Bears, Shockers Set to Open Crucial MVC Series Saturday at Hammons Field
May 3, 2013
Missouri State Bears (27-13, 11-4 MVC) vs. Wichita State Shockers (27-21, 11-4 MVC)
With matching 11-4 Valley records, the Bears and Shockers sit just percentage points behind first-place Illinois State with two weekends to go in the regular season. Missouri State is coming off an MVC road series win in Evansville last weekend, followed by a 6-3 setback to No. 16 Arkansas in Fayetteville on Tuesday. Wichita State took two of three games against Southern Illinois in Carbondale last week, before splitting midweek games with Kansas and Kansas Wesleyan this week.
Up next, Missouri State will entertain Oral Roberts in a pair of non-conference games, Tuesday and Wednesday at Hammons Field. The Bears will then wrap up their home slate with a three-game set against Wright State next weekend (May 10-12).
The Bears own a 21-18 edge over the Shockers in games played in Springfield, but just a 7-8 mark at Hammons Field. MSU has won seven of its last eight home contests against WSU, however.
About the Bears
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 7-1 start with the second-best ERA in the MVC (1.52) through 10 starts to pace a staff that has recorded a 2.96 team ERA. Freshman right-hander Jon Harris has made a significant impact in his first collegiate season, claiming wins in each of his first eight starts while posting a 2.21 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 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 seven steals lead MSU, while his .276 batting mark and 23 RBIs both rank fourth 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 (.360), slugging percentage (.500), runs scored (33), hits (62), home runs (4) and total bases (86). Senior shortstop Travis McComack has been hot at the plate lately, reaching base safely in 26 of his last 28 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 25 RBIs and 11 doubles so far. Senior outfielder Keenen Maddox has been the Bears' hottest hitter of late, batting .424 with 15 RBIs over MSU's last 14 games. Finally, sophomore infielder Eric Cheray ranks among the Valley's leaders in walks and paces the Bears with a .475 on-base percentage to go along with a .324 batting mark.
About the Shockers
Leading the WSU offense has been junior outfielder Garrett Bayliff (.360 BA), who paces an offense hitting .286 as a group, good for fourth overall in the Valley. Sophomores Tyler Baker (.329/4 HR/34 RBI) and Casey Gillaspie (.299 BA/7 HR/30 RBI) have been key performers for the Shockers as well, leading the club in runs batted-in and home runs, respectively. Additionally, junior outfielder Micah Green is hitting .301 on the year, including a .342 mark in conference play.
On the mound, WSU has relied on Friday starter Cale Elam, who has a team-best 5-2 record to go along with a 2.22 ERA. The junior right-hander's 1.71 MVC earned run average ranks third in the circuit, while his 55 strikeouts rank sixth overall among all Valley hurlers. Sophomore righty A.J. Ladwig is projected as the Shockers Saturday starter, bringing a 4-4 overall mark and a 4.95 ERA into the series. The WSU bullpen is led by junior right-hander Brandon Peterson, who has saved six games and logged a pair of wins to go along with a 1.50 ERA and a minuscule .185 batting average against. Junior lefty Aaron LaBrie has saved three games and his 1.14 ERA leads the team.
Reversal of Fortune
MSU's offense has been key in its recent run of success against WSU at home. Over the eight-game stretch, the Bears have hit a collective .318 while out-scoring the Shockers by a 51-28 margin.
Most notably, Cody Schumacher earned two of the Bears' three wins over the Shockers, allowing just one earned run while striking out 16 hitters over 17.0 total innings in two starts against WSU. Fellow Kansan Eric Cheray led the Bears' offensive charge in those two victories, hitting .500 with a pair of RBIs and a run scored to help MSU out-score the Shockers by a 14-2 margin. 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 on April 21. Freshman left-hander Andy Cheray (Overland Park) should get his first crack at a team from his home state in game two of Sunday's doubleheader, which he is scheduled to start opposite of WSU's Garrett Brummett.
The Bears top two starting pitchers, Nick Petree and Jon Harris, have found the confines of Hammons Field particularly friendly throughout their respective careers. The duo is 7-0 with a combined 1.37 ERA in eight home starts in 2013. Furthermore, Petree is 11-0 with a microscopic 0.94 ERA over 114.1 innings spanning 16 career appearances at Hammons. Coupled with Harris's 4-0 home mark and 1.61 ERA at Hammons, the two right-handers have posted a perfect 15-0 home record, while giving up just 17 earned runs and striking out 146 hitters over 142.1 career innings, good for a combined 1.07 ERA.
At the plate, freshman Tate Matheny has been red-hot at home in his rookie year, with a .470 (31-for-66) Hammons batting mark in 15 outings. Keenen Maddox has also excelled on his home turf, logging a .322 career average, as well as nine of his 14 career home runs at Hammons Field.
Gordon Nearing Milestone