Bears Look to Break Into Win Column at Sleep Inn Classic
Missouri State Bears (0-3, 0-0 MVC) atSleep InnClassicFriday, February 19 - Sunday, February 21Lovelace Stadium (300)/Pioneer Field (500)University of North Texas - Denton, TexasLive Stats: MeanGreenSports.comFriday, February 19Field-Teams,TimeLovelace-Drake vs. Buffalo, 10:00 a.m.Lovelace-Drake at North Texas, 12:30 p.m.Pioneer-Colorado State vs. Sam Houston State, 12:30 p.m.Lovelace-Arkansas at North Texas, 3:00 p.m.Pioneer-Buffalo vs. Missouri State, 3:00 p.m.Lovelace-Arkansas vs. Sam Houston State, 5:30 p.m.Pioneer-Colorado State vs. Missouri State, 5:30 p.m.Saturday, February 20Lovelace-Sam Houston State vs. Drake, 10:00 a.m.Pioneer-Arkansas vs. Missouri State, 10:00 a.m.Lovelace-Colorado State vs. Drake, 12:30 p.m.Pioneer-Buffalo vs. Arkansas, 12:30 p.m.Lovelace-Colorado State at North Texas, 3:00 p.m.Pioneer-Missouri State vs. Sam Houston State, 3:00 p.m.Lovelace-Buffalo at North Texas, 5:30 p.m.Sunday, February 21 Lovelace-Colorado Statevs. Arkansas, 12:30 p.m. Lovelace-Missouri State at Sam Houston State, 3:00 p.m.
The Missouri State Bears will be looking for their first victory of the 2010 season Friday when they open play at the Sleep Inn Classic with a 3 p.m., game against Buffalo. MSU will be a part of a seven-team field at the tournament in Denton, Texas, hosted by the University of North Texas.
The Bears, who dropped all three games at last weekend's Stetson Lead-Off Classic in DeLand, Fla., will also square off against Colorado State at 5:30 p.m., on the meet's opening day. MSU will play two more games on Saturday, beginning with a 10 a.m., match-up with Arkansas, followed by a 3 p.m., contest against Sam Houston State. The Bears will then take on tourney host North Texas at 2 p.m., to conclude the weekend.
Live stats for games played at Lovelace Stadium (Sunday only for MSU) will be available at www.meangreensports.com.
Missouri State will be making its third trip to North Texas for a tournament and its second in as many years; The Bears went 3-2 at last year's Sleep Inn Classic, and also played in tourneys hosted by the Mean Green in 2004 and 2005, going a combined 7-7 for the three meets
Junior infielder Jenna Schwark recorded a hit in each of the Bears' first three games of the season and enters the weekend with a four-game hit streak overall dating back to the 2009 season
Missouri State enters the tournament with a cumulative 63-56-1 all-time record against the six teams in the field, and a 25-21 mark against their five opponents
MSU left a combined 18 runners on base in its three losses last weekend
The Bears were picked to finish seventh in a preseason poll of the 10 Missouri Valley Conference coaches after placing seventh in the league a year ago
The Bearsare a combined 25-21 against their five opponents at the Sleep Inn Classic, and 63-56-1 overall against the field. The Bears took their only previous meeting with Buffalo, but have dropped two of three games against Colorado State. MSU has split six previous match-ups with Sam Houston State, taken two of three from UNT, and own an 18-15 overall mark against Arkansas. Fellow Valley member Drake is the lone tourney participant the Bears will not face, but MSU owns a slim 38-35-1 advantage in the series with the Bulldogs.
Bears under Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, '82) is 548-529-2 (.509) in her 22nd season at Missouri State. Last season, the Bears finished 19-25, one year after going 28-22 and recording 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 in finish in 2006 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 over 26 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.
Off and Running?
The Bears 0-3 start represents their slowest start to a season since the 2003 campaign, when they dropped their first five contests. Missouri State did rebound that year to finish 29-25, stopping a string of two straight losing seasons. MSU has started 0-3 just three times (1990, 2000 and 2003) in Holly Hesse's previous 21 seasons as head coach, dropping its first eight games in 2000 and its first five in 2003.
After falliing in their final five games of 2009, the Bears enter the weekend on an eight-game slide, which represents their longest in seven years. MSU lost its final three games of the 2002 campaign before starting 0-5 the following season.
One Bear who did get a running start to the 2010 campaign was junior infielder Jenna Schwark, who was the only MSU player to record a hit in all three games at last weekend's Stetson Lead-Off Classic. Schwark has a hit in her last four games dating back to 2009 and needs a safety in four more contests to equal her career-long streak of eight (2/20/09 through 3/7/09), which started at last year's Sleep Inn Classic. Schwark will be looking for a repeat performance from last year's trip to Denton, on which she went 8-for-14 (.571) with four runs scored and five RBIs to earn all-tourney honors.
Despite stopping a seven-game home losing streak with a pair of wins the week of April 14-20 and defeating league-leading Creighton on the final home weekend of the season, the Bears' offense never really got untracked in its first season at Killian Softball Stadium. MSU batted .233 as a team and has hit just six of its 18 home runs on the season at home. Bears pitchers have found their new park to be even more inhospitable, having registered a 3.35 earned run average in 16 games at Killian compared to a 2.17 ERA in 24 outings away from home. However, MSU junior pitcher Lauren Supak experienced few troubles in her new park, as the right-hander posted a 1.95 ERA in 11 home appearances. The Colorado Springs product saw her streak of 17.1 straight scoreless innings at home end when Creighton scored in the top of the first inning on April 25.
MSU's 5-11 mark at Killian this season represents its worst home mark since the 2001 season, when the Bears won just three of 17 home dates. Conversely, the Bears' 8-10 road mark and 6-4 record in neutral-field contests this year are its best since the 2006 squad went 12-9 in true road games and 23-13 overall away from home.
The Bears one-two punch of Lauren McGinley and Lauren Supak in the circle had the opposition seeing double in the second half of the 2009 season. MSU's two Laurens combined to go 9-12 with a 2.24 ERA, 11 complete games and six shutouts over the Bears' last 22 games of the season. McGinley turned in four of her five shutouts, while Supak posted four complete games in her last eight starts and 10 outings of at least 5 2/3 innings during that span.
2009 Tourney Recap
Missouri State went 9-7 in its four pre-conference tournaments in 2009. The Bears went 2-3 at the season-opening Centenary Tournament, 3-2 at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic, 2-0 at the Frost Classic and 2-2 at the All-Missouri Classic. MSU's pitching staff was the bright spot through much of the early portion of the season, including Lauren McGinley, who was named the Missouri Valley Conference's Co-Pitcher of the Week for the period February 23-March 1. McGinley picked up both Missouri State victories at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., posting 9.2 scoreless innings in all. Natalie Rose also acquitted herself well in her first collegiate action. The right-hander posted a complete-game, two-hit shutout of Bryant on Feb 7 at the Centenary Tournament, then notched a 3-1 win over Wichita State two weeks later at the Sleep Inn Classic. Rose struck out 10 batters in each outing and retired the first nine Shockers in order to lift MSU to its third straight win.
All-Tourney Honors for MSU Trio
Three Bears earned all-tournament honors after helping MSU go 3-2 at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic, Feb. 20-22. Senior shortstop Jessie Smith went 9-for-17 (.529) with four runs scored, three steals, three doubles and three RBIs in five games and extended her hitting streak to 11 games. Fellow senior Ashley Arbon also enjoyed a breakthrough tournament, going 6-for-10 at the plate with three steals, while sophomore Jenna Schwark batted .571 (8-for-14) with four runs scored and five more driven in for the Bears.
On The Board
Several Bears ranked among the Missouri Valley Conference's individual leaders during the 2009 season. Jessie Smith's .388 batting average was the third-highest in the league, while her .657 slugging percentage ranked second and her 13 stolen bases tied for the third-highest total in the MVC.
Additionally, Christa Gammon and Ashley Knehans both totaled three sacrifice flies to tie for second in the conference.
In the circle, Lauren Supak's 2.23 earned run average was the 10th-best mark in the MVC, while Lauren McGinley's five shutouts were fourth in the circuit.
Watch the Leather, Man
The 2009 season saw the Bears post impressive defensive numbers once again, as MSU finished among the top 50 teams nationally in fielding percentage for the fourth consecutive year. The Bears were the 43rd-best Division I fielding team overall, posting a .968 team fielding percentage, their fourth-highest season mark in 27 years as a Division I program.
Four for Class of 2010
Missouri State received four commitments during the National Letter of Intent signing period in November. Joining the Bears for the 2010-11 academic year will be St. Louis-area native Ashley Brentz (Ballwin, Mo.), along with a trio of standouts from the state of Texas, including Heather Duckworth (Mesquite), Jourdan Esquenazi (Prosper) and Savannah Wiggins (Huffman).
Brentz comes to the Missouri State program with the reputation as a speedy left-handed slapper who can play a number of different positions. A three-time all-conference selection as an infielder at Parkway South High School, Brentz swiped 50 bases in her career and helped lead the Patriots to a Missouri Class 4 runner-up finish as a junior in 2008. Playing on a team that produced three Division I signees, she added all-district and all-region honors to her resume after leading South in hitting with a .450 average this past fall.
A four-sport athlete, as well as team mascot at North Mesquite High School, Duckworth is a three-time all-district performer as a corner infielder heading into her final prep season. This past spring, she was named Texas 11-5A District Offensive Player of the Year after earning a co-defensive player of the year nod the previous season. Duckworth also picked up district academic honors as a junior and played summer/fall ball for the same 18U Texas Glory Gold club that produced current MSU freshman Stevie Pierce.
Esquenazi will give the Bears another versatile weapon, but could have the chance to make an immediate impact in the circle for MSU. The right-hander was named Texas District 9-3A Pitcher of the Year in 2009, as well as Prosper High School's defensive MVP as a junior when she led her team to a regional semifinal appearance and a 26-10 overall record. The previous season, Esquenazi earned 9-3A's Utility Player of the Year honor in helping the Eagles to a district co-championship.
Wiggins joins the MSU program after earning Texas District 21-4's MVP award as a junior last spring for Hargrave High School. She is expected to see immediate action in the circle for MSU, but has the offensive tools to earn a spot in Bears' lineup as well. Wiggins enters her senior year as a three-time all-district performer, two-time team MVP and academic all-district honoree. She also earned four letters in volleyball at Hargrave and played summer ball for the 18U Texas Peppers Tanel 360 club.
MVC Preseason Poll
The Missouri State softball team was picked to finish seventh in the 2010 Missouri Valley Conference coaches' preseason poll. Three-time defending regular-season champion Creighton was the overwhelming favorite among coaches, gathering eight first-place votes and 97 points total. Southern Illinois garnered 85 total points to place second, followed by UNI (77) and Drake (71), which received one first-place vote. Illinois State (66) was picked fifth, while the Bears received 36 points, which was 11 points shy of Wichita State in the sixth spot. Bradley (33), Indiana State (21) and Evansville (17) rounded out the bottom third of the poll.