Softball Bears To Compete in Georgia Tech Buzz Classic



The Missouri State softball team will compete in its fourth tournament of the 2008 season, March 7-9, at the Georgia Tech Buzz Classic in Atlanta, Ga. MSU (8-3) won the Florida Atlantic "Strike Out" Cancer Tournament February 15-17 in Boca Raton, Fla. to start the season.

Inclement weather wreaked havok on last two weekend schedules, with the Bears playing and winning just two games in the weather-shortened Holiday Inn Select -- Tulsa Festival (Feb. 24) and splitting a pair of games in the All-Missouri Breast Cancer Tournament (March 2) in Cape Girardeau, Mo. The Bears lost 3-2 to UMKC and won a 9-inning 1-0 contest against Saint Louis, March 1. MSU defeated Saint Louis 13-7 and lost to host Southeast Missouri State 3-1 in the All-Missouri Breast Cancer Tournament, March 2.

The opponents Troy enters the Buzz Classic with a 12-11 overall record. The Trojans return six starters and 10 letterwinners from last year’s 42-20 squad. Toledo returns 14 letterwinners and welcomes eight newcomers this season. The Rockets are 4-4 overall and were 10-32 a year ago. Radford is off to a 12-5 start this season. Eight letterwinners and seven starters return from last year’s 44-27 club. UNCG is 9-13 overall, with 13 letterwinners and five starters returning from a 21-26 team a year ago.

Series records Missouri State’s contests against Troy, Radford and UNC-Greensboro will be the first between the schools. The Bears are 1-2 in games against Toledo.

Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 509-482-2 (.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 888-718-2 (.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 -- Missouri State defeated Saint Louis 13-7 and lost to host Southeast Missouri State 3-1 in the weather-shortened All-Missouri Breast Cancer Tournament, Sunday, at Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Missouri State scored six runs in the third and five in the fifth en route to the 13-7 margin against the Billikens. SLU scored a pair of runs in the first against MSU sophomore starting pitcher Lauren McGinley. Her second inning RBI single though scored junior Jessie Smith to cut the Billiken lead in half.

Smith was one of six Bears with at least two hits against SLU. Seniors Melissa Porche and Michelle Armentrout and freshmen Christa Gammon, Tyler Porter and Ashley Knehans were the others. Armentrout scored three runs, with Smith, Porche, Gammon and Porter all scoring a pair of runs.

Senior Melissa Porche enjoyed another huge game against the Billikens, her second in less than 24 hours. Porche struck out a career-high 19 batters in the Bears’ 1-0 nine-inning win over SLU, Saturday, at MSU Softball Field. Her day two performance featured a five RBI effort while striking out six SLU batters in 4.1 innings of relief work to improve to 4-1 on the season. Her two-run single and Armentrout’s two-run double were the key hits in the Bears’ six-run third.

SLU took advantage of two MSU errors in the bottom of the third and answered with five runs, prompting Porche’s insertion as pitcher. The Bears then scored five runs in the fourth, with Porche’s three-run homer to left-center proving to be the game winner.

Armentrout stole home for the Bears’ final run in the sixth. She reached base with her second double of the game and along with Smith finished with two RBIs.

Armentrout’s lead-off, second inning homerun to leftfield accounted for lone MSU run in a 3-1 loss to Southeast Missouri State in the second game. SEMO scored one run in the third and two more in the fifth to account for the final margin. A bases-loaded Porche strikeout of a SEMO batter ended the inning. Porche (4-2) struck out six SEMO batters in 5.0 innings of work, allowing six hits and three earned runs in the loss.

The Bears out-hit Southeast Missouri 10-8, with Armentrout, Smith and freshman Jenna Schwark all with two apiece. Redhawks starter Elaine Fisher pitched herself out of a bases-loaded jam in the final inning for her fourth win of the season. With two outs, Gammon walked, Knehans was hit by a pitch and Porche walked to load the bases. Armentrout lined out to rightfield to end the game.

Melissa Porche struck out a career-high 19 batters to lead Missouri State to a nine-inning 1-0 win over Saint Louis Saturday, March 1 at MSU Softball Field.

Freshman Ashley Knehans’ ninth-inning blast the hit the centerfield fence to drive senior Michelle Armentrout home from second base with the game-winner against the Billikens. With one out Armentrout was hit by a pitch and later advanced to second on junior Jessie Smith’s single up the middle.

Porche allowed just three hits in her fourth complete game of the season and improved to 3-1 overall. She lowered her earned run average to a mere 0.57 and has now struck out 53 batters in 37 innings of work. Porche continued her hot start to 2008 at the plate, going 2-for-4 also. Freshman Tyler Porter and Armentrout acoounted for the remaining MSU hits in the contest.

UMKC defeated Missouri State 3-2 in the first contest of the day. The Kangaroos rapped out three hits in scoring two runs in the third against Bears’ sophomore starter Megan Ramsey. Missouri State answered in the fifth with Armentrout’s two-out, two-run double to left-center that scored Porter and senior Carrie Roberson.

A leadoff double to center eventually led to the Kangaroos’ winning run in the top of the eighth. Porche came on in relief of Ramsey, who went seven innings in the loss. The runner was sacrificed to third and scored moments later when freshman Julie Hartung singled to center field.

Smith went 2-for-4 at the plate, with freshman Christa Gammon and Roberson each tallying a hit in the Bears five-hit effort.

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 (0.91) and saves (3), third in strikeouts (65), fourth in shutouts (4) and opponent batting average (.190), fifth in appearances (10), sixth in complete games (2) and innings pitched (46.1). Porche is off to a blistering start at the plate, ranked sixth with teammate Michelle Armentrout in batting avaerage (.375) and eighth in slugging percentage (.625). Armentrout is third in doubles (4), fifth in on base percentage (.474) and seventh slugging percentage (.688). Christa Gammon is second in steals (7), with Jessie Smith eighth (4).

In team categories Missouri State is ranked first ERA (1.55) and third in batting average (.282) and fielding percentage (.979).

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 is hitting at a torrid pace. She struck out a 2008 MVC leading and career-high 19 batters in the Bears’ 1-0 nine-inning win over Saint Louis (3/1). Her offensive numbers include a .375 batting average and .625 slugging percentage. She had a five RBI performance in the Bears’ 13-7 win over Saint Louis (3/2). Her team-leading pitching statistics include wins (4-2), ERA (0.91), complete games (4), shutouts (2), saves (3), innings pitched (46.1), strikeouts (65) and opponent batting average (.190).

Off to the races Missouri State stole an MVC leading eight bases in the Bears’ 13-7 win over Saint Louis (3/2). MSU is 21-of-26 in stolen base attempts with freshman Christa Gammon leading the Bears with a perfect 7-for-7. Junior Jessie Smith, who led the league with 17 stolen bases a year ago, is 4-of-6 so far in 2008.

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. The Bears are 5-2 this season in one-run games.

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 one run loss of 2008 was a 1-0 loss to Long Island (2/15) in the Bears’ season-opener.

Early Offense Missouri State is 7-1 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 its 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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