Softball Bears to Host Indiana State in MVC Opener



The Missouri State softball team will host Indiana State in a doubleheader Friday (March 14) at 3 p.m., followed by a single game Saturday (March 15) starting at 12:00 p.m. at the MSU Softball Field in the opening weekend of Missouri Valley Conference action for both teams. Saturday’s contest against the Sycamores will be broadcast by Meyer Communications on KBFL 1060 AM.

Inclement weather has wreaked havok on the Bears’ schedule, prompting the cancelation of the Georgia Tech Buzz Classic (3/7-9). MSU defeated Saint Louis 14-2 and 4-1 in a pair of games (3/12) and has scheduled a a 5 p.m. single game at the University of Oklahoma, Wednesday, March 19 to help compensate for the lost playing dates due to weather.

The Sycamores Indiana State enters the Missouri Valley Conference opening weekend with a 7-10 overall record. The Sycamores finished eighth in the conference in 2007 with a 6-16 mark. ISU returns 13 letterwinners from last year’s 21-26 squad.

Series records Missouri State leads the series with the Sycamores by a 41-17 margin. The Bears won two-of-three games against Indiana State last year.

Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 511-482-2 (.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 890-718-2 (.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 earned her league-leading fourth save of the season in the Bears’ 4-1 win over Saint Louis (3/12) 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 14-2 and 4-1, Wednesday (3/12), at Saint Louis, Mo. The softball Bears are now 10-3 overall.

Senior Melissa Porche dominated the first game of the doubleheader for the Bears. She allowed two runs on two hits, while striking out three Billikens in four innings of work to improve to 5-2 overall. Porche went 2-for-3 at the plate also, with a pair of hits and runs scored and her one-out grand slam in the third accounted for four of the Bears’ six runs in the frame.

Missouri State scored four runs in the first. Senior Michelle Armentrout’s double to right center produced two RBIs, knocking in freshman Christa Gammon and Porche. Freshman Tyler Porter, Gammon and Armentrout joined Porche with each recording a pair of hits and runs scored to pace the Bears’ offensively. Freshman Ashley Knehans went 2-for-2 at the plate, also. Junior Jana Shewmaker scored a pair of runs, knocked in another and was 1-for-1 at the plate. MSU freshman Jenna Schwark and junior Brooke Kempker each had a hit and scored a run.

The Bears jumped out to a quick lead in in the second game of the twinbill, scoring four runs in the top of the second on three hits and three Billiken errors. Missouri State sophomore starting pitcher Megan Ramsey (2-1) picked up the victory, surrendering four hits while striking out four SLU batters. Porche earned her fourth save of the season, striking out three of the eight batters she faced and two in the SLU fifth to escape a bases-loaded jam.

Gammon paced the Bears offensively in the second game. She was 2-for-4 at the plate with an RBI and run scored. Porter was 1-for-4, with an RBI and run scored. Junior Elysha Swider had two hits in four at-bats.

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 (0.92) and saves (4), second in opponent batting average (.184), third in strikeouts (71), fourth in shutouts (2) and sixth in innings pitched (53.0). Porche is off to a blistering start at the plate, ranked third in slugging percentage (.718) and eventh in batting avaerage (.385). Senior Michelle Armentrout is sixth in slugging percentage (.641) and seventh in on base percentage (.457). Christa Gammon is second in steals (7), with Jessie Smith ninth (4).

In team categories Missouri State is ranked first in ERA (1.50) and fielding percentage (.979) and third in batting average (.291).

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. 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 team highs in batting average (.385), slugging percentage (.718), RBIs (14), total bases (28) and homeruns (3). She had a five RBI performance in the Bears’ 13-7 win over Saint Louis (3/2). Her team-leading pitching statistics include wins (5-2), ERA (0.92), complete games (4), shutouts (2), saves (4), innings pitched (53.0), strikeouts (71) and opponent batting average (.184).

Impact Freshmen -- Three Missouri State freshmen are hitting over .300 and two have become mainstays at the top of the batting order. Leadoff hitter Christa Gammon is hitting a freshman-leading .341 and leads the team in steals with seven on eight attempts. Number two hitter Tyler Porter is batting .310. Ashley Knehans is hitting .304 and Jenna Schwark .200.

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 22-of-28 in stolen base attempts with freshman Christa Gammon leading the Bears at 7-for-8. 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 9-1 when scoring the first run of the game, and 5-0 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. Freshman Ashley Knehans has been hit a team-high three times this season.

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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