Missouri State Set to Begin MVC Series With Wichita State Friday
April 19, 2012
Missouri State Bears (27-11, 6-2 MVC) at Wichita State Shockers (23-17, 5-4 MVC)
The league-leading Bears swept a weather-shortened two-game set from Illinois State last weekend, before seeing their 11-game home win streak come to an end with a 1-0 setback to Saint Louis on Tuesday. Wichita State is coming off back-to-back wins over Oklahoma State and Evansville after dropping the first two games of its MVC series with the Purple Aces last weekend in Evansville.
Wichita State Series
The Bears will look to senior second baseman Kevin Medrano to continue an offensive hot streak in the series. Medrano has posted a .486 career average with three of his seven home runs as a Bear in 10 previous games against the Shockers.
About the Bears
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 saw his career-best 11-game hit streak come to an end Tuesday, but still brings a team-high .330 batting mark into the series after hitting .412 on the road since March 2. Senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.311, 5-HR, 32-RBI) ranks among the MVC's top 10 performers in a number of different offensive categories, including a league-leading 17 doubles. Fellow senior Brock Chaffin (.316, 31-RBI) has 13 multi-hit games and at least one RBI in 21 contests, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.312, 4-HR, 29-RBI) has a team-high five game-winning RBIs and 16 for his MSU career to rank ninth all-time. Senior second baseman Kevin Medrano (.298, 13-2B, 8-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 (.300, 5-HR, 32-RBI) shares the club lead in homers and RBIs and has reached base safely in 35 of the Bears' 38 games. Finally, sophomore outfielder Trey Massenberg (.289, 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 14 times over MSU's last 15 contests.
The Bears' top three starting pitchers have been strong through the first nine weeks of the season, combining to strike out 184 batters through 172.2 innings of work, despite a pair of key injuries. Nick Petree (7-2, 0.84), who went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA to garner Freshman All-America honors last spring, has won seven of his last eight decisions 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 10th-highest strikeout total into the week. However, forearm tightness plagued Johnson in his last start at Dallas Baptist and forced him to skip his last two Friday starts. Junior righty Clay Murphy (5-1, 1.37, 1 save) ranked among the MVC's leaders in a number of categories before an elbow injury ended his season prematurely in early April. Finally, the Bears' bullpen has been nearly as dominant as the rotation, 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, 1.21, 8 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. Last week, Burgess posted his seventh and eighth saves of the season to climb to the top of the Missouri State freshman saves list.
About the Shockers
On the mound, WSU brings a 3.46 team ERA into the series, thanks in large part to a deep bullpen led by sophomore right-handers Foster Vielock (0-1, 1.35 ERA, 1 save) and Cale Elam (3-3, 1.19 ERA, 7 saves). The weekend rotation is anchored by senior lefty Josh Smith (4-2, 2.87 ERA), who ranks among the MVC's leaders with 59 strikeouts in 59.2 innings pitched.
The school record for single-season road wins is 20, established by the 2003 squad, and MSU's streak of six consecutive road wins (Feb. 19-March 4) represented its longest since May 2009.
Burgess's nomination gives the Bears their second addition to one of the NCBWA's 2012 awards watch lists, as catcher Luke Voit was named to the organization's Johnny Bench Award Watch List in March. Additionally, Burgess becomes the second MSU closer in as many years to be cited for the Stopper of the Year watch list following Dan Kickham's selection a year ago.
Burgess, who leads the Missouri Valley Conference with eight saves on the season, was one of just three Division I freshman selected for the list. The Webb City, Mo., product has already claimed the Missouri State freshman saves record and needs just one more save to climb into a tie with Chris Krawczyk (2006) for third on the Bears' single-season chart. Burgess brings a 3-0 record and 1.21 ERA over 14 outings into play this weekend, after becoming the first MSU pitcher on record to register either a win or save in his first seven outings as a Bear.
Voit was one of 43 Division I catchers named to the initial Johnny Bench Award watch list on March 7. Additional nominations for the award, which honors the top Division I player who serves as a team's starting catcher in at least 75% of its games, will be considered until May 7, with semifinalists announced on May 16, and finalists revealed on June 4. The award will be presented June 28, in Wichita.
Voit currently leads the Bears in hits (48) and ranks eighth in the conference. The 2011 All-MVC second-teamer is also third on the team with six stolen bases and has a .986 fielding percentage while throwing out nearly 45 percent of all would-be base-stealers on the season.