April 22, 2013
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (24-11) at Saint Louis Billikens (29-11)
Dates/Times: Tuesday, April 23
First Pitch: 6:30 p.m.
Location: St. Louis, Mo.
Site: Billiken Sports Center (500)
Series History: Missouri State leads 43-12 (SLU won the last meeting)
Live Audio and Video: None
The Missouri State Bears will kick off a six-game road swing Tuesday (April 23) when they take on the Saint Louis Billikens in a 6:30 p.m. contest at the Billiken Sports Center in St. Louis. MSU will be looking for its fourth-straight victory after completing a Missouri Valley Conference series sweep of Bradley over the weekend, while the Billikens bring a six-game win streak into the game.
Missouri State (24-11) received complete performances in its sweep of Bradley, as the Bears pitching staff limited the Valley's top-hitting club to just four earned runs in the three games, while the MSU offense pounded out 31 hits in out-scoring the Braves by a 23-6 margin. As a result, the Bears moved into a tie with Wichita State for the top spot in the MVC standings with their sixth win in their last seven conference games.
Saint Louis (29-11) has been riding a hot streak of its own as of late with wins in 12 of its last 13 games. The Billikens hold a game-and-a-half lead in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings after taking 11 of their first 12 league games.
MSU will continue its road trek Wednesday (April 24) with a make-up game against Missouri in Columbia following the rain-out of the two clubs' scheduled meeting last Wednesday. The Bears will then travel to Evansville for a three-game MVC set with the Purple Aces before wrapping up the road trip with a Tuesday (April 30) game against nationally-ranked Arkansas in Fayetteville.
♦Missouri State brings a commanding 43-12 all-time advantage over the Billikens into Tuesday's game
♦The Bears have outscored the opposition by a combined 30-8 margin in the first inning this season
♦In each of the Bears' last 12 wins, a freshman has recorded either a game-winning RBI or a pitching victory
♦SS Travis McComack moved up to fourth on the Bears' all-time fielding assists list over the weekend
♦Freshman RHP Jon Harris ranks sixth in all of Division I baseball with eight victories
♦With OF Keenen Maddox's first four-hit game as a Bear Saturday vs. Bradley, six different MSU players have recorded four hits in the Bears' last 15 contests dating back to March 27
♦C Luke Voit has reached base safely in 15 straight games and in 29 of his last 30 contests overall
♦With his third save of the season in Friday's 5-2 win over Bradley, Tyler Burgess gained sole possession of the third spot on the Bears' all-time saves list with the 14th of his MSU career
♦OF Tate Matheny's average of 1.629 hits per game is the highest mark for any freshman in MSU history
The Bears hold a commanding 43-12 lead in the series with the Billikens, including a 38-10 mark under head coach Keith Guttin. The series has been marked by close games recently, as each of the last four meetings have been decided by two runs or less.
One run was enough for SLU to hold off the Bears last year in Springfield, as four Billiken hurlers combined to blank MSU on two hits in the 1-0 decision.
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 24 of its first 35 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 6-1 start with the best ERA in the MVC (1.29) through nine starts to pace a staff that has recorded a 3.00 team ERA. Freshman right-hander Jon Harris has made a significant impact as well over his first eight collegiate starts, claiming wins in each while posting a 2.33 ERA. Sophomore NCBWA National Stopper of the Year candidate Tyler Burgess has been strong out of the bullpen for MSU, logging three wins and three 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 .294 batting mark ranks fourth and his 21 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 (.377), runs scored (29), slugging percentage (.510), on-base percentage (.432), hits (57), home runs (3) and total bases (77). Senior shortstop Travis McComack has been hot at the plate lately, reaching base safely in 22 of his last 23 games while driving in the game-winning RBI in five contests this year. Senior DH Koby Peebles has been one of the Bears' most consistent contributors, registering 23 RBIs and 11 doubles so far. Senior outfielder Keenen Maddox has been the Bears' hottest hitter of late, batting .462 over MSU's last nine games. Finally, sophomore infielder Eric Cheray ranks among the Valley's leaders in walks and paces the Bears with a .445 on-base percentage to go along with a .301 batting mark.
About the Billikens
Fresh off a school-record 41-win season and A-10 co-championship last spring, Saint Louis is off to another strong start this year with wins in six straight and 12 of its last 13 games coming into the week. Head coach Darin Hendrickson welcomed back 19 letterwinners from last year's club, including senior infielder/catcher Grant Nelson, who leads the team with a .372 batting average, and senior outfielder Alex Kelly, the Billikens' top power threat with seven homers and 33 RBIs this season. Senior infielder Mike Levine (.314 BA/22 RBI) gives the SLU lineup added depth, while freshman infielder Braxton Martinez (.333 BA/4 HR/19 RBI) has turned in a solid debut season for a club that brings a collective .294 average into the week.
The Billiken pitching staff has been impressive over the first half of the season as well, posting a 3.60 team earned run average through its first 40 games. Leading the charge has been senior right-hander Alex Alemann (6-2, 2.77 ERA), who leads the team in innings pitched (68.1), wins and strikeouts (54). Tuesday's expected starter, freshman Joe Powell, has logged a strong start to his SLU career, going 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA in 13 appearances to date. Closer Marco Mejia gives the Billikens stability in the back end of their bullpen with five saves to go along with a 2-2 mark and a 2.18 ERA over 19 outings.
Voit Joins 200-Hit Club
Senior catcher Luke Voit became just the 20th Missouri State player to join the exclusive 200-hit club with his 1-for-4 performance vs. Oklahoma State on April 16. Voit, who recorded hits in each of the Bears' three wins over the weekend, moved past Mark Garrett and Chad Lakin into the No. 18 spot on MSU's career hits list with 203.
Voit's movement up the chart has been fueled by a string of 15 straight games reaching base safely. Furthermore, the Wildwood, Mo., product has reached via a hit, walk or hit by pitch in 29 of his last 30 games dating back to Feb. 24.
Petree Reaches Quarter-Century Mark
Junior right-hander Nick Petree, notched his 25th win as a Bear in Missouri State's 5-2 win over Bradley on Friday. Petree moved into a tie for second place on MSU's all-time wins list, matching Kirby Cannon's (1977-80) four-year career total. Brad Ziegler (2000-03) heads the list with 32 victories.
Petree also moved up to second on the Bears' career top 10 list for strikeouts (264) and sits in fourth on MSU's career innings pitched chart (274.1). Ziegler heads the career K's list as well with 330 for his Bears career.
Maddox Keeps Mashing
Keenen Maddox has continued to swing a hot bat for Missouri State, keying the Bears' 12-2 win over Bradley on Saturday with a career-best 4-for-5 effort at the plate. The senior drove in three runs to match a season high and finished the week with a .412 batting mark in four games after running his streak of consecutive multi-hit games to six in a row. That figure represented the longest such streak for a Bear since the 2010 season, when Kevin Medrano accomplished the feat. Since March 13, Maddox has hit .381 and slugged .488 to pace an MSU offense that has batted .292.
Missouri State has received a boost from its talented freshman class throughout the first half of the season, especially since the start of Missouri Valley Conference play. Bears freshmen have either driven in the game-winning run or posted a mound victory in each of MSU's last 12 wins dating back to March 16, including each of MSU's nine Valley wins in 2013. In particular, Tate Matheny has accounted for five game-winning RBIs in conference play, while Jon Harris is a perfect 4-0 on the mound in MVC play.
Harris Stays Hot
Freshman right-hander Jon Harris kept his perfect Missouri State record intact last Saturday with his eighth win in as many starts for the Bears, who topped Bradley by a 12-2 score en route to a three-game sweep. The Florissant, Mo., product held the Braves to just two unearned runs on three hits over seven innings to become the first Bears freshman hurler to go 8-0 in eight starts. Harris, who ranks sixth in the nation in wins entering the week, has completed at least six innings in every start this season.