MSU, KU Will Square Off in 6 p.m. Non-Conference Game in Lawrence
April 22, 2014
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (17-19) at Kansas Jayhawks (23-19)
Date: Wednesday, April 23
First Pitch: 6 p.m.
Location: Lawrence, Kan.
Site: Hoglund Ballpark (2,500)
Series History: MSU leads 25-24
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Rob Evans)
Live Audio: RadioSpringfield.com
Live Video: ESPN3 (Steven Davis, Travis Blankenship)
The Missouri State Bears (17-19) kick off a busy road stretch Wednesday (April 23) with a trip to Lawrence, Kan., for a non-conference tilt with the Kansas Jayhawks (23-19). The Bears and Jayhawks will meet in a 6 p.m. contest at Hoglund Ballpark that will be streamed live by ESPN3, available online at WatchESPN.com.
MSU will be looking to extend a four-game win streak in its series with KU while stopping a two-game slide after dropping two of three games to Illinois State over the weekend. KU will also be looking to reverse a recent skid after losing eight of its last 10 outings, including a three-game sweep against Oklahoma State this past weekend in Stillwater.
Up next, the Bears travel to UT Martin to begin a three-game weekend series Friday (April 25), before returning to Hammons Field for an April 29 tilt against Arkansas.
♦ Missouri State leads the all-time series with Kansas 25-24, including four straight wins over the Jayhawks
♦ The Bears and Jayhawks share five common opponents this season, with each club logging identical 3-7 marks against Kansas State, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Oral Roberts and Wichita State to date
♦ Eric Cheray moved into the Bears' career top 10 for walks (88) last weekend, surpassing Ryan Howard and moving into a tie with Evan Pratte for the No. 9 spot on the list
♦ Bears head coach Keith Guttin surpassed Hawaii's Les Murakami for the No. 37 spot on the NCAA Division I career coaching wins list with Friday's 4-2 victory over Illinois State; MSU's 32nd year bench boss ranks 13th on the NCAA's active wins list
♦ The Bears lead the Missouri Valley Conference with a .974 team fielding percentage, which would establish a school single-season record for defensive excellence for the third consecutive season if the campaign ended today
♦ Andy Cheray struck out a career-best six hitters and limited Missouri to four hits over 7.0 scoreless innings last Tuesday to help the Bears post their first shutout victory in their 48-game series with the Tigers
♦ MSU's pitching staff has logged an MVC-best four shutouts this season, good for 40th among all Division I programs in 2014
♦ The Bears are 13-0 when scoring at least six runs this season, but just 4-19 when totaling five runs or less
♦ Tate Matheny led the Bears with a .467 batting mark in four games last week, including a 3-for-4 effort vs. MU, and a 2-for-4 performance that included his sixth home run of the season in Friday's victory over Illinois State
Missouri State brings a narrow 25-24 edge in the series, as well as a four-game win streak vs. the Jayhawks, into Wednesday's game. The Bears are 10-14 all-time against KU in Lawrence, including wins in each of their last two trips.
Wednesday's game will mark the first meeting of the two schools since May 6, 2012, after weather wiped away two scheduled contests last spring. The Bears prevailed in the last match-up, claiming a 6-3 decision in 11 innings in Lawrence, as well as a 9-8 victory at Hammons Field in March 2012. Coupled with a pair of neutral field wins over Air Force as part of the 2012 Jayhawk Classic, the Bears have won their last four games at Hoglund Ballpark dating back to 2011.
Watch the Leather, Man
For the third consecutive season, the Bears are on pace to establish a new program standard for fielding excellence. MSU's current team fielding percentage of .974 not only leads the Missouri Valley Conference, but ranks 42nd nationally. Last year, the Bears' .972 team defensive mark eclipsed the previous Missouri State record of .971, which was set in 2012. MSU's 59 team errors in 2013 represented its lowest total since the 1977 season.
The Bears played error-free baseball in their three-game series with Illinois State over the weekend and enter Wednesday's contest having handled their last 141 defensive chances without a miscue. In fact, the Bears have gone errorless in seven of their last nine outings and have committed no more than one error in 10 of their last 11 games, compiling a .983 team average over the same span. Individually, shortstop Joey Hawkins ranks second among all Valley defenders with 117 assists on the year, while second baseman Eric Cheray is fifth with 105. Finally, first baseman Conor Smith has fielded at a .992 clip and ranks sixth all-time at MSU with a career .990 fielding percentage.
Wednesday's contest will mark just the fourth game for the Bears in the Sunflower State over the last two seasons, and a welcomed homecoming for the four Kansas natives on the MSU roster. Thanks to inclement weather the Bears' only scheduled game in Kansas last season was canceled, marking the first year since 1995 that MSU did not play at least one contest in the neighboring state. Two seasons ago, the Bears went a combined 6-1 against Wichita State, Kansas and Kansas State overall, with Kansas natives playing key roles for the Maroon and White. The Bears recorded a minuscule 1.12 staff ERA, hit .312 as a club in those games, outscoring the opposition by a 46-11 margin in their six victories. Furthermore, in six games on Kansas soil in 2012, the Bears totaled 39 runs and allowed just 11 to claim five wins.
Cody Schumacher earned two of the Bears' five wins in Kansas two years ago, allowing just one earned run while striking out 14 in 14.0 innings in two outings in his native state. Fellow Topeka native Eric Cheray, who hit .455 against the Wichita State last year, batted .294 in six games in the Sunflower State as a freshman. Additionally, Leawood, Kan., product Dylan Becker logged a .333 batting average against WSU in 2012 and hit his first collegiate home run in MSU's 7-2 victory in Schumacher's first win over the Shockers in Wichita (April 21). Sophomore left-hander Andy Cheray (Overland Park) is expected to make his first start on his native soil Wednesday after working a career-best 8 2/3 innings, over which he surrendered just two runs on two hits, against Wichita State last May.
Road to Success
By taking two of three games from Bradley (April 11-13), the Bears picked up their first road series win since the opening weekend of the season at UCA (Feb. 14-16). MSU also reversed a recent trend versus the Braves, as its series triumph marked the first for a road team in the series since 2008. The home club had posted a remarkable 14-1 cumulative record over the past five regular-season matchups, including three-game sweeps in four of those years.
This season, the Bears' offense has peaked on the road, logging a .272 team batting average and 12 of the clubs' 20 home runs in MSU's 23 road and neutral field contests.
In Rare Company
With the Bears' victory over Illinois State on April 18, MSU bench boss Keith Guttin gained sole possession of the 37th spot on the NCAA's Division I all-time coaching wins list, moving past Les Murakami of Hawaii with his 1,080th career victory. Guttin needs four more victories to catch Steve Kittrell (South Alabama) in the No. 36 spot and seven additional wins to match the career totals of current Georgia Tech bench boss Danny Hall and former Florida International coach Danny Price. The Bears' 32nd-year head coach previously passed former Indiana State coach Bob Warn with MSU's victory over Abilene Christian on March 7, making him the second-winningest Valley coach behind Wichita State's Gene Stephenson (1,837).
With a career record of 1,080-694 (.609), Guttin currently ranks 13th on the NCAA's wins list for active coaches. He became the 46th Division I baseball coach and the third Valley mentor to reach the 1,000 career-win mark with MSU's 3-2 victory at Northwestern State on March 3, 2012, also becoming the first coach at Missouri State in any sport to reach the milestone and the 20th Division I baseball coach to accomplish the feat while guiding just one school.