Softball Bears set to host UMKC, Saint Louis



With a wet field forcing the cancellation of its scheduled games at the All-Missouri Breast Cancer Tournament this weekend in Cape Girardeau, the Missouri State softball team will get a head start on the home portion of its 2008 schedule by hosting UMKC at 11 a.m. and Saint Louis at 3 p.m. Saturday (March 2) at the Missouri State Softball Field. UMKC and Saint Louis will also face off in Springfield at 1 p.m.

The Bears opened the 2008 season by winning the Florida Atlantic "Strike Out" Cancer Tournament February 15-17 in Boca Raton, Fla. The Bears went 4-1 in the tournament, defeating Long Island 3-2 in the championship game.

Inclement weather wreaked havok on last weekend’s schedule, with the Bears playing and winning just two games in the weather-shortened Holiday Inn Select -- Tulsa Festival. Scheduled games for Friday (Feb. 22) and Saturday (Feb. 23) were canceled due to the weather. Missouri State won contests against North Dakota State (4-0) and Central Arkansas (13-3) Sunday (Feb. 24).

The opponents UMKC enters the All-Missouri Breast Cancer Tournament with a 0-5 overall record. The Kangaroos return five letterwinners from last year’s 4-46 team. Saint Louis (3-6) returns three starting pitchers and 10 letterwinners from a 29-33 team a year ago. Tournament host Southeast Missouri (5-5) returns seven position starters from a last year’s 20-29 squad.

Series records Missouri State is 24-3 in games against UMKC, 12-5 against Saint Louis and 21-5 against Southeast Missouri.

Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 507-480-2 (.514) in her 20th season at Missouri State. Last season, the Bears finished 21-29 overall. 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. Last year’s second place MVC finish marked the 12th time during her tenure the Bears have finished in the top-five of the conference standings. Last season 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 only Illinois State’s Melinda Fischer in the MVC and an elite group of 41 active head coaches with 500 Division I wins. The Missouri State Bears are playing in their 40th season and have an all-time record of 886-716-2 (.553).

MVP for McGinley Sophomore pitcher Lauren McGinley is off to a fast start in 2008. McGinley was selected the MVP of the Florida Atlantic "Strike Out" Cancer Tournament (Feb. 15-17) in Boca Raton, Fla. She earned three wins in 11.2 inings of work en route to a 0.77 ERA.

Porche to the rescue Senior pitcher Melissa Porche picked up three saves in the Florida Atlantic "Strike Out" Cancer Tournament (Feb. 15-17). She led the country with seven saves as a sophomore in 2006. Porche went 1-1 as a starter in the Bears’ season-opening tournament, strking out 27 opposing batters in 20 innings and compiling a 1.35 ERA.

Last Time out -- Senior pitcher Melissa Porche and junior first baseman Jana Shewmaker enjoyed huge days Sunday in leading Missouri State to a pair of wins in the weather-shortened Holiday Inn Select -- Tulsa Festival. The Bears defeated North Dakota State 4-0 and Central Arkansas 13-3 to improve to 6-1 overall.

Porche pitched a two-hit shutout with six strikeouts against the Bison to improve to 2-1, outdueling reigning National Independent Pitcher of The Year Allison Bakke. Missouri State scored three runs in the first and one in the third to defeat Bakke and the Bison (10-3).

Shewmaker went 2-for-3 at the plate, with 3 RBIs to spark the Missouri State offense. Junior shortstop Jessie Smith was 2-for-3 also, scoring once and knocking in another run. Porche had a hit in two at-bats and scored twice.

Smith’s two-out single scored Porche for the Bears’ first run. Senior Michelle Armentrout moved to third on the hit and Smith advanced to second on the throw. Shewmaker’s single to left scored both Armentrout and Smith, giving Missouri State a 3-0 advantage.

The same cast of characters teamed-up again the third inning to score the Bears’ fourth run. Porche singled to start the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Armentrout walked, but was out on Smith’s fielder’s choice at second. Porche advanced to third on the play and later scored on Shewmaker’s single to left.

Missouri State scored three runs in the first and second inning and seven in the fourth en route to a five-inning win over Central Arkansas. Porche capped her huge day by going 3-for-4, with 4 RBIs and a pair of runs. Her first inning, first pitch two-run homerun to centerfield scored Gammon, who reached base on a walk. Armentrout then hammered the next pitch over the left centerfield fence to give the Bears a 3-0 lead on back-to-back pitches. Porche’s two-out two run double was the big blow in the Bears’ three run second inning.

Gammon went 2-for-2 at the plate, scoring three runs and knocking in another. Shewmaker and Smith each tallied 2 RBIs and scored individual runs. Smith’s double and Shewmaker’s single both knocked in a pair of runs in the Bears’ seven run fourth inning. Porter scored twice and was 2-for-4 at the plate and junior Brooke Kempker was 1-for-1 with a run scored and an RBI.

Missouri State sophomore pitcher Lauren McGinley (3-0) gave up five hits and three UCA runs in the third. With runners on second and third sophomore Megan Ramsey (1-0) struck out a UCA batter to end the inning and was credited with her first win of the season.

500 Club Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse picked up her 500th victory at Missouri State with a 1-0 win over Indiana State (4/22/07). Hesse became the third coach to join the 500-win club in the Valley, joining Illinois State’s Melinda Fischer and Creighton’s Brent Vigness. Only 47 active Division I coaches began the 2007 season with more than 500 wins. Hesse picked up her 400th win against Indiana State on March 20, 2004, with a 9-1 victory over the Sycamores in Springfield.

Bears among MVC Leaders Missouri State players listed among the top 10 in Missouri Valley Conference statistical categories this season include: Senior pitcher Melissa Porche is first in ERA (0.78) and saves (3), fourth in strikeouts (33) and complete games (3), fifth in opponent batting average (.194) and eighth in innings pitched (27.0). Porche is off to a blistering start at the plate, ranked third in batting avaerage (.471) and sixth in on base percentage (.500) and slugging percentage (.706). Sophomore pitcher Lauren McGinley is sixth in wins (3) and freshman Christa Gammon is fourth in steals (4).

In team categories Missouri State is ranked first ERA (1.35) and fielding percentage (.985)

Several Bears finished among the top 10 in MVC statistical categories last season. Porche was second in the league in innings pitched (232.0) and games started (35). She finished fourth in strikeouts (222), tied for third in appearances (41), and seventh in earned-run average (2.17).

  Jessie Smith led the league with 17 stolen bases and Brooke Kempker topped the hit by pitch category, with 10. Jen Carr’s perfect fielding percentage tied atop the category, as she was one of only five players to be errorless with over 100 fielding chances.

Powerful Porche Missouri State senior pitcher Melissa Porche leads the team in pitching and hitting so far in 2008. Her .471 batting average and .706 slugging percentage and 12 total bases leads the Bears. Her team-leading pitching statistics include ERA (0.78), complete games (3), Shutouts (1), saves (3), innings pitched (27.0), strikeouts (33) and opponent batting average (.194).

One-run Setbacks Missouri State didn’t experience much luck in one-run games last season, as the Bears were 4-9 in games decided by one run. MSU has lost decisions of 2-1 to Centenary (2/18), 3-2 to Eastern Illinois (2/25), 6-5 to Tulsa (2/25), 1-0 to Oklahoma State (2/28), 3-2 to Saint Louis (3/4), 1-0 to Creighton (3/17), 1-0 to Bradley (3/25), 1-0 to Illinois State (5/6) and 2-1 to Bradley (5/10).

No Run Support In 16 of pitcher Melissa Porche’s 19 losses last season, MSU was shut out or scored only one run.Porche’s lone loss of 2008 was a 1-0 loss to Long Island (2/15) in the Bears’ season-opener.

Early Offense Missouri State is 6-0 when scoring the first run of the game, and 4-0 when scoring a run in the first inning in 2008. The Bears were 20-5 last season when scoring the first run of the game, and 15-3 when tallying a run in the first inning. On the contrast, MSU was 1-24 when their opponent scored first, including an 1-10 mark when the opposition scores in the first inning. Missouri State won their only game when an opponent scored first when the Bears rallied from a two-run Northern Iowa opening frame to take a 10-8 victory on April 7.

Bean Ball Brooke Kempker led the Valley in a category she’d rather not-- hit by pitch in 2007. The junior outfielder from Jefferson City, Mo., was hit 10 times last season in 127 plate appearances. She had been hit in seven of her first 34 appearances, which was equal to once every five times she stepped to the plate. Kempker, started 39 games and played in 43, and ranked second on the team with a .376 on-base percentage. Kempker has been hit by a pitch once in 2008.

Last Year The 2007 Missouri State softball team was plagued by injuries and inconsistency as the Bears finished with a 21-29 record, the program's fewest wins since 2001. Newcomers accounted for 204 starts, including 136 by the team's four freshmen, as inexperience played a factor in the team's struggles. The Bears started the season with a five-game winning streak but ended the campaign with six straight losses, and had four losing streaks of more than four games during the season. The team's competition was stiff, as the Bears played 10 games against teams that made the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

  The Bears struggled offensively, finishing ninth of 10 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average (.236) and hits (292). Defensively, Missouri State was very solid, finishing third in the MVC and 29th nationally with a .969 fielding percentage. On the mound, MSU relied very heavily on junior Melissa Porche, who pitched in 41 of the 49 games and accounted for 71 percent of the team's innings pitched.

  Despite the disappointing record, the 2007 Bears featured numerous outstanding performances and accomplishments. Head coach Holly Hesse picked up her 500th career Division I coaching victory in a 1-0 triumph over Indiana State on April 22. Hesse joins only Illinois State's Melinda Fischer in the MVC and an elite group of 41 active head coaches with 500 Division I wins.

  The team's record could have been much different had it not been for many close losses. The Bears were 4-9 in one-run games and 1-5 in extra inning games. Three was the magical number for the 2007 Bears, as the team was an impressive 19-3 when scoring three or more runs but was 2-26 when failing to tally three runs. Missouri State was also 17-4 when leading after the third inning, but 1-20 when trailing after the third frame.

IN the Record Books Several current players have etched their names into the Missouri State softball record books. As a freshman in 2006, Jessie Smith scored 40 runs and hit eight home runs to rank third for a single season in each category. Her 87 total bases were also sixth-most all-time. Michelle Armentrout recorded 138 assists from third base in 2006 to rank fifth in a single season. Her 31 RBIs are also 10th-most all-time. Smith and pitcher Melissa Porche both recorded perfect fielding percentages last season to tie atop the category. Porche also recorded a perfect fielding percentage in 2005, as did catcher Lacie Ballard.

Former Players as Coaches Fourteen 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), Sara Cole (assistant- Evansville), and Deanna Keim (graduate assistant- Central Missouri). Also included are Katie Martin (student assistant) and Courtney Owens (student assistant) currently at Missouri State; both were members of last years’ 40-win team.

MVC Preseason Poll The Missouri State softball team was picked to finish fifth in the 2008 Missouri Valley Conference coaches’ preseason poll. Regular season and MVC tournament champion Creighton was the overwhelming favorite among coaches, gathering nine first-place votes and 97 points total. Wichita State received the other first-place vote and garnered 85 total points. Southern Illinois (81) and Illinois State (72) were selected third and fourth respectively.The Bears received 52 points, followed by Bradley (46), Evansville (44), Indiana State (35), Drake (25) and Northern Iowa (13).



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