been nothing short of outstanding in his first season of collegiate action, ranking among the Valley's top 10 in hitting (.355), slugging percentage (.500), hits (49), home runs (3) and total bases (69). Senior shortstop Travis McComack has been hot at the plate lately, reaching base safely in 19 of his last 20 games while driving in the game-winning RBI in four contests this year. Senior DH Koby Peebles has been one of the Bears' most consistent contributors, registering 22 RBIs and 10 doubles so far. Senior outfielder Keenen Maddox has been the Bears' hottest hitter of late, batting .529 last week and bringing an active streak of six consecutive multi-hit games into Wednesday's action. Finally, sophomore infielder Eric Cheray ranks among the Valley's leaders in walks and paces the Bears with a .430 on-base percentage to go along with a .294 batting mark.
About the Braves
Picked to finish sixth in this year's Missouri Valley Conference race, Bradley brings a 12-19 overall mark and a 1-8 MVC record into the series. Head coach Elvis Dominguez's club boasts one of the top offenses in the Valley, having registered a .304 team average to rank 28th nationally to date. Senior outfielder Mike Tauchman leads the charge with a league-best .405 batting mark to go along with the Valley's top slugging percentage (.603) and runs scored total (36). He also leads the Braves and ranks second in the MVC in RBIs (32) and stolen bases (17) to spark an offense that is averaging nearly seven runs per contest. He gets help from junior first baseman Greg Partyka (2 HR, 25 RBI), whose .363 batting average rates fifth in the Valley, and sophomore outfielder Max Murphy (.328 BA, 29 RBI), who paces the squad with five home runs.
On the mound, BU will look to a pair of left-handers, as sophomore David Koll (1-4, 5.36 ERA) and freshman Nathan Stong (4-1, 3.00 ERA) will start the first two games of the series. Koll leads the club and ranks eighth in the Valley in strikeouts (41), while Stong has been the Braves' most reliable reliever for most of the season, limiting the opposition to a mere .196 batting mark in 10 appearances.
Petree Named to Another National Watch List
For the second straight year junior pitcher Nick Petree has been selected for the College Baseball Hall of Fame's initial Pitcher of the Year watch list. Petree is one 41 Division I pitchers to be considered for the award, which will be announced June 29 in Lubbock, Texas, as part of the annual College Baseball Night of Champions. Petree, who was selected for the Golden Spikes Award watch list prior to the start of the season, currently leads the MVC and ranks 15th nationally in ERA (1.12), while his win total (5) rates as the second-highest in the conference.
Harris Stays Hot in Carbondale
Freshman right-hander Jon Harris kept his perfect Missouri State record intact last Saturday with his seventh win in as many starts for the Bears, who defeated Southern Illinois 14-6 to clinch a series win in Carbondale. The Florissant, Mo., product struggled against the Salukis, giving up six runs on 14 hits--both career highs--but gutted out a rocky start to become the first Bears freshman hurler to go 7-0 in seven starts. Harris, who ranks eighth in the nation in wins entering the week, has completed at least six innings in every start this season.
Maddox Keeps Mashing
Keenen Maddox continued to swing a hot bat for Missouri State, keying the Bears' offensive resurgence by hitting a team-high .529 (9-for-17) with multi-hit performances in all four games last week. The St. Louis native started his week by going 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored vs. Missouri (April 9), then recorded two more hits and an RBI in the Bears' series-opening 7-3 victory at Southern Illinois (April 12).
Maddox, who slugged .647 for the week, registered three of his five RBIs on the week in a 14-6 win (April 13), matching a season high with three hits--including a pair of doubles--and two runs scored. In 12 career games vs. SIU, Maddox has hit at a blistering .438 pace while slugging .792 with four homers and 18 RBIs.
Since March 13, Maddox has hit .380 and slugged .493 to lead the Bears in both categories. Additionally, he leads the Bears with a .486 slugging percentage in conference play and his .351 MVC batting mark is second on the squad only to Eric Cheray's .407 average.
Missouri State has been dominant in series openers over the last 12 months, registering a Friday (or series-opening) victory in 12 of its last 14 regular-season series or weekend tournaments since a 14-4 win over Illinois State on April 14, 2012. The Bears have out-scored the opposition 74-24 over the same span while posting a minuscule 1.14 ERA as a staff. This year alone the Bears have been especially stingy in weekend openers, posting an 0.97 team ERA and limiting their opponents to a .192 average in eight outings.
Nick Petree has logged 89.1 of the Bears' 126 innings during the stretch and has allowed just 10 earned runs to record an ERA of 1.01 while racking up eight wins against just two losses. MSU has gone on to claim 12 of the 14 series, posting a 30-11 overall mark in weekend series or tournaments over the same span.
Bears' Bats 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 represented 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. The Bears were even better during their series win in Carbondale over the weekend, hitting .318 as a group while averaging 8.7 runs per outing. After registering 10 hits in Tuesday's 6-4 loss to Oklahoma State, the Bears have logged six-straight double-digit hit totals for the first time since Feb. 24-March 4, 2012.