Bears Set to Open Final Home Series Against Evansville Thursday Night
 
Conor Smith
 
Conor Smith
 

May 14, 2014

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (21-28, 7-11 MVC) vs. Evansville Purple Aces (33-17, 14-4 MVC)
Dates/Times:
Thursday, May 15 - 6:35 p.m.
Friday, May 16 - 1:05 p.m.
Saturday, May 17 - 1:05 p.m.
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Hammons Field (8,000)
Series History: MSU leads 45-37
TV (Thursday): Mediacom MC-22 (Don West, Mike McClure)
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains)
Live Audio: RadioSpringfield.com
Live Video (Thursday/Saturday): Bears All-Access
GameTracker: MissouriStateBears.com
Twitter: @MSUBearBaseball
Tickets: MSU Athletics Box Office
Promotion (Saturday): Military Appreciation Day

Leading Off
The Missouri State Bears (21-28, 7-11 MVC) will assume the role of spoiler in their final Missouri Valley Conference series of the season against the Evansville Purple Aces (33-17, 14-4 MVC) this weekend at Hammons Field. The Bears and Purple Aces open their three-game set Thursday (May 15) evening with a 6:35 p.m. contest, before finishing up the regular season with back-to-back 1:05 p.m. games Friday and Saturday.

MSU was swept in its three-game series at Indiana State last weekend, despite holding at least a three-run lead in each contest. With a 7-11 league mark, the Bears appear to be destined for the No. 6 seed at next week's MVC Tournament in Terre Haute. They will be looking to throw a wrench in the Purple Aces' plan to capture the conference's regular-season crown following UE's three-game sweep of Illinois State last weekend. The Aces need just one victory to clinch their first league title since 2006, when they edged the Bears by one-half game in the MVC standings, then captured the tournament championship with a pair of wins over MSU on the final day of the league meet in Wichita.

The 30th MVC Baseball Championship will begin Tuesday (May 20) with four contests at Indiana State's Bob Warn Field. The host Sycamores hold the only predetermined game time for opening day, with their game set for a 7:30 p.m. first pitch.

Prime 9
♦ Missouri State leads the all-time series with Evansville by a 45-37 count, but has dropped four out of its last six home games against the Purple Aces; the Bears are 22-15 vs. UE in Springfield and 11-7 at Hammons Field
♦ The Bears enter the weekend 7-9 at home this season, needing a series sweep to avoid their first losing home campaign since 1965 (3-5); MSU has hit just .218 as a team in its 16 games at Hammons Field this season
Tate Matheny leads all Valley batters with 30 hits during league play; the sophomore is hitting .417 and slugging .681 with five homers and 49 total bases in MVC play, good for second in the conference in each category
♦ Matheny has reached base safely in 21 consecutive games since April 8, hitting .398 with four homers and 22 RBIs
♦ The Bears rank 22nd nationally as a pitching staff in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (7.8), with Clay Murphy's K/9 IP rate of 10.28 registering as the 18th-best individual mark in all of Division I baseball
♦ With 217 strikeouts, Murphy needs six more punchouts to crack to Missouri State top 10 for career K's; he enters the weekend just 8.0 innings shy of the No. 10 spot on the Bears' career innings pitched list as well
Joey Hawkins needs two sacrifice bunts to match MSU's single-season (14) and career (28) records; the junior shortstop also leads the MVC in defensive assists (155) this season
Keith Guttin matched former South Alabama coach Steve Kittrell for the No. 36 spot on the NCAA's Division I coaching victories list with the Bears' 5-3 win over Kansas on May 7
♦ MSU is 16-2 in 2014 and 31-3 over the last two seasons when scoring at least six runs; conversely, the Bears are just 5-25 when failing to top the five-run mark in 2014

Series History
Missouri State brings a narrow advantage in its all-time series with Evansville into this weekend's action. The Bears hold a 45-37 edge over the Purple Aces after snapping a recent dry spell against UE by taking three of the five games played by the two clubs. MSU claimed two of three regular-season meetings in Evansville, then won an opening-round 2-1 decision -- the third consecutive 2-1 game in the series -- at the MVC Championship in Normal. The Aces returned the favor in an eliminiation contest, ending the Bears' season with a 4-2 victory.

Prior to last year, Evansville had won seven of the previous eight match-ups against MSU, including two wins in each of its last two regular-season trips to Springfield. Overall, the Bears are 22-15 at home against UE and 11-7 vs. the Aces at Hammons Field.

Senior Sendoff
Missouri State will pay tribute to six Bears who will be playing their final home games this weekend with a Senior Day ceremony prior to the start of Saturday's game. This year's senior class, consisting of fifth-year pitchers Clay Murphy, Jake Powers and Cody Schumacher, as well as outfielders Patrick Drake and Trey Massenberg and first baseman Conor Smith, entered their final MVC series having combined for 500 appearances in Maroon and White, including 260 starts. The group played an integral role in three consecutive 30-win campaigns, including the Bears' eighth NCAA Division I Regional appearance in 2012.

Hanging Up No. 20
Bears assistant coach Brent Thomas announced last Friday his intention to retire following the conclusion of the 2014 season after 32 years on the Missouri State baseball staff. Thomas, who has served MSU continuously since 1980 when he first arrived on campus as a student-athlete, will officially relinquish his duties June 30. The Bears will also honor Thomas Saturday with a special on-field presentation following Senior Day festivities.

Thomas has been a fixture on head coach Keith Guttin's staff since the current dean of MVC head baseball coaches took over in 1983, helping the Bears compile a 1,084-703 record, including seven regular-season conference championships and eight conference tournament titles. Thomas has served as MSU's first base coach and hitting instructor for all eight of the Bears' trips to NCAA Regional play, including the program's first Division I College World Series appearance in 2003.

Hawk Heats Up
Junior shortstop Joey Hawkins continued a hot streak at the plate that has seen the Whitby, Ontario native hit .325 (13-for-40) over his last 12 games to raise his season batting mark 27 points. Hawkins tormented Indiana State last weekend, hitting .455 (5-for-11) in the three games to up his career average vs. the Sycamores to .500 (10-for-20). Additionally, he logged three sacrifices in MSU's four games last week to climb to within two SAC bunts of Kevin Medrano's school record of 28.

Hawkins enters the weekend in command of the MVC lead with 12 sacrifice bunts on the season. The act of self-sacrifice is nothing new for Hawkins, who moved past teammate Eric Cheray for the No. 2 spot on the Bears' career chart with a pair of sac bunts in MSU's 5-3 win over Kansas on May 7. The MSU duo ranks first and second on the Bears' single-season chart as well, with Cheray holding the record with 14 SACs in 2012, and Hawkins right on his tail with 13 last spring.

The Bears have used the sacrifice much more readily in recent years, with seven of the top eight single-season totals in program history coming within the last decade. Additionally, Hawkins leads all Valley defenders in assists with 155 for the season. Cheray, who has committed just four errors in 237 defensive chances this season, ranks fifth in the same category with 131 assists.

 

 

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