Bears Head to North Texas for Second Tournament of 2009 Season
Missouri State Bears (2-3)
When: Friday, Feb. 20 through Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 Where: Lovelace Stadium/Pioneer Field (Denton, Texas)
Radio: None Live Stats: www.meangreensports.com
The Missouri State softball team will look to build on its 2-3 showing at the season-opening Centenary Tournament when they travel to Denton, Texas, to take part in the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic, Feb. 20-22.
This weekend’s meet is the second of four early-season tournaments for the Bears. MSU will compete in the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., Feb. 27-March 1, then come home to open its new facility, Killian Softball Stadium, by hosting the All-Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Tournament, March 6-8.
The Bears dropped three of their last four contests in Shreveport after posting a 1-0 victory over Boston College in their season opener. MSU did get big weekends from senior shortstop Jessie Smith, who hit .538 and clubbed her school-record 21st career homer, and freshman pitcher Natalie Rose. In three appearances, Rose struck out 18 batters, walked just one and allowed only four hits in 12.0 scoreless innings.
The six-team Sleep Inn Classic kicks off Friday (Feb. 20) morning at Lovelace Stadium on the campus of the University of North Texas in Denton. A second facility, Pioneer Field at nearby Texas Woman’s University, will also be utilized on the first two days of the event.
The Bears will face off against Iowa State at Lovelace Stadium in the opening game of the tourney at 10 a.m. Friday, then turn around and take on host North Texas at 3 p.m. Day two of the tournament will feature match-ups against Butler and MVC foe Wichita State at 10 a.m., and 12:30 p.m., respectively. The Bears will play both Saturday games at Pioneer Field before returning to the UNT campus to face Central Arkansas in the tournament finale Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Live stats for the games played at Lovelace Stadium will be available at www.meangreensports.com.
Missouri State defeated Boston College (Feb. 6) to improve to 19-17 in season openers (since 1975)
The Bears have played in two previous tournaments hosted by North Texas, going 2-1 at the 2005 UNT Mean Green Classic and 2-4 at the 2004 UNT Round-Up; MSU also participated in the 1979 Texas Woman’s Invitational, going 6-1 in that tourney
MSU enters the tournament with a cumulative 56-45 all-time record against the other five teams in the field
Senior shortstop Jessie Smith enters the week fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference in hitting (.538), while the Bears rank last in team batting (.189)
Missouri State has a combined 56-45 record against the Sleep Inn Classic field. MSU is 6-5 all-time versus Iowa State and Friday’s game will be the two schools' first meeting since 1999. The Bears have split their previous two meetings with North Texas and have taken all five games played against Central Arkansas, four of which came last season. MSU’s contest against Butler will be the first-ever meeting of the two schools, while the Bears have played more games against their other Saturday opponent, Wichita State, than any other school. The Bears hold a 44-39 edge in the series with the Shockers.
Coach Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 531-504-2 (.513) in her 21st season at Missouri State. Last season, the Bears finished 28-22 and 11-13 in the MVC to place seventh, but MSU recorded three wins in two days at the MVC Tournament to reach the title game.
Hesse led the Bears to a school-record 40 wins and a berth in the NCAA Tournament in 2006. Hesse’s teams have made four trips to the NCAA Tournament (1996, 1997, 1998, 2006) and have won four Missouri Valley Conference tournament championships. She also led the Bears to the Gateway Conference regular season championship in 1992 and the MVC regular season title in 1994. The Bears’ second-place MVC finish marked the 12th time during her tenure the Bears have finished in the top-five of the conference standings. It was also the sixth time the Bears have won 30 games in a season, with an average of nearly 27 wins per season since her arrival in 1989.
Hesse won her 500th career game at Missouri State in a 1-0 triumph over Indiana State on April 22, 2007. She joined Illinois State’s Melinda Fischer and Creighton’s Brent Vigness as the only active MVC coaches with 500 career wins.
Home Sweet Home
With the 2009 season will come the debut of the Bears’ brand new, 1,200-seat home park, Killian Softball Stadium. Financed and constructed as part of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board’s $2.7 million renovation of the Roger G. Killian Sports Complex, MSU’s new home will give the Bears a state-of-the-art facility and open up the possibility of hosting future NCAA regional competitions. MSU will host the All-Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Tournament, March 6-8, to open the home portion of the schedule. Dedication ceremonies will be held on the second day of the tournament prior to the Bears’ match-up with UMKC.
All softball alumni are invited to be a part of the home-opening celebration, starting with tours of the MSU softball locker room at Hammons Student Center at 12:30 p.m., and JQH Arena and the Missouri State Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame at 1:00 p.m. An alumni social will be held at 1:30 p.m. at Prime Overtime Club in JQH Arena following the tours.
The dedication ceremony, which will include former players from each of Missouri State’s 40 varsity softball teams, will commence at 4:15 p.m., followed by the Bears’ contest against UMKC.
Prior to dedication weekend, Missouri State softball will host a sneak preview of Killian Softball Stadium March 3. The Bears will conduct an open practice, followed by an autograph signing session beginning at 6:30 p.m. Fans will also have the opportunity to tour the stadium grounds, and refreshments will be served.
IN the Record Books
Jessie Smith ascended to the top of the school’s all-time home run list with her first-inning, two-run homer against Nicholls State (Feb. 6). She passed Ashley Meredith to move into sole possession of the Bears’ home run record with her 21st career dinger. Smith had matched Meredith’s career record with her three-run shot in the seventh inning of MSU’s 5-0 win over SIU in the quarterfinal round of last May’s MVC Tournament.
The Blue Springs, Mo., native enters the weekend as the program’s career leader in slugging percentage (.534) and No. 4 on the Bears’ all-time runs scored list (98). She is also on pace to finish among the Bears’ all-time leaders in hits, at-bats, doubles, runs batted-in and total bases.
Lucky Number 3
Last season the Bears were 24-3 when scoring at least three runs in a game. However, Missouri State was just 4-19 when failing to tally three runs. MSU started the 2008 season 19-1 in such contests and is now 44-7 in games where it scores three or more runs over the last three seasons.
KEMPKER tabbed preseason all-MVC
Junior outfielder Brooke Kempker was the Bears’ leading hitter during the conference season in 2008, posting a .327 average at the plate and a team-high .403 on-base percentage in MSU’s 24 MVC contests. One of only four Bears to start every conference game, Kempker’s strong showing came on the heels of a non-conference season that saw her hit just .220 with just nine hits and three runs scored in 22 games.
For her efforts, the Jefferson City, Mo., native was a second-team all-conference pick last spring, and was the Bears’ lone preseason all-league pick this year.
Watch the leather, man
Missouri State ended the 2008 season ranked second nationally and first in The Valley with a .981 team fielding percentage. Texas A&M led the nation in fielding with a .984 percentage. MSU’s mark was the sixth-best fielding percentage in NCAA Division I history. Among the Bears’ regulars, Christa Gammon and Elysha Swider posted perfect fielding percentages in 2008.
The Bears have finished among the nation’s top 30 teams in fielding percentage each of the last three seasons after posting a .969 mark in 2007 to finish 29th and a .975 percentage in 2006 to rate 12th in the land.
fab frosh Now Super Sophs
Missouri State will be looking for even bigger things from a talented sophomore class that made an immediate impact for the Bears in 2008. Ashley Knehans clubbed three home runs and finished fourth on the team with 14 runs batted in. Her RBI-single was the game-winner in the Bears’ 3-2 victory over No. 11 Oklahoma (3/19). Leadoff hitter Christa Gammon led the team in steals with eight in 11 attempts, while Jenna Schwark was MSU’s fourth-leading hitter with a .259 batting average and a team-high nine sacrifice hits. Tyler Porter made 40 starts in the Bears’ outfield and scored 17 runs, good for fourth on the club.
Off to the races
Missouri State stole an MVC 2008 season-high eight bases in the Bears’ 13-7 win over Saint Louis (3/2/08). MSU was 39-of-55 in stolen base attempts with Christa Gammon leading the Bears with eight steals in 11 attempts. Jessie Smith, who led the league with 17 stolen bases in 2007, was 7-of-9 last year.
bears ink six
The Bears received six commitments for the 2009-10 academic year during the November National Letter of Intent signing period. Holly Hesse and her staff announced the additions of Caitlin Chapin (Ozark, Mo.), Stevie Pierce (Plano, Texas), Alaina Burkhart (Neosho, Mo.), Lauren Eisenreich (Blue Springs, Mo.), Madison Hargrove (Shawnee, Kan.) and Kirstin Cutter (Oklahoma City, Okla.
Burkhart (OF) hit .392 in her first year at Crowder College en route to earning second-team NJCAA all-region honors. The Neosho, Mo., native hit leadoff for former Bear softball standout and current Crowder coach Lori (Dilbeck) Videmschek, and will add speed to the MSU outfield and a versatile bat to the Bears’ lineup. A three-time all-district and all-Southwest Conference honoree at Neosho High, Burkhart helped the Wildcats to three district titles as a prep standout.
Chapin (IF) completed her career at Ozark (Mo.) High School as one of the area’s most decorated players. A four-time All-Ozarks selection, Chapin set OHS career records for home runs, runs batted in, runs scored and hits, leading the Lady Tigers to three district titles. In 2007 she clubbed 11 home runs, which tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in Missouri high school softball history, en route to leading Ozark to a fourth-place Class 4 finish.
Cutter (SS) was an all-state selection at Oklahoma City’s Western Heights High School this past fall. Primarily a strong-armed shortstop, Cutter is a left-handed slap-hitter who is quick on the base baths. A four-time all-conference honoree, Cutter has also competed in basketball, cross country and soccer at Western Heights.
Eisenreich (OF) earned all-district honors in helping Blue Springs High School to the Missouri Class 4 title with a perfect 32-0 team record this fall. The daughter of former major league outfielder Jim Eisenreich, she was a part of three district championship squads at Blue Springs, picking up all-region honors each of her last two seasons as a prep. A defensive specialist in centerfield, Eisenreich possesses a strong arm and an uncanny ability to track the ball.
Hargrove (C/SS) enters her final prep season this spring at Mill Valley (Shawnee, Kan.) High School as a three-year starter and two-time all-conference selection as a catcher for the Jaguars. Hargrove’s strong arm and athleticism could provide her the unique opportunity to see playing time both behind the plate and at shortstop for the Bears.
Pierce (1B/OF) is another prep standout with the ability to provide added punch to Bears’ lineup. The Plano (Texas) High School product hit .485 with four homers as a junior and has earned three all-district nods. Pierce brings the versatility to play first base and the outfield. She played summer ball for the Texas Glory Gold, a team that featured 13 players committed to play at Division I institutions.
One And done
Missouri State didn’t experience much luck in one-run games in 2007, as the Bears were 4-9 in such contests. MSU fared slightly better last year, claiming victory in 11 of its 21 one-run affairs to bring their two-year mark to 15-19 in those games. In their first five outings this season, the Bears have already played three one-run contests, finishing 1-2 in those games.
Missouri State was 20-4 when scoring the first run of the game, and 10-1 when scoring a run in the first inning in 2008. The Bears were 20-5 when scoring the first run of the game, and 15-3 when tallying a run in the first inning in 2007.
MVP for McGinley
Junior pitcher Lauren McGinley is hoping to get off to the kind of start in 2009 that earned her MVP honors in the Bears’ 2008 season-opening appearance at the Florida Atlantic “Strike Out” Cancer Tournament. McGinley earned three wins in 11.2 innings of work, posting a 0.77 ERA to lead the Bears’ charge to the tourney title.
Former Players as Coaches
Sixteen of coach Holly Hesse’s former players have gone on to become coaches. Those currently coaching at the collegiate level are Annie Medico (head coach-Drury), Tina Kramos (assistant-Illinois State), Dee Keim (assistant-Central Missouri) and Whitney Peyton (graduate assistant-Central Missouri).
MVC Preseason Poll
The Missouri State softball team was picked to finish sixth in the 2009 Missouri Valley Conference coaches’ preseason poll. Two-time defending regular-season champion Creighton was the overwhelming favorite among coaches, gathering nine first-place votes and 97 points total. Illinois State garnered 85 total points to place second, followed by Southern Illinois (78) and reigning MVC Tournament champ Drake (60), which received one first-place vote. The Bears received 45 points, which was 13 points shy of Wichita State in the fifth spot. Evansville (42), Indiana State (33), Bradley (25) and UNI (24) round out the bottom half of the poll.