May 10, 2012
Missouri State Game Notes
Missouri State Bears (34-15, 10-4 MVC) vs. Evansville Purple Aces (28-21, 7-8 MVC)
Dates/Times: Friday, May 11 (6:30 p.m.)
Saturday, May 12 (2 p.m.)
Sunday, May 13 (1 p.m.)
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Hammons Field (8,000)
Series History: Missouri State leads 41-33
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: Bears All-Access (subscription required)
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com
With just two Missouri Valley Conference series remaining on their 2012 schedule, the Missouri State Bears (34-15, 10-4 MVC) will look to solidify their position atop the standings this weekend when they welcome the Evansville Purple Aces (28-21, 7-8 MVC) to Hammons Field for a three-game set.
This weekend's series marks the final regular-season home games for the front-running Bears, who will conclude Valley play with three pivotal games against Indiana State in Terre Haute next weekend. Evansville, which enters the weekend tied with Wichita State for fifth in the MVC race, will also be aiming for a strong league finish after being tabbed eighth in the conference's preseason coaches poll.
♦ The Bears are 41-33 all-time versus Evansville, but have dropped five straight games to the Purple Aces
♦ MSU paces the Valley in team batting (.314), slugging (.462) and on-base percentage (.389) during MVC play
♦ Senior 1B Brock Chaffin ranks fourth in the Valley in hitting with a .391 average during MVC play
♦ Missouri State leads the nation in strikeouts per nine innings and junior RHP Pierce Johnson rates sixth among all Division I hurlers in the same category (11.47)
♦ MSU entered the week second in the nation in team ERA (2.51), led by sophomore RHP Nick Petree's 0.63 ERA and school-record 30.0 consecutive scoreless innings, both of which lead the Division I ranks in 2012; Petree has not yielded an earned run since March 2, covering 64.2 IP over 10 appearances
♦ Junior C Luke Voit brings a .409 average, 2 HRs and 10 RBIs in 6 career games vs. Evansville into the series
♦ Junior RHP Cody Schumacher is 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA and 41 K's in 39.0 IP over his last six starts
♦ SS Eric Cheray's eight-game hit streak is the longest for a Bears' freshman since Kevin Medrano's nine-game streak, March 11-22, 2009
♦ Medrano (289 hits) moved into sole possession of second place on the Bears' career hits list with his 1-for-4 night Wednesday at Missouri
The Bears enter the series with a 41-33 all-time advantage over the Purple Aces. Evansville has won each of the last five meetings in the series, however, edging the Bears by scores of 3-1 and 5-4 in a weather-shortened series at Braun Stadium last season (April 29-30).
In their last trip to Hammons Field in 2010, the Purple Aces dropped the first game of the three-game series, only to bounce back with victories in the final two contests. UE then ended the Bears' season with a 7-2 decision at the MVC Tournament in Wichita. The two teams have evenly split 20 meetings over the last six seasons.
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.
Leading the way for the Bears has been second baseman Kevin Medrano (.323, 22 RBI, 15 2B, 11 SB) who leads the club in hitting and ranks fifth in the MVC in total hits. The senior from Lee's Summit, Mo., has been hot at the plate lately after a sluggish start to move into second place on MSU's career hits list (290). Junior Keenen Maddox saw his career-best 11-game hit streak come to an end April 17, but still brings a .302 batting mark into Friday's game. Serving as the Bears' primary DH, Maddox has hit .318 with a team-high four homers since March 30. Senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.299, 6 HR, 38 RBI) ranks among the MVC's top 10 performers in a number of different offensive categories, including a team-leading 19 doubles and a league-high 35 walks. Fellow senior Brock Chaffin (.310, HR, 36 RBI) has 16 multi-hit games and at least one RBI in 24 contests, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.295, 5 HR, 38 RBI) has five game-winning RBIs this season and 16 for his MSU career to rank ninth in school history. Senior third baseman Brent Seifert (.279, 5 HR, 38 RBI) shares the team lead in RBIs and has reached base safely in 44 of the Bears' 49 games. Finally, sophomore outfielder Trey Massenberg (.288, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 6 3B, 8 SB) has blossomed in his second season as a Bear. He has an MVC-leading six triples and has scored 21 times over MSU's last 26 contests.
The Bears' pitching staff has been the strength of the team through the first 11 weeks of the season, despite a series of key injuries. Nick Petree (9-2, 0.63), who went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA to garner Freshman All-America honors last spring, has won nine of his last 10 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 64 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, as well as a school-record 30.0 straight scoreless frames into the weekend. Junior right-hander Pierce Johnson (2-5, 3.11) has been dominant over his first nine 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 sixth-best strikeouts/nine innings mark into the week. Junior righty Cody Schumacher (7-0, 4.22) has been a dependable third starter in his first year as a Bear, helping his club claim wins in 12 of his 13 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, 1.19, 10 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. Junior right-hander Grant Gordon (5-3, 3.00) gives MSU a versatile weapon out of the bullpen and ranks among the Valley's top 10 for total victories in 2012.
About the Purple Aces
Under the leadership of fourth-year head coach Wes Carroll, Evansville returns 20 letterwinners from last year's squad that went 28-25, but struggled to a seventh-place MVC finish. Powered by a potent running game and one of the top defenses in the country, the Aces enter the weekend 28-21 overall and 7-8 in the Valley, good for a tie for fifth in the regular-season standings. Leading the charge is the duo of Kevin Kaczmarski (.327 BA, .476 SLG, 31 RBI, 12 SB) and Eric Stamets (.316 BA, 28 SB), who have combined for 40 stolen bases on the year. Kyle Pollock represents the Aces' top power threat with four homers on the year, while Jake Mahon has driven in a team-high 34 runs to lead an offense averaging 4.8 runs per game.
On the mound, Evansville has received strong performances from a four-man rotation that has combined to make 44 of the club's 49 starts. Pacing that group has been sophomore right-hander Ryan Billo, who has been one of the Valley's top pitchers to date with an 8-1 record and 2.19 ERA. Junior Kyle Lloyd has also been vital to the UE mound effort, registering a 3-3 mark and 3.56 ERA. Sophomore lefty Cole Isom has just a 2-6 season mark and 5.05 ERA, but his 59 strikeouts and 76.2 innings pitched lead the team, as do junior left-hander Josh Biggs's (4-1, 2.93 ERA) five saves.
Sophomore pitcher Nick Petree has turned in a one of the most-memorable mound stretches in Missouri State history this season, choking the life out of the opposition over the last two months to the tune of 64 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. Additionally, the right-hander established a Bears' single-season record for consecutive scoreless innings in his 7-0 shutout of Air Force on May 4. Petree, who was tabbed by Collegiate Baseball as its National Player of the Week on Monday, lowered his Division I-leading ERA to 0.63 and extended his personal scoreless streak to 30.0 straight innings, marking the longest such streak in Division I play this season and his second stretch of 20+ scoreless innings in 2012. Petree surpassed the previous MSU single-season record of 29.1 consecutive scoreless innings, set by Greg Reed in 1988. He needs to work an additional 4 2/3 innings without giving up a run to equal the MSU career record of 34.2 straight scoreless frames, accomplished by Ken Watkins over the 1968 and 1969 seasons.
Over the course of his streak that spans 10 outings and dates back to March 2, Petree has posted a 4-to-1 strikeout-walk ratio (73Ks/18 BB) and has been a part of six of the Bears' single-season record eight shutouts on the year. He's given up just 37 hits over the 64 2/3-inning span, including only seven extra-base hits (all doubles). Petree has been at his best under pressure, holding the opposition to a mere .095 (8-for-84) batting average with runners on base.
While the State Farm MVC Baseball Championship will play out May 22-26 at Hammons Field to extend Missouri State's home slate, six Bears will play their final regular-season home games this Sunday. This year's senior class, consisting of four-year veterans Brett Marshall and Kevin Medrano, as well as well as two-year letterwinners Brock Chaffin, Spiker Helms, Derek Mattea and Brent Seifert, has helped MSU surpass the 30-win mark each of the last two seasons. The group, which has combined for 733 hits in 679 games entering the series, will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony Sunday.
Despite ranking near the middle of the pack in the Missouri Valley Conference in overall hitting this season, the Bears have flipped the offensive switch since the start of league play. MSU leads the circuit in team batting (.314), slugging percentage (.462) and on-base percentage (.389), while its lineup includes four of the top 11 individual hitters in the Valley in league play. Brock Chaffin's .391 MVC batting mark leads the Bears and rates fourth among all Valley hitters, while Kevin Medrano (.373) ranks sixth, Brent Seifert (.340) is ninth and Keenen Maddox (.333) enters Friday's game 11th.