Bears Set to Host All-Missouri Classic, Open Killian Stadium
Missouri State Bears (7-5)All-Missouri Classic
When: Friday, March 6-Sunday, March 8 Where: Killian Softball Stadium (Springfield, MO.) Live Stats: www.missouristatebears.com
The Missouri State Bears come home to open their new facility, Killian Softball Stadium, by hosting the All-Missouri Classic, this Friday through Sunday (March 6-8). This weekend’s meet, which benefits the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, will be the last of the Bears’ four 2009 regular-season tournaments before opening MVC play next week against UNI.
After inclement weather shortened their stay at last weekend’s Frost Classic, the Bears will look to extend their two-game win streak when they host the other four Division I programs from the state of Missouri this weekend. MSU earned a pair of come-from-behind victories last weekend in Chattanooga, getting a walk-off homer from Jessie Smith to defeat Valparaiso in its tournament opener, then plating four runs in the ninth inning to break a scoreless tie in an eventual 4-0 win over Tennessee Tech.
The 2009 edition of the All-Missouri Classic will be the fifth installment of the traveling tournament sponsored by the state of Missouri’s five Division I softball programs to benefit breast cancer awareness. Missouri State last hosted the event in 2006, when it swept the four-game tournament with victories over the same four opponents that comprise this year’s field.
All-Missouri Classic Schedule
Friday, March 6
Missouri State vs. Southeast Missouri State, 12 p.m.
UMKC vs. Missouri, 2 p.m.
UMKC vs. Southeast Missouri State, 4 p.m.
Saturday, March 7
Southeast Missouri State vs. Saint Louis, 10 a.m.
Saint Louis vs. UMKC, 12 p.m.
Southeast Missouri State vs. MIssouri, 2 p.m.
Missouri State vs. UMKC, 5 p.m.
Sunday, March 8
Missouri vs. Saint Louis, 11 a.m.
Missouri vs. Missouri State, 1 p.m.
Saint Louis vs. Missouri State, 3 p.m.
Missouri State is 26-8 in home openers since 1975, including a 14-6 mark under head coach Holly Hesse; the Bears have won six of their last seven home openers dating back to 2002
Sunday’s game against 12th-ranked Missouri will be MSU’s first contest against a ranked opponent since defeating #11 Oklahoma in Norman on March 19, 2008
MSU enters the tournament with a 79-46 cumulative record against the field
Senior shortstop Jessie Smith leads the Missouri Valley Conference in both slugging percentage (.861) and on-base percentage (.561)
Junior pitcher Lauren McGinley is tied for fifth in the MVC with four wins, while her 1.95 ERA ranks seventh in the circuit
Scouting the Classic Field
Headlining this year’s All-Missouri Classic is 12th-ranked Missouri, which enters the weekend 14-3 on the season on the strength of a lineup that features four regulars with batting averages of .429 or better, and a pitching staff that has posted a 0.93 ERA through its first 17 games. All-American Rhea Taylor and fellow sophomore Shana White are both hitting above .450 and have combined to steal 21 of 22 bases so far this season, while junior Gina Schneider leads the club with a .471 average. In the circle, the Tigers have four viable options with freshman Chelsea Thomas leading the pack with a 6-2 mark to go along with a 0.95 earned run average and .166 opponent batting average. Also a strong defensive club, MU has committed just 11 errors so far in 2009, good for a .978 fielding percentage.
UMKC is off to a 4-10 start after splitting its two games against Memphis and North Dakota at last weekend’s Blues City Classic in Memphis. The Kangaroos, who return six letterwinners from last year’s 8-31 club, are led by a pair of freshmen, Chelsea Hartwig and Danielle Bennefeld. Hartwig leads the club with four homers and 15 RBIs, while Bennefeld’s .400 batting average paces the Kangaroo offense which has posted a .313 batting average through 16 games. Junior Nicholle Ellis leads the pitching staff with a 3-1 record in five starts, and senior Samantha Hurst’s 10 appearances, six starts, three complete games, 43.2 innings pitched and 41 strikeouts are tops on the club.
SEMO has split its first eight games of the season after dropping both ends of a doubleheader Wednesday at #18 Southern Illinois. The Redhawks, who return seven letterwinners from last year’s 24-28 squad that finished eighth in the Ohio Valley Conference, have struggled at the plate through the season’s first month, entering the weekend with a .227 team batting average. Junior catcher Alex Ramirez has posted a team-high .389 batting average, as well as the club’s lone home run of the season. Junior outfielder Elise Sperkos (.333) is the only other SEMO regular who is hitting above .300 mark. In the circle, the Redhawks have gotten solid production from freshman Giana Zimmerman, who has won three of her four decisions while recording three complete games and a team-best 1.40 earned run average in five appearances.
Saint Louis is another team that has found generating a consistent offensive attack to be a difficult proposition in the early going. SLU (3-9) enters the weekend having lost its last three games, all to ranked opponents. The Billikens are hitting just .227 as a team, but senior Katie Johns has done more than her share of the heavy lifting, hitting .429 through the first 12 games of the season. Junior Nicki Jost has also been a key contributor for SLU, batting .333 with team highs of 11 hits and seven runs batted-in. Sophomore Erin Kelly has been the Bills’ most dependable pitcher, going 2-2 with a 4.67 ERA in a club-best eight appearances.
Missouri State has heated up at the plate to win five of its last six outings, including its only two contests at last weekend’s Frost Classic. The Bears (7-5) are hitting .351 and slugging .541 in their last five games, led by senior shortstop Jessie Smith, who leads the Missouri Valley Conference in slugging percentage (.861) and on-base percentage (.561) to go along with a .500 batting average for the year. Smith, the Bears’ all-time home run leader (23) saw her 12-game hit streak come to an end in last Friday’s 4-0 win over Tennessee Tech. Sophomore Jenna Schwarz has been equally devastating to MSU opponents over the last two weekends, hitting .452 on the season with a team-high nine RBIs. The Bears feature a trio of pitchers who have each experienced some early-season success. Junior Lauren McGinley was named MVC co-Pitcher of the Week on Monday after posting wins in both MSU victories last weekend. She enters the Classic with the seventh-best ERA (1.95) in the MVC. Junior Lauren Stupak has been solid in her debut season with the Bears, posting a 2.70 ERA in seven appearances. Freshman Natalie Rose has made an immediate impact as well, recording a team-high 36 strikeouts and a 2.71 ERA while holding the opposition to a .213 batting average through her first seven appearances as a Bear.
Missouri State has fared exceptionally well against three of its four opponents in the tournament, winning a combined 64 of its previous 80 games against UMKC, SEMO and Saint Louis. The Bears, however, have not tasted the same kind of success against Mizzou, which owns a 30-15 mark against MSU. Sunday’s match-up between the Bears and Tigers will be just the third for the two clubs in the last 14 seasons and the first since the 2006 Classic, when MSU claimed a 9-7 win. Missouri State has faced off against SLU, UMKC and SEMO at least once each in every season dating back to 2003, going a combined 28-6-1 in those contests.
Missouri state as tournament host
The Classic will be the ninth regular-season tournament hosted by the Bears during head coach Holly Hesse’s tenure, with MSU posting a 20-8 mark in those meets. In all, Missouri State has played host to 15 previous tournaments since 1975, going 34-22. The Bears have also hosted three Gateway/MVC Tournaments since joining the league in 1984, going 4-2 and finishing second at all three (1984,1988 and 1994).
Home Sweet Home
This weekend will mark 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. Dedication ceremonies will be held Saturday 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.
Bears under Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 536-506-2 (.514) 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.
Laurels for lauren
Junior Lauren McGinley was named the Missouri Valley Conference’s Co-Pitcher of the Week for the period February 23-March 1, the league office announced Monday (March 2). McGinley picked up both Missouri State victories at last weekend’s Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., posting 9.2 scoreless innings in all to improve to 4-1 on the season.
McGinley earned a win in relief in MSU’s first game of the day Friday (Feb. 27), a come-from-behind 7-6 decision over Valparaiso. With the go-ahead run on third base, she recorded the final two outs of the seventh inning before Jessie Smith won it for the Bears with a lead-off homer in the bottom half of the inning.
In MSU’s 4-0, nine-inning win over Tennessee Tech later in the day, McGinley turned in her second shutout of the season and her second extra-innings complete-game effort of 2009. She limited the Golden Eagles to just four singles, only one of which came after the fourth inning, in a career-best nine innings of work.
McGinley’s four victories on the season tie her for fifth in the MVC, while her 1.95 ERA is good for seventh on the conference leader board.
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
After hitting just two home runs in its first nine games of the season, Missouri State has clubbed six long balls in its last three contests. The Bears hit three home runs in their 9-8 loss to Central Arkansas (Feb. 22), marking the first time they 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. Last weekend at the Frost Classic, it was Jessie Smith’s turn to power up, as the Bears’ all-time home run leader twice broke her own school record against Valparaiso. Her first dinger started a four-run, sixth-inning rally and her lead-off shot in the bottom of the seventh handed MSU a 7-6 win. In MSU’s nightcap, Jenna Schwark’s two-run bomb in the top of the ninth sealed the Bears’ 4-0 victory over Tennessee Tech.
Not yet a quarter of the way through the regular season, the Bears are well ahead of their 2008 home run pace. MSU hit just 21 home runs last season to rank last in the Missouri Valley Conference.
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 hit two more homers last Friday (Feb. 27) to push her career total to 23 and also enters this weekend as the program’s career leader in slugging percentage (.549) and No. 4 on the Bears’ all-time runs scored list (105). She is 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. So far this season, MSU is 4-2 in such games and 3-3 when failing to total at least three runs. The Bears are now 46-8 in such contests over the last three seasons.
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 third 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 games of March 4. Jessie Smith’s .861 slugging percentage and .561 on-base percentage lead the conference, and the senior shortstop ranks second in batting average (.500) and home runs (3), third (tie) in total bases (31), fourth (tie) in doubles (4) and fifth in hits (18). Jenna Schwark is also among the league’s leaders in hitting, entering the weekend fifth with a .452 average. Ashley Arbon is tied with Smith for the team lead with four steals, good for sixth in the MVC. In the circle, Lauren McGinley has the seventh-best earned run average (1.95) and her four wins is tied for the fifth-highest total. Natalie Rose’s 36 strikeouts ranks sixth heading into the weekend, while her .213 opponent batting average is the eighth-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 6-2 when scoring first, but just 1-2 when plating a run in the first inning. The Bears have outscored the opposition 8-4 in the first inning, but have been outscored 20-8 in the second and third innings.
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.
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 12 outings this season, the Bears have already played six one-run contests, going 3-3 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
Seventeen 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), Melissa Porche (assistant-UNC-Charlotte) 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.