Bears Look to Continue Midweek Success Against Missouri Wednesday
Brock Chaffin
Brock Chaffin

April 24, 2012

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

Missouri State Bears (29-12) vs. Missouri Tigers (21-17)
Wednesday, April 25
First Pitch: 6:35 p.m.
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Hammons Field (8,000)
TV: Mediacom MC-22 (Don West, Mike McClure)
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: Bears All-Access
Live Stats:

Leading Off
Following a historical series win in Wichita over the weekend, the Missouri State Bears (29-12) return to Hammons Field to open a four-game homestand Wednesday against the Missouri Tigers (21-17). Wednesday's game marks the first of two midweek meetings between the in-state rivals in 2012, with the Bears returning the game on May 9 in Columbia.

Last week, the Bears dropped a 1-0 decision to Saint Louis in midweek action, but recovered to win two of three games against Wichita State, marking MSU's first regular-season road series victory over the Shockers. Missouri bounced back from three straight road losses to Oklahoma by sweeping its first Big 12 series in two years with three-straight wins over Kansas State last weekend.

T-Shirt Trade-Up
Wednesday's game will feature a "T-Shirt Trade-Up" in which the first 100 fans who turn in a shirt bearing the name or marks of another college or university will receive a free BearWear t-shirt, courtesy of the Missouri State Bookstore.

Prime 9
♦ The Bears are 22-20 all-time against the Tigers, but have dropped four of seven games in the series at Hammons Field
♦ Missouri State is 14-3 this season at Hammons Field where Bears pitchers have posted a cumulative 2.25 ERA
♦ MSU has won five of six games against Big 12 foes this season and 11 of 14 over the last two years
♦ The Bears are 7-2 in midweek contests this season, but have been held to a total of four hits in splitting their last two such games
♦ MSU paces the MVC in total strikeouts and team ERA, ranking second in the nation in the latter category; junior RHP Pierce Johnson rates second among all Division I hurlers in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (13.02)
♦ Senior 2B Kevin Medrano is a career .409 hitter in five previous games against the Tigers
♦ Sophomore RHP Nick Petree brings the nation's lowest ERA (0.77) into the week; Petree has not allowed an earned run since March 2, a string of 49.1-consecutive innings over eight starts
♦ Freshman LHP Tyler Burgess was named to the NCBWA's Stopper of the Year Award watch list last week and moved into the third spot on the Bears' single-season saves chart last weekend with his ninth of the season
♦ Expected starting RHP Jake Powers is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in four previous midweek appearances this season

Missouri Series
Wednesday's game will mark the 43 meeting of the two schools, with the Bears clinging to a 22-20 advantage. MSU has taken three of the last four games in the series, including both contests last season. The Bears limited MU to two runs seven hits in a 5-2 win in Columbia (April 27), then shut out the Tigers, 5-0, on five hits behind a seven-inning effort by Pierce Johnson at Hammons Field (May 3).

Missouri State also claimed the 2010 meeting at Hammons Field, thanks in large part to Keenen Maddox's two-homer night that included a walk-off two-run blast to win it by a 5-4 score.

About the Bears
Following a disappointing end to an otherwise memorable bounce back 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 saw his career-best 11-game hit streak come to an end last week, but still brings a team-high .337 batting mark into Wednesday's game, good for 10th in the MVC. Senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.313, 5-HR, 34-RBI) ranks among the MVC's top 10 performers in a number of different offensive categories, including a league-leading 19 doubles. Fellow senior Brock Chaffin (.306, 31-RBI) has 13 multi-hit games and at least one RBI in 21 contests, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.305, 4-HR, 32-RBI) has five game-winning RBIs this season and 16 for his MSU career to rank ninth all-time. Senior second baseman Kevin Medrano (.305, 14-2B, 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 (.303, 5-HR, 35-RBI) paces the club in RBIs and has reached base safely in 37 of the Bears' 41 games. Finally, sophomore outfielder Trey Massenberg (.300, 2-HR, 14-RBI, 5-3B) has blossomed in his second season as a Bear. He has an MVC-leading five triples and has scored 16 times over MSU's last 18 contests.

The Bears' top three starting pitchers have been strong through the first nine weeks of the season, combining to strike out 202 batters through 184.2 innings of work, despite a pair of key injuries. Nick Petree (8-2, 0.77), who went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA to garner Freshman All-America honors last spring, has won eight of his last nine decisions and leads the nation in earned run average. Junior right-hander Pierce Johnson (2-4, 2.28) has been dominant over his first eight starts of the season in spite of a lack of run support that has resulted in three one-run setbacks. After missing two starts in April due to a forearm strain, Johnson returned to the mound last weekend at Wichita State and brings the nation's 10th-highest strikeout total into the week. 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, 1.07, 9 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 ninth save of the season to climb to the top of the Missouri State freshman saves list.

About the Tigers
Under the direction of 17th year head coach Tim Jamieson, the Tigers return 15 letterwinners from last year's 27-32 squad that finished eighth in the Big 12 Conference race. Missouri, which brings a 21-17 overall mark into Wednesday's contest, features a balanced offensive attack, led by senior catcher Ben Turner's .320 average. Junior outfielders Dane Opel (.318, 25-RBI) and Blake Brown (.298, 30-RBI, 14-SB) form a powerful tandem in the middle of the Tigers' batting order, with each clubbing a team-high seven homers through the first 38 games of the season. The third MU outfielder, junior Brannon Champagne, has also been a key contributor to the Tigers' offense, boasting a .308 average to go along with 10 steals on the year. Senior infielder Conner Mach brings a .315 batting mark into the week, good for the third-highest average on the squad.

On the mound, Missouri relies on a deep stable of arms, particularly in the bullpen, where senior right-handers Dusty Ross (2-0, 2.51 ERA) and Jeff Emens (2-1, 2.76 ERA) have combined to go 4-1 with four saves over 37 outings. Sophomore closer Jake Walsh (2-2, 3.63 ERA) provides a dependable option at the end of games, coming into the week with eight saves in 22 appearances. As far as starters go, the Tigers have leaned on a pair of left-handers in junior Blake Holovach (3.95 ERA), who has notched a team-high five victories, and sophomore Rob Zastryzny (4.11 ERA), who has won three of his five decisions so far.

One and Done
The Bears dropped their seventh one-run decision of the season and their fourth straight one-run loss Sunday with their 3-2 setback to Wichita State. Missouri State has been involved in 24 games that have been decided by three runs or less in 2012, posting a 14-10 (.583) overall mark in such contests.

Johnson Back on the Bump
Despite suffering a 3-2 setback in Sunday's series finale with Wichita State, the Bears surely felt as if they came away from Eck Stadium with a victory of sorts, as junior right-hander Pierce Johnson returned to the mound for the first time in three weeks. Johnson showed no lingering effects from a forearm strain that had sidelined him since March 30, fanning nine hitters without issuing a walk, while permitting all three WSU runs on seven hits over six innings. Despite posting his sixth quality start of 2012, Johnson continued to suffer from a lack of run support Sunday in seeing his record dip to 2-4. The Bears have totaled just 24 runs in his eight starts this season and three of his four losses have been one or two-run decisions.

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.

Winning in Wichita
Missouri State claimed its first-ever regular-season series win in Wichita over the weekend, taking the first two contests of its series with the Shockers before falling, 3-2, in Sunday's finale. The Bears, just 12-38 all-time against WSU on its home field, also posted their first road shutout against the Shockers with Friday's 6-0 victory.



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