First-Place Bears Ready for Critical MVC Showdown With Salukis
Kevin Medrano
Kevin Medrano

April 26, 2012

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Southern Illinois Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (29-13, 8-3 MVC) vs. Southern Illinois Salukis (23-18, 8-4 MVC)
Dates (Times):
Friday, April 27 (6:30 p.m.)
Saturday, April 28 (2 p.m.)
Sunday, April 29 (1 p.m.)
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Hammons Field (8,000)
Series: Missouri State leads 56-31
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: Bears All-Access
Live Stats:

Leading Off
After suffering back-to-back losses for just the third time in 2012, the Missouri State Bears (29-13, 8-3 MVC) will look for a quick turnaround with a pivotal three-game Missouri Valley Conference series against the Southern Illinois Salukis (23-18, 8-4 MVC) looming this weekend. The Bears bring a slim half-game MVC lead over both the Salukis and Indiana State into Friday's series opener at Hammons Field.

MSU dropped a 4-3 contest to Missouri in 11 innings Wednesday after mounting an eighth-inning rally that erased a two-run deficit. The Bears, who are 14-4 at Hammons Field in 2012, enter the final weekend of April having suffered consecutive home losses for the first time this season. Southern Illinois enters the series on a five-game win streak following its three-game sweep of Creighton last weekend in Carbondale and a midweek win over SEMO.

Prime 9
♦ The Bears hold a 56-31 all-time advantage over SIU, including a 7-7 mark against the Salukis at Hammons Field
♦ MSU took three of four games from SIU last year and has won 11 of the last 15 games in the series dating back to the 2008 season
♦ Missouri State is 14-4 this season at Hammons Field where Bears pitchers have posted a cumulative 2.32 ERA
♦ Each of MSU's last five losses and seven of the Bears' last eight defeats have been one-run decisions
♦ Sophomore RHP Nick Petree brings the nation's lowest ERA (0.77) into his Friday start; Petree has not allowed an earned run since March 2, a string of 49.1-consecutive innings over seven starts
♦ 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)
♦ MSU starters have not yielded a home run since March 20, a span of 671 opposition at-bats over 21 games
♦ Senior 2B Kevin Medrano is just three contests shy of becoming the 13th player in Missouri State history to appear in 200 career games
♦ Junior RHP Cody Schumacher is 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 26.1 IP over his last four starts; Schumacher has limited the opposition to just 25 baserunners and a .189 batting average over the same stretch

Southern Illinois Series
Missouri State holds a commanding 56-31 advantage over Southern Illinois in a series that dates back to 1988. The Bears have enjoyed a recent run of success in the series, having taken 11 of the last 15 meetings dating back to the 2008 season. SIU did claim a series win in its last trip to Hammons Field by winning two of three games in 2010.

Last year, MSU won three of four games against the Salukis, claiming two of three contests in Carbondale, then knocking off SIU, 6-4, in its MVC Tourney opener. Nick Petree earned wins in each of his two starts against the Salukis, while Brent Seifert homered and drove in three runs over the four-game stretch. As far as career numbers go, Keenen Maddox has had one of the hottest bat in the series in recent years, bringing a .421 batting mark, including a home run and seven RBIs, in five previous games againt SIU.

About the Bears
Following a disappointing end to an otherwise memorable bounceback 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 .320 batting mark into Friday's game. Senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.304, 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 (.302, 32 RBI) has 13 multi-hit games and at least one RBI in 22 contests, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.297, 4 HR, 32 RBI) has five game-winning RBIs this season and 16 for his MSU career to rank ninth in school history. Senior second baseman Kevin Medrano (.304, 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 (.301, 5 HR, 36 RBI) paces the club in RBIs and has reached base safely in 38 of the Bears' 42 games. Finally, sophomore outfielder Trey Massenberg (.305, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 5 3B) has blossomed in his second season as a Bear. He has an MVC-leading five triples and has scored 17 times over MSU's last 19 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 brought 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 Salukis
Southern Illinois has been one of the surprise teams in the Valley so far in 2012, bringing an 8-4 league mark into the weekend after being tabbed sixth in the MVC's preseason poll. Head coach Ken Henderson welcomed back 22 letterwinners from last year's 23-34 squad that finished fifth in the league. The Salukis are led by the Valley's top hitter in first baseman Chris Serritella, who is bidding to become the MVC's first triple crown winner in 13 years. The junior currently leads the conference in a number of offensive categories, including batting (.387), hits (65), runs (43), total bases (115), slugging (.685) and home runs (10). Serritella gets plenty of help in the SIU batting order, particularly from Brock Harding (.339) and Austin Montgomery, whose 41 RBIs rank fourth in the MVC. Additionally, Rennie Troggio (.333), Jake Welch (.304, 10 SB) and Jordan Sivertsen (.301, 8 HR, 35 RBI) combine to give SIU a deep and dangerous lineup that has produced an average of 6.7 runs per game this season.

On the mound, the Salukis rely on the left arm of Friday starter Cody Forsythe, who anchors the weekend rotation with a 3-1 mark and 3.36 ERA. Right-hander Cameron Maldonado (5-1, 6.18) is second on the club in victories as one of the Salukis regular weekend starters, while freshman Sam Coonrod (2-2, 3.98) is expected to start Sunday's finale. The bullpen is led by right-hander Todd Eaton, who ranks among the MVC's leaders with seven saves on the season.

Getting Offensive?
This weekend's series features the top two offenses in Missouri Valley Conference play, with the Bears bringing a .324 team batting average through 11 MVC games into Friday's game, and the Salukis boasting the league's second-highest mark of .307 through their first 12 conference contests. In terms of run production, MSU is scoring at a 6.4 runs per game clip, while SIU is producing an average of 6.3 tallies per league outing.

Then again, both pitching staffs have more than held their own during Valley play. The Bears have posted a league-best 1.44 team ERA to date, limiting their conference foes to a .226 batting average. The Salukis have been solid in the pitching department as well with a 3.86 team ERA to rank fourth in the MVC.

Shutdown Staff
The Missouri State pitching staff has combined to keep the opposition in the yard for 14 straight games, and has not allowed a home run at Hammons Field since March 18, a stretch of 11 consecutive home games. Furthermore, Bears starters have not yielded a long ball since March 20, a span of 671 opponent at-bats over 21 games.

Another Medrano Milestone
Barring injury, senior second baseman Kevin Medrano should reach another career milestone over the weekend, as the Lee's Summit, Mo., product needs to play in three more games to reach the 200-game plateau for his MSU career. Medrano would become just the 13th Bear to accomplish the feat.

Additionally, senior outfielder Spiker Helms and senior third baseman Brent Seifert both need two additional appearances for their 100th career games as Bears.



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