Dates: Tue., May 24 vs. Southern Illinois, 4 p.m.
See bracket on page 7 for complete schedule
Site: TD Ameritrade Park
Location: Omaha, Neb.
TV: Championship game televised at 7 p.m.
Saturday on channels outlined on page 2
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM
Live Audio: www.RadioSpringfield.com
Live Stats: www.MissouriStateBears.com
Live Video: www.MVC-Sports.com/live
The Missouri State baseball team (31-21, 11-9 Missouri Valley Conference) takes the No. 4 seed into the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament this week and begins play against fifth-seeded Southern Illinois (22-32, 11-10) at 4 p.m. Tuesday. This year's tournament format is in its second season of splitting the league's eight schools into a pair of four-team, double-elimination brackets with a one game championship set for 7 p.m. Saturday. Joining the Bears and Salukis in their half of the bracket is No. 1 seed and host Creighton and eighth-seeded Bradley.
Nine things to know about the Bears at the MVC Tournament...
1. Missouri State has qualified for 20 of a possible 21 conference tournaments since joining the MVC in 1991, missing the field in 2005. The Bears are 32-35 all-time at the tourney with titles in 1996 and 1997 and runner-up finishes in 1995, 2002, 2006 and 2008.
2. The Bears have won at least one game in each tournament appearance since 1994, going 32-27 in their last 16 visits. Last season, MSU sandwiched a victory over Southern Illinois between losses to Wichita State and Evansville.
3. Missouri State is 15-10 against its side of the bracket in tournament play. MSU is 6-4 with four consecutive tourney wins against SIU, 5-3 versus Creighton and 4-3 against Bradley.
4 Missouri State's offense is hitting .290 this season, moving from last to first in the MVC and jumping 208 spots to 72nd in the national rankings as of May 15, the largest improvement of any team in the country. The offense has hit at least .300 against 13 of the 26 teams the Bears have played this season. MSU has logged at least seven hits in 45 of 52 games and is 24-5 when scoring at least five runs.
5. The MSU pitching staff is rounding into form as the year goes on, using a 3.10 ERA over the last 26 games to improve from last in the league on April 4 to fourth today at 3.97.
6. Missouri State has come from behind in 15 of its 31 victories.
7. Missouri State is 10-4 in series openers this season, batting .308 and averaging 7.6 runs per game against opposing No. 1 starters.
8. MSU has collected 15 pinch hits in 44 tries this season for a .341 average, while the opposition has a mere four pinch hits in 52 games and is batting .143 in those situations.
9. Keith Guttin is now 10 wins shy of the 1,000 mark in his 29th season at Missouri State.
Southern Illinois finished the regular season at 22-32 overall and 11-10 in the league. The Salukis bat .273 with five regulars between .280 and .308. Jordan Sivertsen leads the club with nine homers and 48 RBIs. Southpaw Cody Forsythe (8-4, 2.08 ERA, 10 BB, 99.1 IP, 68 Ks) will likely take the hill against the Bears, while the remainder of the SIU staff excluding Forsythe has a 5.24 ERA and a .294 opponent average. The Salukis field .960 with 77 errors in 52 games
Coach Keith Guttin
Missouri State head coach Keith Guttin (Missouri-St. Louis, 1978) is in his 29th season as head coach of the baseball Bears and has a career record of 990-628 (.612). Guttin became the first coach at Missouri State (in any sport) to reach the 900-win mark with the May 11, 2008, win over Middle Tennessee at Hammons Field. In 2003, Guttin led the Bears to the NCAA Division I College World Series for the first time in school history. Guttin has been a conference Coach of the Year 10 times with four of those coming in the Valley and six coming during the Bears’ years in the Mid-Continent Conference. During Guttin’s tenure, the Bears have made seven Division I NCAA Tournament appearances -- six in the last 15 years.
Last Time Out
Missouri State was swept at Creighton to close the regular season. Thursday, CU scored all its runs in the sixth in a 3-2 win. Brent Seifert's sac fly put the Bears ahead 1-0 in the fourth, and Brock Chaffin made it 3-2 in the eighth before MSU left the bases loaded. Nick Petree pitched a complete game but took the loss.
Friday, Creighton's Ty Blach took a no-hitter into the sixth as the Bluejays won 3-1. Aaron Conway started the rally in the eighth with a two-out RBI single before Kevin Medrano was robbed by a diving catch to end MSU's chances.
The Bears out-hit CU 7-5 Sunday but bounced into three double plays in their final five at bats in a 3-1 loss. The Jays led 3-0 after the fourth and Luke Voit walked with the bases loaded in the fifth before MSU hit into the first of those double plays.
• Missouri State has struck out 307 times in its first 52 games, or 6.11 per nine innings, a 32.3 percent decrease from its 2010 rate.
• Juniors Travis McComack and Kevin Medrano have started 127 games together on the middle infield in their careers and rank 10th (89) and 11th (84), respectively, in career double plays turned. The duo has worked together for 56 of those double plays.
• Missouri State is holding opponents to a .244 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Missouri State pitchers have put together several notable streaks this season. The Bears went 29.2 innings from March 15-19 without allowing an earned run; 14 innings from Feb. 26 to Mar. 1 without issuing a walk; 50.2 innings from April 16-27 without allowing a home run overall and 55.2 at home from April 10-May 13; and 74 innings from April 16-30 without hitting a batter.
Strength of Schedule
Missouri State opponents are now 748-640 (.539) for games played through May 21.
Home Sweet Home
Missouri State is 18-5 at home this season and 129-73 all-time at Hammons Field.
The Bears are hitting .306 as a team in their home park and fielding .966, while the pitching staff has a 3.00 ERA and limits opponents to a .246 batting average.
Players of the Week
Aaron Conway became Missouri State's first award winner of 2011 with an MVC Player of the Week nod March 7. Conway batted .650 (13-20) in four MSU wins, scoring seven runs with five doubles, three RBIs and three stolen bases.
Kevin Medrano won May 9 after hitting .438 with six RBIs and six steals in four games. He had one game-winning RBI and was perfect in 12 chances in the field.
Dan Kickham was the MVC Pitcher of the Week May 16 after saving all three MSU wins against Bradley. Kickham allowed a run on two hits in three innings and tied Shaun Marcum's school record with his 13th save of the year in the finale.
Clay Murphy won the league's final pitching award May 22 for his eight shutout innings, three-hit, 10-strikeout performance against No. 22 Oklahoma State on May 17.
All Missouri State games beginning March 15 and beyond will be broadcast on Meyer Communications stations with the exception of March 25 at Oral Roberts and April 1 and 2 at Saint Louis.
Art Hains and Rob Evans will describe the action on KBFL 1060 AM and live over the internet at www.RadioSpringfield.com. Up-to-date schedule and station assignments can be found on the baseball schedule page at www.MissouriStateBears.com.