Bears Return to NCAA Play Friday at Coral Gables Regional
Brent Seifert
Brent Seifert

May 30, 2012

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

No. 3 Missouri State Bears (39-20) at 2012 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship
Coral Gables Regional
Friday, June 1 - Monday, June 4
Location: Miami, Fla.
Site: Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field (3,678)
MSU NCAA Tournament History: 13-15 (7 appearances)
TV: None
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains)
Tournament Central: Coral Gables Regional
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Leading Off
After earning their eighth NCAA Division I Championship berth, the Missouri State Bears (39-20) enter the Coral Gables Regional as the No. 3 seed and will match up against the second-seeded UCF Knights (43-15) to open tournament play Friday (June 1) at 1 p.m. (Central) at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

The top-seeded Miami Hurricanes (36-21) will meet the fourth-seeded Stony Brook Seawolves (46-11) in the second game Friday at 6 p.m. Regional play continues through Monday (June 4) with a double-elimination format. Game times for Saturday and Sunday will mirror Friday's schedule, with 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. first pitches. The deciding game on Monday (if necessary) will commence at 6 p.m.

Prime 9
♦ Missouri State is making its eighth NCAA Division I Championship appearance and its first since 2003
♦ The Bears are 13-15 all-time in Championship, including an 0-2 mark in the postseason against host Miami
♦ MSU has won at least two games in each of its last five trips to the NCAA Tournament, including a regional win in Lincoln and a super regional title in Columbus to advance to the College World Series in 2003
♦ The Bears are a combined 10-7 this season against the field of 64, and are one of three MVC teams in the Championship, marking the first time since 2000 the league has received three NCAA bids
♦ Missouri State leads the Division I ranks in team ERA (2.51), shutouts (11) and total strikeouts (522)
♦ Junior DH Keenen Maddox has hit .393 with three homers and eight RBIs over the Bears' last seven games
♦ Freshman SS Eric Cheray enters the postseason with a school-record 14 sacrifice hits, as well as 14 bunt singles on the season; Cheray led MSU with a .438 average (7-for-16) at last week's MVC Championship
♦ Senior 2B Kevin Medrano is just 10 hits shy of Matt Gardner's MSU record of 316 career hits
♦ Sophomore Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award semifinalist Nick Petree brings the nation's best ERA (0.92) into the regional, while junior RHP Pierce Johnson ranks 10th in all of Division I with 112 strikeouts on the season; Johnson needs just five more strikeouts to match Chad Mulholland's MSU season record

Bears vs. the Regional Field
Of the three potential opponents at the Coral Gables Regional, Missouri State has faced only Miami in the past, dropping a pair of postseason games against the Hurricanes in 1996 and 2003. The Hurricanes eliminated the Bears from the 1996 Central I Regional in Austin, Texas, with an 8-2 decision. Miami also claimed a 7-5 win from MSU in its last NCAA contest--another elimination game--at the College World Series on June 16, 2003.

The Bears have compiled a 10-7 cumulative record this season against the 2012 NCAA field, going 3-0 vs. Creighton, 1-2 vs. Dallas Baptist, 2-1 vs. Indiana State, 0-2 vs. Missouri, 3-1 vs. Oral Roberts, 0-1 vs. Purdue and 1-0 vs. Texas-Arlington.

Bears in the NCAA Championship
The Bears enter the Coral Gables Regional as the three seed for the third time in their last four trips to the NCAA Tournament. In their last Championship appearance in 2003, the Bears went 3-1 against Coastal Carolina and host Nebraska to claim the Lincoln (Neb.) Regional, then swept Ohio State in the Super Regional round to advance to the school's first Division I College World Series appearance. Missouri State is 13-15 all-time in NCAA Division I Tournament play and has won at least two games in each of their last five trips to a regional.

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. MSU finished strong, posting road series wins over both Wichita State and MVC regular-season champ Indiana State to finish second in the No. 5 RPI conference in all of Division I baseball.

Leading the way for the Bears has been second baseman Kevin Medrano (.328, 23 RBI, 19 2B, 11 SB) who leads the club in hitting and ranks third in the MVC in doubles and fourth in the league in total hits. The senior from Lee's Summit, Mo., enjoyed a torrid second half of the season after a sluggish start to move into second place on MSU's career hits list (306) and earn his fourth straight first-team All-MVC nod. Junior Keenen Maddox (.310, 7 HR, 29 RBI) has been the Bears' top power threat since the beginning of April, hitting all seven of his club-best seven homers and recording 22 of his 29 RBIs over the same stretch. Serving as the Bears' primary DH, Maddox clubbed a pair of critical homers to help the Bears take two of three games from regular-season champ Indiana State, then hit .438 at last week's State Farm MVC Championship to earn all-tourney honors. Senior second-team All-MVC OF Spiker Helms (.280, 6 HR, 39 RBI) ranks among the MVC's top 10 performers in a number of different offensive categories, including a team-leading 22 doubles and a league-high 41 walks. Two more second-team All-MVC performers, Brock Chaffin (.291, 2 HR, 41 RBI) has 18 multi-hit games and at least one RBI in 25 contests, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.305, 6 HR, 46 RBI) has five game-winning RBIs this season and 16 for his MSU career to rank ninth in school history. Freshman Eric Cheray has provided a stabilizing effect on the Bears' infield, making each of the last 48 games at shortstop. Cheray turned in one of his best weeks at the plate at the MVC Championship, going 7-for-16 (.438) to earn all-tournament honors.

The Bears' pitching staff has been the strength of the team throughout the regular season, bringing the nation's lowest team earned run average into the postseason, despite a series of key injuries. MSU has already set school single-season records for shutouts (11) and is on pace to eclipse all-time program standards for strikeouts and ERA. National pitcher of the year candidate Nick Petree (10-3, 0.92) was named MVC Pitcher of the Year after turning in a string of 73 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, as well as a school-record 38.1 straight scoreless frames into the final week of the regular season. Junior right-hander Pierce Johnson (3-6, 2.55) has been dominant over his first 13 starts of the season in spite of a lack of run support that has resulted in four one-run setbacks. After missing two starts in April due to a forearm strain, Johnson has returned to form over his last three starts and brings the nation's 10th-best strikeout total into the postseason. Junior righty Cody Schumacher (8-1, 3.57) has been a dependable third starter in his first year as a Bear, helping his club claim wins in 14 of his 16 starts to date to pick up honorable mention all-conference honors and all-tournament honors at last week's MVC Championship after posting his first shutout as a Bear against Wichita State. 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). MVC Freshman of the Year Tyler Burgess (5-1, 1.63, 11 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 to earn First-Team All-MVC honors and NCBWA National Stopper of the Year consideration.

About the Regional Field
Making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years, the Bears will face a UCF sqaud that finished second in the Conference USA regular-season race and has ranked among the nation's top 20 teams in most major polls for much of the season. Led by head coach Terry Rooney, the Knights are led by junior D.J. Hicks (.318, 11 HR, 68 RBI), who ranks sixth nationally in RBIs coming into the Championship.

UCF features a potent attack on the basepaths, paced by all-around threat Ronnie Richardson (.307 BA, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 23 SB). Additionally, Travis Shreve (.353 BA, 15 SB) and Alex Friedrich (.327 BA, 4 HR, 38 RBI, 16 SB) help spearhead an offensive attack that ranks among the nation's top 20 in total runs. On the hill, the Knights have been solid as well, ranking 45th in all of Division I with a 3.33 team ERA. Right-hander Ben Lively (9-2, 3.23 ERA) leads the club in victories, innings pitched and strikeouts, while left-hander Joe Rogers (4-1, 1.60 ERA, 12 saves) and righty Roman Madrid (5-2, 0.64 ERA, 3 saves) give the Knights a strong one-two punch in the bullpen.

The host Miami Hurricanes and the No. 4 seed Stony Brook Seawolves make up the other half of the regional. Each of those clubs was ranked in the NCBWA Top 30 poll on Monday as well, leaving the Bears as the only unranked team in the regional. The host Hurricanes fell in the ACC Tournament title game and will be making their 40th consecutive NCAA Regional appearance, while the Seawolves claimed the America East championship after going 21-3 in conference play.

Miami, led by head coach Jim Morris, brings one of the top pitching staffs in the nation into postseason play. Left-handers Eric Erickson (8-5, 2.84 ERA) and Steven Ewing (6-2, 3.28 ERA), as well as right-hander Eric Whaley (4-4, 2.47 ERA), give the Hurricanes a formidable rotation. The relief corps has been equally effective, as AJ Salcines (3-0, 1.47 ERA, 7 saves) and E.J. Encinosa (3-3, 2.57, 8 saves) head a deep and talented bullpen. Offensively, UM is paced by senior catcher Peter O'Brien (.338 BA, 10 HR, 39 RBI) who leads the club in number of categories, despite being limited to just 38 games this season. Chantz Mack (.294 BA, 10 SB) and Brad Fieger (.296 BA, 3 HR, 37 RBI) also play prominent roles in the Hurricane attack, while Stephen Perez gives Miami a threat on the basepaths with 17 steals in 21 attempts this year.

The second-leading hitting squad in the nation, Stony Brook brings a .337 team batting average into the regional. Head coach Matt Senk's lineup boasts five players hitting .343 or better, led by junior outfielder Travis Jankowski (.411 BA, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 34 SB). Jankowski ranks among the top 10 nationally in hitting, runs scored (66), stolen bases and triples (9), while junior infielder William Carmona (.380 BA, 10 HR, 60 RBI) is eighth in slugging (.685) and 12th in total bases (146). Junior infielder Maxx Tissenbaum (.400 BA, 3 HR, 41 RBI) is the toughest player in the nation to strikeout with just four in 200 at-bats in 2012. Pitching has also been a strength for the Seawolves, who bring the seventh-best ERA in the nation into the regional. Right-handers Tyler Johnson (9-1, 1.78 ERA), Brandon McNitt (8-2, 2.26 ERA) and Evan Stecko-Haley (7-3, 3.08 ERA) form a solid rotation, combining for 24 wins and four of the club's 10 shutouts on the year. Right-hander Frankie Vanderka (1-2, 2.22 ERA, 5 saves) heads the relief group, but has also worked complete games in two of his five starts in 2012.

Valley Prominent in NCAA Field
Missouri State was one of three Missouri Valley Conference teams selected for the NCAA Tournament, marking the first time since the 2007 season the league has earned multiple bids and the first time in 12 years the MVC has place three teams in the Championship. MVC Tournament champ Creighton (26-28) drew the No. 4 seed in the Los Angeles Regional and will face No. 2 national seed UCLA as its opening-round opponent. Additionally, league regular-season champion Indiana State (41-17) secured the third seed in the Eugene (Ore.) Regional and a date with No. 2 seed Cal State Fullerton in the first round.

Petree in the Hunt for Howser, Golden Spikes
Despite seeing his school-record 38.1 consecutive scoreless innings streak come to an end in a 6-3 setback at Indiana State on May 17, sophomore right-hander Nick Petree learned the following day that he was among the 35 players nationwide and one of just 10 Division I starting pitchers to be selected as semifinalists for the 2012 Dick Howser Trophy by the NCBWA. The honor, given to the top player in collegiate baseball, is based on two rounds of national voting, with the winner announced on June 15, the opening day of the 2012 College World Series, at TD Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha. This past Tuesday, the Clinton, Mo., product was named a semifinalist for USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award, as well. The GSA will be awarded live on MLB Network on Friday, July 6, as the three finalists for the award will be at MLB Network's studios for the presentation on The Rundown.

Petree, who has not yielded a home run all season, leads the MVC in victories (10) and ERA, and ranks fourth in innings pitched (107.1) and third in strikeouts (109). Additionally, Petree's win total ranked fourth in all of Division I through games of May 27. The sophomore's 19 combined wins over his first two seasons as a Bear represents Missouri State record for victories over a two-year span, matching the total of Brad Ziegler, who won seven games in 2002, before earning a school-record 12 victories in 2003.



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