Softball Bears Set to Open MVC Play Against UNI
mISSOURI sTATE bEARS (9-7)
UNI PANTHERS (14-5)
When: Saturday, March 14 (DH) @ Noon and Sunday, March 15 @ Noon Where: Killian Softball Stadium (Springfield, Mo.) Live Stats: WWW.MISSOURISTATEBEARS.COM Live Video: Bears Live
The Missouri State Bears continue a nine-game home stand this weekend at Killian Softball Stadium, opening Missouri Valley Conference play Saturday with a three-game set against the University of Northern Iowa. The Bears and Panthers will play a doubleheader beginning at Noon on Saturday, before wrapping up the series on Sunday with a single game, also slated for a Noon start.
The Bears split their four games at last weekend’s All-Missouri Classic, dropping a 4-1 decision to SEMO and a 5-0 match to #12 Missouri, while posting a 3-1 win over UMKC and an 8-4, come-from-behind victory over Saint Louis. The Panthers swept their four games last weekend at the Jayhawk Classic in Lawrence, Kan., outscoring Kansas, Eastern Illinois and North Dakota State by a combined 31-12 margin. UNI saw its five-game win streak come to an end when it dropped a midweek contest to #14 Missouri by a 2-1 score (March 11).
Follow the Bears
Saturday’s doubleheader will be the first two of eight Missouri State softball games carried live on the airwaves of Meyer Communications this season. Art Hains will have the call on KBFL 1060 AM.
Live stats for all three Bears softball games this weekend will be available on the Missouri State Athletics official web site, www.missouristatebears.com. Additionally, Saturday’s double-header with UNI will be the first Missouri State softball games broadcast live via streaming video on Bears Live, MSU’s new premium broadband video destination for exclusive live and on-demand streaming content. The subscription-based service will include video and audio courtesy of Meyer Communications for eight regular-season MSU softball games in 2009.
This weekend’s series pits the Missouri Valley Conference’s top two defensive clubs against one another; UNI currently leads the MVC with a .976 fielding percentage, while MSU is second in the league with a .969 average
MSU was won 16 of its previous 25 conference openers
Senior shortstop Jessie Smith ranks second in the Missouri Valley Conference in both hitting (.469) and slugging percentage (.755) and third in on-base percentage (.519)
Junior pitcher Lauren McGinley is tied for sixth in the MVC with five wins, while her 2.17 ERA ranks eighth in the circuit
Scouting thE Panthers
The Panthers have been the surprise team in The Valley during the non-conference portion of the season, entering MVC play with a 14-5 mark after being picked 10th in the league’s preseason poll. UNI has posted wins over the likes of Kansas, Arkansas and Drake, while two of their losses have come to ranked opponents (#22 LSU and #14 Missouri).
As a team, UNI’s .296 batting average ranks second in the MVC, while its 2.31 ERA is the third-best in the conference. The Panthers have been the top defensive club in the circuit thus far, posting a .976 fielding percentage through their first 19 games. UNI is also the top slugging team in the league with a .459 slugging percentage and an MVC-best 16 home runs. Junior outfielder Megan Machovec leads the club and ranks third in the league with a .429 batting average. The middle of the Panthers’ lineup features three of the top power threats in the conference in Jen Larsen, Rachel Gerking and Kelly Papesh. The trio has accounted for 12 home runs, with Papesh’s six rating as the top individual total in the MVC. Larsen’s 20 RBIs leads the club, and Gerking’s .365 batting average is second only to Machovec on the squad. In the circle, Larsen’s 1.38 earned-run average is the third-lowest in the MVC, while her 60.2 innings pitched rank second. The junior has already tossed four shutouts in 2009, the top total among all Valley pitchers, in compiling a 6-2 record. Redshirt freshman Melissa Tillett has been solid as the Panthers No. 2 starter, going 4-3 with a 2.59 ERA and five complete games in her first nine starts.
Missouri State enters this weekend’s match-up with a 34-30 edge in the series with UNI. Last year, the Panthers routed the Bears, 7-0, in the two school’s weather-shortened series in Cedar Falls. The Panthers have fared well in their last two trips to Springfield, splitting two games with the Bears in 2007 and taking two of three from MSU in 2005.
Bears under Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 538-508-2 (.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.
Home Sweet Home
Last weekend marked 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.
MSU’s March 7 dedication ceremony included over 40 former players and coaches from all but three of Missouri State’s 40 varsity softball teams. The Bears dropped their first game at their new park, a 4-1 decision to SEMO on March 6, but bounced back to knock off UMKC by a 3-1 score the following day to commemorate the facility’s dedication.
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 March 2. McGinley picked up both Missouri State victories at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., posting 9.2 scoreless innings in all.
McGinley earned a win in relief in MSU’s first game of the day on February 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 five 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 eight long balls in its last seven 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.
MSU continued its homer binge at the All-Missouri Classic, getting another two-run homer from Carr to pull even with Saint Louis in the top of the fifth inning Sunday (March 8), and a two-out, grand slam from Knehans-the first of her career-in the seventh to wrap up an 8-4 win.
Just over 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 on February 27 to push her career total to 23 and also enters this weekend as the program’s career leader in slugging percentage (.547) and No. 4 on the Bears’ all-time runs scored list (107). Smith climbed to into a second-place tie with Christy Serwein on MSU’s career total bases list and needs just four more to equal Diedre Shores’ school record of 283. She is on pace to finish among the Bears’ all-time leaders in hits, at-bats, doubles and runs batted-in.
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 6-2 in such games and 3-5 when failing to total at least three runs. The Bears are now 48-8 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 second 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 .469 batting average and .755 slugging percentage rank second in the conference, while her .519 on-base percentage ranks third. The senior shortstop is tied for fourth in home runs (3) and doubles (5) and tied for third in hits (23), steals (7) and total bases (31). Jenna Schwark is also among the league’s leaders in hitting, entering the weekend ninth with a .395 average. In the circle, Lauren McGinley has the eighth-best earned run average (2.17) and her five wins is tied for the sixth-highest total. Natalie Rose’s 48 strikeouts rank tenth heading into the weekend, while her .214 opponent batting average is the seventh-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 7-2 when scoring first, but just 1-2 when plating a run in the first inning. The Bears have outscored the opposition 8-6 in the first inning, but have been outscored 24-11 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 16 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 head 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.