Softball Kicks Off Blues City Classic in Memphis This Weekend
 
Senior Raeven Replogle had a career-high 3 RBI game on Sunday vs. SDSU
 
Senior Raeven Replogle had a career-high 3 RBI game on Sunday vs. SDSU
 

Feb. 23, 2012

Blues City Classic NotesGet Acrobat Reader

The Missouri State softball team picked up a pair of victories at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Classic in Denton, Texas, last weekend behind strong pitching performances by senior hurler Natalie Rose. Rose won Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week honors following a 19-strikeout, no walks allowed weekend where she earned the win against South Dakota State and registered a save versus Sam Houston State.

This weekend will see the softball Bears head to Memphis, Tenn., for the Blues City Classic hosted by the University of Memphis Tigers. Missouri State will play five games in three days, facing conference foe UNI in a non-conference showdown in the opening game of the weekend. Then on Saturday, the Bears will play Miami (Ohio) and Southeast Missouri State before wrapping up the weekend against Western Illinois and host, Memphis on Sunday.

Quick Hits
- The Ashley Brentz countdown from last weekend:

4 - Hits vs. Sam Houston State
3 - Walks vs. South Dakota State
2 - Runs scored vs. Sam Houston State
1 - Stolen bases vs. Sam Houston State (1st career)
- Junior Kirstin Cutter began the season with a three-game hitting streak. She is the only Bear to record at least one hit in each of MSU's three games this season.
- Senior hurler Natalie Rose struck out 19 batters while not issuing a single walk in the first 15 innings of her season. She began with an 18.2 scoreless innings streak. Rose was named MVC Pitcher of the Week, CollegeSportsMadness.com Player of the Week and to the Fairfield Inn and Suites Classic all-tournament team for her performance.
- Saturday will be Redhawks Day as the Bears play two of the three Division I athletics programs with Redhawks as the team nickname (Miami, SEMO and Seattle all are nicknamed the Redhawks).

FOLLOWING THE BEARS
Video: Select games at the Blues City Classic will be video streamed online. Check the softball schedule page at MissouriStateBears.com for links.
Audio: None
GameTracker: Bears live stats will be available for all games of the Blues City Classic. Fans can follow the action by clicking the GameTracker link on the softball schedule page at MissouriStateBears.com.
Live Blog: Memphis will host a live blog throughout the Blues City Classic via CoverItLive. Fans can participate or follow along by clicking the Live Blog link on the softball schedule page at MissouriStateBears.com.

IN THE OTHER DUGOUT
UNI Panthers: The Bears will see the UNI Panthers for the first of four matchups this season. The Panthers are picked second, ahead of the Bears, in the MVC Preseason poll, but the game on Friday will not count towards the MVC standings. Last season, the Bears went 3-1 against UNI in four games, all played at Killian Stadium. MSU shutout the Panthers in the last game, 2-0 in the second round of the State Farm MVC Tournament.

Miami RedHawks: The last time the Bears and RedHawks played, MSU got a season opening 1-0 win in the second game of the FAU "Strike Out" Cancer Tournament on February 15, 2008. Lauren McGinley fired a four-hit shutout en route to tournament MVP honors. Missouri State has won the last three games against MU and five out of six all-time. The two teams have played every game of the series history at a neutral site.

Southeast Missouri State Redhawks: The Bears have defeated the Redhawks in three straight meetings. MSU scored three or more runs in each of those victories, including 3-2 wins each of the past two seasons. This game will mark the first of two consecutive weekends that MSU and SEMO will meet at neutral sites.

Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks: Missouri State last faced Western Illinois in 1999 at the Southeast Missouri State Classic and defeated WIU, 3-2, on a 7th inning bases loaded walk by Tina Powers. MSU Hall of Famer Nora Cagwin earned the victory to move to 7-0. MSU and WIU were long-time Gateway Conference foes before the Leathernecks moved to the Summit League. The Bears have a three-game winning streak against Western Illinois.

Memphis Tigers: Missouri State and Memphis will square off for the first time ever on Sunday. Both teams were NCAA Tournament participants in 2011, both going 1-2 in their respective regional rounds. Memphis enters this weekend's Classic on a seven-game losing streak, including a 7-1 setback in their home opener against Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday night.

600 and COUNTING
Head Coach Holly Hesse won her 600th game at the helm of the softball Bears in her 24th season at MSU in a season-opening 7-2 win against Sam Houston State (February 17). With an overall record of 601-584-2, Hesse entered the season tied for 40th on the all-time victories list among active coaches.

CAREER DAY AT MSU
Several returning Missouri State players had career days at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Classic last weekend. Sophomore Ashley Brentz had her first career four-hit game on Friday against Sam Houston State and stole her first base. It was the first four-hit performance by a Bear since another second baseman, Christa Gammon, had four hits in game one of a doubleheader against UNI on May 8, 2010. Pitcher Savannah Wiggins had a career-high five strikeouts and hit her first career home run versus SHSU.

On Sunday, senior Raeven Replogle had a career-best three-RBI game against South Dakota State. Junior Caitlin Chapin had two stolen bases and sophomore Heather Duckworth scored two runs, both career highs.

NO FREE PASSES
Senior pitcher Natalie Rose fired 15 innings last weekend without issuing a single base on balls. She is one of only three Valley pitchers to appear this season and not issue a walk and the only Valley pitcher with more than 6.0 innings without giving up a BB. The last walk Rose issued came in the second inning of the State Farm MVC Tournament Championship game versus Drake on May 14, 2011. Her streak now sits at 21.0 innings without issuing a walk.

ROAD CREW
The Bears began the season as road warriors with three-straight tournaments and the first 19 games being played away from Killian Stadium. Following this weekend's tournament in Memphis, Tenn., Missouri State will travel to Kansas City for four games in three days at the UMKC-hosted Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Tournament.

FEISTY FOES
This weekend marks the first of 12 games in which the Bears will face Big 12, SEC or 2011 NCAA Tournament teams (Memphis, 1; Missouri, 1; Iowa State, 3; Illinois State, 3; Kansas, 2; Tulsa, 1; Arkansas, 1). Eight of those matchups will be the first eight games at Killian Stadium.

MVC Preseason Poll
The Bears were picked to finish fourth in the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference coaches' preseason poll. Defending regular season champion Illinois State is favored with UNI and Southern Illinois sandwiched between ISU and the Bears.

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
Right-hander Natalie Rose added another chapter to her breakthrough junior season May 7, 2011, tossing the 13th no-hitter in Missouri State history as part of a sparkling final weekend of the regular season in which she helped blank Evansville twice while giving up just one earned run on six hits over 17.0 innings to lead the Bears to a three-game sweep. Rose notched the first no-no by a Bears pitcher since 2007 to open MSU's key series with UE.

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
The Bears fifth-place finish Valley standing in 2011 represented their second upper-division finish in as many years. In 28 seasons in the Gateway/MVC, Missouri State has finished fifth or better on 16 occasions-including 11 times in the last 16 seasons--and 14 times during head coach Holly Hesse's 23-year tenure.

Winning time
Missouri State has made a habit of saving some of its best performances for the Valley Tournament, having racked up more MVC Tournament victories (67) than any other league club. Illinois State (52) is a distant second in that category, and the Bears matched Creighton for the most tourney titles over the 28-year history of the event by claiming their sixth crown. Furthermore, head coach Holly Hesse moved past Illinois State's Melinda Fischer for the most tournament victories (45) with the Bears' title-game victory. Hesse's career total is higher than the number of total team wins in the championship for every Valley other club except Illinois State.

Six Flags over Springfield
Behind the pitching of Natalie Rose and some timely hitting, the Bears swept through the field at the 2011 State Farm MVC Championship, becoming just the second host school to win the league's postseason tournament in the 28-year history of the event. Rose became the fifth Bear to be named tournament MVP after posting shutouts against Bradley and UNI (May 12) on the opening day of the meet and accounting for all four MSU wins while posting a 1.50 ERA. Three other Bears garnered all-tournament recognition, including seniors Ashley Knehans, who batted .417 to lead the Bears, and Tyler Porter whose six hits and five runs scored were the top marks in the tournament. Freshman third-baseman Heather Duckworth also earned all-tourney recognition after coming up with several clutch hits while playing an error-free third base in the tournament.

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.

Postseason Party
With their first Valley title since 2006 in tow, the Bears returned to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time as a Division I program, drawing the No. 3 seed in the Norman Regional (May 20-21). Matched in the opening round with the same Tulsa squad that had defeated the Bears just three weeks earlier in their first meeting of the season, Missouri State looked to continue its late-season turnaround on the big stage.

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
Head coach Holly Hesse has commitments from four players to join the 2013 squad. Joining the Bears for the 2012-13 academic year are Braxton Coil (Edmond, Okla.), Mary Stephens (Sachse, Texas), Bethany Sullinger (Kansas City, Mo.) and Sarah "Jessie" Van Es (Russellville, Ark.).

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.

Honor Roll
For the second straight year, two Bears earned First-Team All-MVC honors. Sophomore shortstop Kirstin Cutter set the table for the Missouri State attack throughout the season, ranking among the MVC's leaders in hitting (.298) and stolen bases (15). Junior ace Natalie Rose also picked up first-team recognition after leading the MVC in strikeouts (258) and saves (5). She became the first Bear in 12 years to top the 20-win mark, finishing 22-19 on the year with a 2.11 ERA. Additionally, Rose set MSU single-season records for innings pitched (265.1), games started (39) and appearances (49). Rose also earned her second straight MVC All-Tournament honor and became the fifth Bear to pick up MVP honors at the Championship after pitching every inning of the tourney for the Bears and going 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA over the four games.

 

 

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