Softball Opens Conference Play against Illinois State Friday
Heather Duckworth drove in a run in the Bears' MVC Tournament win over ISU last May.
Heather Duckworth drove in a run in the Bears' MVC Tournament win over ISU last May.

March 15, 2012

Illinois State Series NotesGet Acrobat Reader

The Missouri State softball team (9-6) opens conference play this weekend with the preseason league favorite, Illinois State (13-12), coming to town. Last year, the Bears knocked the top-seeded Redbirds out of the MVC Tournament in the semifinal round with a 4-2 victory. It was the Bears' fourth-straight MVC Tournament victory over Illinois State.

The Bears enter the weekend off back-to-back setbacks, the first consecutive losses of the season. Regular season matchups with Illinois State hasn't been kind the Bears as well. MSU last beat Illinois State in a regular game in 2009 and the last home regular season win came on March 22, 2008.

Illinois State has knocked off two top-25 teams in recent weeks, but Missouri State gave then-No. 13 Missouri a tough test two weeks ago.

Quick Hits
- The last time Missouri State and Illinois State faced each other in a conference opener was 1988 when both teams competed in the Gateway Conference.

- Missouri State had its longest home winning streak at Killian Stadium snapped at eight games in game two last Saturday vs. Iowa State.

- Missouri State is 16-12 in conference openers dating back to 1984.

- Senior hurler Natalie Rose has struck out 66 batters while issuing just five walks in 56.1 innings this season. With her 10-strikeout performance against Central Arkansas on Wednesday, Rose has three double-digit strikeout games this season.

- Junior Stevie Pierce batted .500 (7-for-14) over the past two weekends. She has raised her season average 144 points over those six games.

- Sophomore Ashley Brentz continued her offensive tear by collecting both Bears' hits at UCA on Wednesday. She has hit safely in nine of MSU's 15 games and leads the team in nearly every offensive category.


Video: Bears All-Access, visit to subscribe.

Audio: KBFL-AM 1060, on Saturday, March 17

GameTracker: GameTracker will be provided for all home Missouri State softball games including this weekend's three-game series against Illinois State. Fans can follow along by clicking the GameTracker link on the softball schedule page at

Illinois State Redbirds: The last meeting between the Bears and Redbirds, Missouri State knocked off the top-seeded Redbirds in the MVC Tournament semifinals. It was the fourth consecutive Bears win over ISU in the MVC Tournament. This season despite a 13-12 record, Illinois State has defeated two top-25 teams at neutral sites. ISU beat #10/11 Baylor on March 3 in Orlando, Fla. and #14 Michigan last weekend in Louisville, Ky.

Senior pitcher Natalie Rose struck out Southeast Missouri State's Taylor Cowan to end the fourth inning on Sunday, March 4 for strikeout number 500 of her career. She sits fourth on the all-time Missouri State list in the category. Rose leads all active Valley pitchers with 523 strikeouts with Jordan Birch of Illinois State the only other MVC pitcher with more than 400 strikeouts (484).

Head Coach Holly Hesse won her 600th game at the helm of the softball Bears in her 24th season at MSU in a season-opening 7-2 win against Sam Houston State (February 17). With an overall record of 608-589-2, Hesse entered the season tied for 40th on the all-time victories list among active coaches.

Thirteen Missouri State home softball games will be broadcast on radio and/or television this season. Beginning with the home opener, 11 home games will air on KBFL-AM 1060 while three games can be seen on MediaCom.

2012 Broadcast schedule
Date - Opponent - Media Outlet
March 10 - Iowa State (gm 1 only) - KBFL-am 1060
March 11 - Iowa State - MediaCom TV
March 17 - Illinois State (gm 1 only) - KBFL-am 1060
March 20 - Kansas (DH) - KBFL-am 1060
April 6 - Bradley (DH) - KBFL-am 1060
April 7 - Bradley - MediaCom TV
April 14 - SIU (gm 1 only) - KBFL-am 1060
April 18 - Wichita State (DH) - KBFL-am 1060
April 28 - Indiana State (gm 1 only) - KBFL-am 1060
May 2 - Arkansas - KBFL-am 1060 & MediaCom TV

Several returning Missouri State players have had career days already this season. Sophomore Ashley Brentz had her first career four-hit game on opening day (February 17) against Sam Houston State and stole her first base. It was the first four-hit performance by a Bear since another second baseman, Christa Gammon, had four hits in game one of a doubleheader against UNI on May 8, 2010. Pitcher Savannah Wiggins had a career-high five strikeouts and hit her first career home run versus SHSU.

On that Sunday (February 19), senior Raeven Replogle had a career-best three-RBI game against South Dakota State. Junior Caitlin Chapin had two stolen bases and sophomore Heather Duckworth scored two runs, both career highs.

At the Blues City Classic in Memphis, Tenn., Brentz and Kirstin Cutter each recorded their first multi-RBI games of their careers. Both feats occurred on Saturday (February 25) as Cutter drove in both runs in the Bears' 2-1 win over Miami (OH). In the nightcap, Brentz drove in two of the four runs in MSU's 4-1 win over SEMO.

Pitcher Natalie Rose had her streak of consecutive innings without issuing a walk snapped at 31.2 when she issued a free pass in the fourth inning of the February 26 game vs. Western Illinois. Rose has allowed just five bases on balls this season, the fewest walks per game ratio in the Valley. The last walk Rose had issued came in the second inning of the State Farm MVC Tournament Championship game versus Drake on May 14, 2011.

The Bears began the season as road warriors with three-straight tournaments and the first 12 games being played away from Killian Stadium. Missouri State went 8-4 in the season-opening raod swing.

This weekend marks the fourth straight week the Bears will face either a Big 12, SEC or 2011 NCAA Tournament team. Thus far MSU has victories over Memphis and Iowa State, while suffering a tough loss to No. 13 Missouri and Iowa State. In all the Bears will play 11 games against feisty foes (Memphis, 1; Missouri, 1; Iowa State, 2; Illinois State, 3; Kansas, 2; Tulsa, 1; Arkansas, 1). The first seven games at Killian Stadium will be against Big 12 opponents or 2011 NCAA Tournament participants.

The Bears were picked to finish fourth in the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference coaches' preseason poll. Defending regular season champion Illinois State is favored with UNI and Southern Illinois sandwiched between ISU and the Bears.

After sweeping through the MVC Tournament in 2011, the Bears will be tasked with repeating that feat in Carbondale, Ill., as SIU will host the 2012 Championship. Missouri State earned its sixth title last season, tied for the most by any school. Hesse has 45 of the Bears' 67 wins in the MVC Tournament, both totals are the best in the Valley.



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