Hesse Goes for Win 600 as Softball Opens Season Friday
Feb. 16, 2012
The Missouri State softball team picked up steam at the end of the 2011 regular season and rolled through the MVC Tournament en route to the sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The Bears hope the momentum and experience gained will carry over into and lead to a successful 2012 season.
"We have a lot of experienced talent returning," asserts head coach Holly Hesse. "They are one of the hardest working teams we have had in a while. There is tremendous team chemistry. When you mix all those things together - experience, chemistry, talent, work ethic - there is potential for a really great year."
Hesse's squad is riding a seven-game home winning streak into this season after sweeping a three-game set against Evansville to end the regular season and taking all four games of the MVC Tournament held at Killian Softball Stadium last spring. Led by the right arm of reigning MVC Tournament MVP and 2012 All-MVC preseason pick Natalie Rose, the Bears look to remain near the top of the league standings. Arguably one of the best hurlers in the league, Rose's success will determine how far this year's Bears team can go.
The Bears return experienced players at nearly every position. With a solid left side of the field led by returning all-conference selection Kirstin Cutter at shortstop, Hesse feels confident in the 2012 team's ability to remain in the hunt for a Valley title.
FOLLOWING THE BEARS
IN THE OTHER DUGOUT
North Texas Mean Green: MSU is no stranger to the Mean Green, whose only win this season was against Sam Houston State. The Bears swept a doubleheader in Denton, Texas, on March 9, 2011, by scores of 1-0 and 8-5. Missouri State returns to Denton for the fourth-straight season having played in early-season tournaments hosted by UNT in 2009 and 2010.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits: The Bears and Jackrabbits last squared off more than 15 years ago and SDSU were rude guests. The Jacks swept a doubleheader on MSU's home opener by scores of 6-5 and 9-3. SDSU has not played this season entering the weekend.
MARKER #600 AHEAD
MVC Preseason Poll
After sweeping through the MVC Tournament in 2011, the Bears will be tasked with repeating that feat in Carbondale, Ill., as SIU will host the 2012 Championship. Missouri State earned its sixth title last season, tied for the most by any school. Hesse has 45 of the Bears' 67 wins in the MVC Tournament, both totals are the best in the Valley.
Rose in Full Bloom
For the year, Rose ranked ninth nationally in saves (5), 12th in walks per seven innings (1.08) and 35th in strikeouts (258).
Back in the Hunt
Six Flags over Springfield
While pitching was the name of the game early in the tournament, the Bears' offense came alive in MSU's semifinal win over Illinois State (May 13) and their championship game victory against Drake (May 14). In the title game, MSU got an early two-run homer from sophomore Stevie Pierce, then put the game away with a four-run sixth inning. Pierce registered a near-perfect day at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and four RBIs to key the Bears' sixth MVC Tournament championship with a 7-4 victory.
The Golden Hurricane grabbed a 5-0 advantage after two innings to seize what appeared to be a commanding lead. But the Bears chipped away, finally climbing all the way back to actually take a brief 7-6 lead on the strength of a five-run fifth inning. TU had an answer in its half of the fifth, striking for three runs to take the lead for good in an eventual 9-7 decision.
Faced with the prospect of elimination, the Bears responded against Iona to claim their first NCAA victory since 1998. MSU scored twice in its first at-bat, only to see the Gaels come back to tie it in the bottom of the sixth inning. But Kirstin Cutter's one-out, RBI-triple in the top of the seventh scored the go-ahead run, and Christa Gammon added a run-scoring hit to give pitcher Savannah Wiggins and the Bears all the margin they would need for the 4-2 victory.
But Tulsa wasted little time in dispatching the Bears in the rematch of the two clubs' tourney opener, scoring three runs three different times over the first four innings to cruise to an 11-0 victory that ended MSU's NCAA Tournament stay.
WAITING IN THE WINGS
Coil was a four-year starter behind the dish for head coach Rick Nordyke at Edmond North High. She batted .477 with a team record 62 RBI in her senior season en route to Conference Player of the Year and all-state accolades. A four-time all-city and all-conference selection, she advanced her team to the 6A regional championship for a third-straight season her senior campaign. As a junior, Coil hit .387 with 48 RBI. Her Oklahoma Force summer team advanced to its third-straight USA/ASA National Championship Tournament in 2011 after winning the ASA State Title each of her seasons on the team.
Stephens has started her first three years at Wylie High for head coach Heather Damron. Her junior season, she set her school's record with 19 home runs, while batting .570 and driving in 74 runs. She was named Offensive Player of the Year, 4A District MVP and first-team all-state in her third season at WHS. A DFW Player of the Week, she was among the leaders in doubles, triples, home runs and RBI in the 4A district. Stephens earned academic all-district honors her sophomore and junior years. She was named to the all-district second team as a sophomore after batting.375. As a freshman, she was named District 8-5A Newcomer of the Year after hitting .346 and adding 16 RBI.
Sullinger was the starting shortstop all four years for head coach Stuart Sullinger at Park Hill High. A first-team all-state, all-region, all-conference and all-district honoree as a senior, she set the school record for batting average, slugging percentage, RBI and triples. She also earned the school's silver slugger award for the second-straight season and was named MVP of the team. As a junior, Sullinger set the school record for home runs in leading her team to a second-place finish in districts. She was an all-region, all-conference and all-district first team selection in her junior year. In 2009, she was named to the first-team all-conference and all-district squads while guiding her squad to a second-place finish in districts. As a freshman, she was named all-district first team and all-conference second team while earning the school's golden glove award for the first time. Sullinger also plays basketball at Park Hill.
Van Es has been a standout pitcher for Pottsville High her first three seasons. As a junior, she hurled an 18 strikeout perfect game, two no-hitters and three one-hitters while averaging 13 strikeouts for the season. She was named to the all-state and all-conference teams in leading her team to the semifinals of the state tournament. She can also hit, earning the 2011 Outstanding Hitter Award and was named the top junior by the conference coaches. As a sophomore, she earned all-conference accolades after taking the most RBI's award for the second-straight season. She won the golden glove award after leading her team to the state semifinals. In 2009, she earned all-conference honors and took home the silver bat award. Van Es also plays basketball at Pottsville High.