Bears picked fourth in MVC preseason poll
The Missouri State softball team was picked to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference for 2007 in a vote of the league’s coaches, the league announced Monday. The Bears accumulated 57 points, finishing behind Wichita State (71 points), Southern Illinois (83 points), and preseason favorite Illinois State (86 points). Missouri State is coming off its best season in school history in 2006, as the Bears won a school-record 40 games and won the MVC Tournament after finishing second in the regular season. The Bears lost to national top-seed UCLA and San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Holly Hesse returns six starters and 10 letterwinners from the 2006 squad. Eight newcomers, including four freshmen, will be called upon to make significant contributions in 2007. The Bears will be looking to make consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since a three-year run from 1996-98.
Among the returning starters for the Bears are three All-MVC selections from a season ago in sophomore Jessie Smith, junior Melissa Porche, and senior Katie Martin. Smith earned first team all-conference honors as a freshman, while Porche and Martin were named to the second team. Smith and Martin will both be making position moves in 2007; Smith to shortstop and Martin to centerfield. Porche will be the ace of the pitching staff, as the only pitcher on the team with Division I experience.
Other returning starters for the Bears are junior Michelle Armentrout at third base, senior Whitney Peyton at second base, and sophomore catcher Jen Carr. Junior Lacie Ballard has also made 41 starts behind the plate in her career and will platoon with Carr in 2007. Armentrout will be the only returner on the infield in 2007, as Peyton will miss the season with an injury. Smith moves to shortstop after starting 45 games in rightfield last year.
No Bears were selected to the preseason All-MVC team, as Southern Illinois placed five players on the 13-member team. Illinois State, who won the league’s regular season championship last season, received six of nine first place votes and placed two players on the team. The Salukis received the other three first place votes.
Missouri State opens its season at the University of Central Arkansas Lead-Off Tournament Feb. 10-11 in Conway, Ark. The Bears will play Jackson State University at 9 a.m., the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 1 p.m. and Central Arkansas at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, with bracket play starting at either 10 a.m. or 12 noon on Sunday, Feb. 11.