Softball Bears Back in Action this Weekend at Frost Classic
Missouri State Bears (5-5)
When: Friday, Feb. 27 through Sunday, March 1, 2009 Where: Jim Frost Stadium/Warner Park (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
Radio: None Live Stats: None
After posting a breakthrough offensive performance last weekend at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic, the Missouri State Bears will look to keep their momentum going this weekend at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Hosted by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the Frost Classic will be the Bears’ final tournament of the season on the road, as MSU will come home to open its new facility, Killian Softball Stadium, by hosting the All-Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Tournament, March 6-8.
Last weekend the Bears’ bats came alive, paving the way to three victories in Missouri State’s five games at the Sleep Inn Classic in Denton, Texas. MSU hit .354 as a team and doubled its run production from its first five games of the season, recording three straight wins over host North Texas, Butler and Wichita State. The Bears narrowly missed a fourth win, falling to Central Arkansas on the final day of the tourney, 9-8. The quartet of Ashley Arbon, Christa Gammon, Jenna Schwark and Jessie Smith led the way, combining for 31 hits in their 60 at-bats over the weekend.
The Frost Classic will feature a 15-team field and a 38-game schedule over the course of the three-day event. Missouri State will open its stay in Chattanooga with an 1:30 p.m. match-up Friday (Feb. 27) against Valparaiso, followed by a 5:30 contest with Tennessee Tech. Day two of the tourney will begin for MSU with a 9 a.m. game against Sacred Heart and conclude with another 4:30 tilt, this time versus Tennessee-Martin. The Bears will wrap up play at the meet on Sunday with a single game at 11:30 a.m. against Morehead State.
Friday, Feb. 27
1:30 p.m. - Missouri State vs. Valparaiso
5:30 p.m. - Missouri State vs. Tennessee Tech
Saturday, Feb. 28
9 a.m. - Missouri State vs. Sacred Heart
4:30 p.m. - Missouri State vs. Tennessee-Martin
Sunday, March 1
11:30 a.m. - Missouri State vs. Morehead State
After batting just .189 over the first five games of the season, the Bears posted a .354 batting average in their next five games at last weekend’s Sleep Inn Classic in Denton, Texas
This will be the Bears’ first time participating in the Frost Classic and they will square off against three first-time opponents (Tennessee Tech, Sacred Heart and Tennessee-Martin) as well
MSU enters the tournament with a 2-0 cumulative mark against their opponents in the field
Senior shortstop Jessie Smith leads the Missouri Valley Conference with a .533 batting average and a .588 on-base percentage
Smith joined fellow Bears Ashley Arbon and Jenna Schwark on the all-tournament team at the Sleep Inn Classic; Smith went 7-for-19 in MSU’s five games, while Arbon batted .600 (6-for-10)and Schwark went 8-for-14 (.571) with 5 RBIs
Missouri State will face three first-time opponents at this weekend’s tournament and has played a grand total of two games against its remaining two opponents. The Bears defeated Valparaiso 3-0 on March 14, 2004, as MSU pitcher Amanda Herbster turned in her second no-hitter in as many days in the only previous meeting between the two schools. MSU also topped Morehead State in its only previous game with the Eagles, claiming an 8-0 win on March 24, 1996.
Head Coach Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 534-506-2 (.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.
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.
Bears Go Deep
Missouri State clubbed three home runs in its 9-8 loss to Central Arkansas (Feb. 22), marking the first time the Bears have accomplished the feat since last April 26 vs. Southern Illinois. Christa Gammon led-off the ball game with an inside-the-park homer down the left field line, and Ashley Knehans belted her first homer of the year two batters later. With two out in the seventh inning, Jen Carr launched just her second career homer, a two-run shot that pulled the Bears to within one run.
First and Ten
Missouri State has split its first 10 games of a season for the fifth time in the last 10 years. The Bears also started 5-5 in 2007, 2005, 2004 and 2002. Since the 2000 season, the Bears have posted more wins in their first 10 contests only twice, going 8-2 in 2008 and 6-4 in 2006.
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 (.540) and No. 4 on the Bears’ all-time runs scored list (102). She is on pace to finish among the Bears’ all-time leaders in hits, at-bats, doubles, runs batted-in and total bases.
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.
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 46-8 in games where it scores three or more runs over the last three seasons. So far this season, MSU is 3-2 in such games and 2-3 when failing to total at least three runs.
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. So far in 2009, MSU has posted a .969 fielding percentage, good for fourth in the MVC.
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.
On The Board
Several Bears rank among the Missouri Valley Conference leaders through the first two tournaments of the 2009 season. Jessie Smith sits atop the Valley leaderboard for hitting (.533) and on-base percentage (.588), while ranking fourth in hits (16), third (tie) in doubles (4), fifth (tie) in stolen bases (3), eighth in total bases (23) and sixth in slugging percentage (.767). Jenna Schwark is also among the league’s leaders in hitting, entering the weekend ninth with a .417 average, and Ashley Arbon and Christa Gammon are tied with Smith with three steals apiece. In the circle, Lauren Supak has the 10th-best earned run average (1.83) and her six appearances matches Natalie Rose for the No. 5 spot in that category. Rose’s 29 strikeouts ranks ninth heading into the weekend, while her .206 opponent batting average is the sixth-best mark in the MVC.
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. That followed a 2007 season in which the Bears were 20-5 when scoring first and 15-3 when tallying a run in the first inning.
So far in 2009, MSU is 5-2 when scoring first, but just 1-2 with plating a run in the first inning. The Bears have outscored the opposition 8-1 in the first inning, but have been outscored 20-7 in the second and third innings.
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 10 outings this season, the Bears have already played five one-run contests, finishing 2-3 in those games.
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.
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.