Bears Set to Face Falcons, Jayhawks This Weekend in Lawrence
 
Luke Voit
 
Luke Voit
 

May 2, 2012

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (31-14) at Jayhawk Classic
Dates (Times):
Friday, May 4 (2 p.m.) vs. Air Force (12-30)
Saturday, May 5 (11 a.m.) vs. Air Force
Sunday, May 6 (1 p.m.) at Kansas (18-27)
Location: Lawrence, Kan.
Site: Hoglund Ballpark (2,500)
Air Force Series: Tied 1-1
Kansas Series: Tied 24-24
Radio: None
Tournament Central: KUAthletics.com
Live Audio and Video (Sunday): Jayhawk All-Access
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com

Leading Off
The Missouri State Bears (31-14) will take a break from Missouri Valley Conference play before heading into the home stretch of the regular season with three games at the Jayhawk Classic in Lawrence, Kan. The Bears will square off against the Air Force Falcons (12-30) in single games Friday and Saturday, then concluded their home-and-home season series with the Kansas Jayhawks (18-27) Sunday afternoon.

MSU took two of three games from Southern Illinois at home last weekend to remain atop the MVC regular-season standings. The Bears will be looking to avenge a season-opening loss to the Falcons last year, as well as a season sweep of the Jayhawks after claiming a 9-8 win over KU on Kevin Medrano's bases-loaded, walk-off single March 27 at Hammons Field.

Prime 9
♦ The Bears bring a .500 overall mark against Air Force and Kansas into play this weekend; MSU is 24-24 against the host Jayhawks and 1-1 all-time against the Falcons
♦ The Bears are 5-2 vs. the Big 12 Conference in 2012 and a combined 11-4 over the last two seasons
♦ MSU will be shooting for its second straight season sweep of KU after claiming a 9-8 win March 27 in Springfield
♦ Missouri State leads the nation in strikeouts per nine innings (9.20) and junior RHP Pierce Johnson rates fourth among all Division I hurlers in the same category (12.24)
♦ Sophomore RHP Nick Petree brings the nation's lowest ERA (0.70) and a streak of 22.0-straight scoreless innings into his Friday start; Petree has not allowed an earned run since March 2, a string of 56.2-consecutive innings over nine appearances
♦ MSU paces the MVC in total strikeouts and team ERA, ranking third in the nation in the latter category
♦ Missouri State starting pitchers have yielded just one home run over a span of 24 games since March 20
♦ Senior 2B Kevin Medrano (282 H) is just two hits to reach the third spot on MSU's career hits list, currently held by Micah Holst (284), and just seven shy of Bill Mueller (289) in the No. 2 slot
♦ Junior RHP Cody Schumacher is 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 33 IP over his last five starts

Air Force Series
Missouri State and Air Force have split their only two previous meetings, with the Falcons claiming a 7-2 victory in the Bears' 2011 season opener in San Marcos, Texas, and MSU bringing home a 17-4 win on Feb. 17, 2002 in Arlington, Texas. Last year, the Falcons plated five runs in the fifth inning and Evan Abrecht surrendered just two runs on seven hits over six innings.

Kansas Series
After the Bears' 9-8 win over the Jayhawks at Hammons Field on March 27, MSU and KU enter their Sunday matchup having evenly split their previous 48 meetings in a series that dates back to 1988. The Missouri Valley Conference and the Bears in particular have enjoyed a recent run of success against the Big 12 Conference. MSU is 5-2 against the Big 12 this season after going 6-2 against the league in 2011.

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 Keenen Maddox saw his career-best 11-game hit streak come to an end April 17, but still brings a team-high .325 batting mark into Friday's game. Serving as the Bears' primary DH, Maddox has hit .356 with a team-high four homers since March 30. Senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.285, 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 (.319, HR, 35 RBI) has 15 multi-hit games and at least one RBI in 23 contests, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.288, 4 HR, 34 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 (.312, 14 2B, 10 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 (.289, 5 HR, 37 RBI) paces the club in RBIs and has reached base safely in 40 of the Bears' 45 games. Finally, sophomore outfielder Trey Massenberg (.292, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 5 3B, 8 SB) has blossomed in his second season as a Bear. He has an MVC-leading five triples and has scored 18 times over MSU's last 22 contests.

The Bears' pitching staff has been the strength of the team through the first 10 weeks of the season, despite a series of key injuries. Nick Petree (8-2, 0.70), 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. The right-hander, who was tabbed for the College Baseball Hall of Fame's Pitcher of the Year Watch List in late April, brings a string of 56 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, as well as 22.0-straight scoreless frames into the weekend. Junior right-hander Pierce Johnson (2-5, 2.98) 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 April 23 at Wichita State and brings the nation's 14th-highest strikeout total into the weekend. Junior righty Cody Schumacher (6-0, 4.64) has been a dependable third starter in his first year as a Bear, helping his club claim wins in 11 of his 12 starts to date. 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 (4-0, 0.99, 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 Falcons
Air Force brings a 12-30 overall record into the Jayhawk Classic after going 19-36 to finish sixth in the Mountain West Conference last year. The Falcons, who hit .256 as a team, have won three of their last five games, posting double-digit run totals in each of those victories. Leading the charge has been Garrett Custons (.353, 4 HR, 18 RBI), who paces the Air Force offense in a number of categories, including home runs, doubles, runs scored and slugging percentage. Alex Bast (.319, 2 HR, 28 RBI) is the only other Falcon regular with an average above .300, although Seth Kline (.360) and Matt Thorne (.352) have each been productive in part-time roles.

On the mound, the Falcons have gotten solid work from starters Evan Abrecht (4-2, 4.26) and Michael Ceci (2-5, 4.74), despite bringing a 5.46 team ERA into the weekend.

About the Jayhawks
Kansas brings an 18-27 overall mark and a 4-13 mark in Big 12 play into the weekend. The Jayhawks return 17 letterwinners from last year's 26-30 squad that finished ninth in the Big 12. Leading the way for a lineup hitting .250 as a team has been Zac Elgie (.284, 5 HR, 26 RBI) and freshman Connor McKay (.211, 5 HR, 19 RBI). Kevin Kuntz (.286, 8 SB) and James Stanfield (.300, 11 RBI) have also been key contributors and bring two of the club's top batting marks into the weekend.

On the hill, KU is led by a weekend rotation consisting of right-handers Frank Duncan (4-6, 3.33), Thomas Taylor (4-5, 4.63) and freshman lefty Wes Benjamin (2-6, 4.36). In the pen, freshman righty Robert Kahana (3.46) has been solid with a 3-1 mark in a team-high 22 appearances, while senior right-hander Jordan Jakubov (1-1, 5.64) and junior right-hander Tanner Poppe (0-4, 6.27) have combined for all six KU saves.

Portrait of a Pitcher
Sophomore pitcher Nick Petree turned in seven scoreless innings in the Bears' 1-0 win over Southern Illinois last Friday, striking out nine while allowing five hits and walking just one. Petree, who was named to the College Baseball Hall of Fame's Pitcher of the Year Watch List last week, lowered his Division I-leading ERA to 0.70 and extended his personal scoreless streak to 22.0 straight innings, marking his second stretch of 20+ scoreless innings in 2012. The Clinton, Mo., product also stretched his string of consecutive innings without giving up an earned run to 56 2/3 frames over his last nine outings dating back to March 2.

Petree has shrugged off an opening-day loss to post wins in eight of his last nine starts and brings the nation's lowest ERA into the week. If Petree's season ended today, his 0.70 ERA would be the lowest for any Valley pitcher reaching the qualifying minimum in a single season since Tulsa's Walt Wrona posted a 0.43 mark in 1974.

Petree, who has not yielded a home run all season, leads the MVC in victories (8) and ERA, and ranks third in innings pitched (77.1) and fourth in strikeouts (76). Additionally, Petree's win total ranked fifth in all of Division I through games of April 29.

History in the Ma-K-ing
Missouri State brings the nation's top strikeout per nine innings (9.20) figure into the weekend. With three different pitchers ranked among the MVC's individual strikeout leaders, the MSU staff is piling up K's at a record-setting pace in 2012. The Bears' season total of 406 strikeouts through their first 397.0 innings pitched games puts them well ahead of the 2001 MSU staff's pace of 8.75 K's per nine innings, which represents the club's best single-season mark during the Division I era. Additionally, MSU has now surpassed the 400-strikeout mark in 12 straight seasons after accomplishing the same feat just once over the program's first 37 years of existence

Junior Pierce Johnson ranks second in the Valley and ranked 14th in all of Division I baseball with 82 strikeouts coming into the week, despite missing a pair of April starts due to tightness in his right forearm. The right-hander's 12.24 strikeouts per nine innings ranks atop MSU's single-season list of pitchers meeting the qualifying minimum number of innings (1.0 IP/team game) and fourth among all Division I pitchers. Finally, sophomore Nick Petree is fifth in the Valley with 76 punchouts on the year, while junior Cody Schumacher ranks seventh with 62 strikeouts.

New Blood Delivers New Life
Missouri State has received a big boost from a deep and talented crop of newcomers throughout the 2012 season. Freshman Eric Cheray has started 40 games in his debut season, including each of the Bears' last 34 contests. Last week, he led the Bears with a .462 average at the plate and drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in Sunday's 12-6 win over Southern Illinois. The Topeka, Kan., product hit his first homer as a Bear in the third inning, then provided what would prove to be the game-winning RBI with a fifth-inning double. Fellow freshman Dylan Becker has enjoyed the most-productive stretch of his first year as a collegiate in recent weeks, registering his first two home runs and nine RBIs altogether over his last nine games. On the mound, freshman lefty Tyler Burgess is a perfect 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA and a MSU freshman record nine saves, while junior college transfer Cody Schumacher is a perfect 6-0 as a member of the Bears' rotation.

 

 

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