Softball Begins Conference Play Saturday vs UNI in the Home Opener
March 15, 2013
The Missouri State softball team (9-11) will open up the conference schedule on Saturday with the team's home opener against the reigning MVC regular season champion UNI Panthers (10-15). The Bears completed a 20-game road swing to begin the season and will play the next five games at Killian Stadium.
The Bears offense as a whole has put on a show early in the season. Hitting .299 through 20 games, MSU has already put double-digit runs on the board in three games and leads the Valley with 5.45 runs scored per game. Missouri State racked up a 16-run total in game two at Memphis, the highest output since 2010, and scored seven runs in the top of the sixth all with two outs.
MSU's pitching has come around since some early season woes. The Bears have reeled in wins in each of freshman Jessie Van Es' last two starts. Sophomore Chelsea Jones has eight wins, tied for second in the league. Junior transfer Rachel Brisker, limited to just one outing thus far, picked up the save at SEMO.
Defensively, Missouri State leads the league with a .975 fielding percentage. Despite a few fielding mishaps this week, the Bears were 11th in the country in fielding entering the week.
This week, head coach Holly Hesse pulled into a tie with Kay Brechtelsbauer, former SIU coach, with 633 all-time wins as an MVC coach, the second-most in history. In her 25th season at MSU, Hesse ranks behind only current Illinois State coach Melinda Fischer in wins as a Valley coach.
- Missouri State is 16-13 in conference openers dating back to 1984.
- Junior catcher Stacia Boeckstiegel enters the weekend with a team-best .429 average and seven-game hitting streak. She leads all Valley players with a .474 average against right-handed pitching.
- Senior Stevie Pierce has already set career highs with six home runs, 16 runs scored, 24 RBI and 44 total bases this season.
- Freshman Bethany Sullinger made the most of her first career start by hitting a home run against Toledo (Feb. 23) for her first career hit.
- Freshman Jessie Van Es' steady improvements paid dividends last Thursday as she earned her first victory in an MSU uniform, beating SEMO, 2-1. Junior transfer Rachel Brisker picked up the save in the game, her first action as a Bear.
FOLLOWING THE BEARS
ACROSS THE DIAMOND
600 AND COUNTING
A LEAGUE OF HER OWN
She leads all Bears with six home runs, 24 runs batted in, 44 total bases and eight walks. Her walk against SEMO last Thursday, moved her into fifth all-time with 71 career free bases. Pierce has already set career highs in home runs, RBI, runs scored (16) and total bases. She has a team-high nine multi-RBI games and 11 of her runs batted in have come with two outs.
Fellow senior Stevie Pierce has doubled up on Chapin by crushing six long balls this season, a new career high for a season. Junior Stacia Boeckstiegel joined the bomb squad with her first career two-homer game at Memphis (March 12). Memphis was also kind to Heather Duckworth and Lauren Eisenreich. Eisenreich popped a grand slam to rally the Bears in game two against the Tigers. Freshman Mary Stephens got in on the party, with a birthday bash, two-run shot against Boise State (Feb. 15) and fellow frosh Bethany Sullinger hit a home run for her first career hit against Toledo (Feb. 23). Rebecca McPherson also made a big impact with her first dinger of the season, a three-run homer against UTSA (Feb. 17), snapping a season-opening slump.
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BIG BANG THEORY
Pierce tops the Bears with 24 runs batted in this year, more than any MSU player in all of 2012. She drove in at least one run in seven of the first eight games of the year.
Not to be outdone, Chapin had an RBI in each of the first six games of the season. It marks her career high for consecutive games with an RBI, besting a feat she attained from March 26 through April 2, 2010 of five consecutive games with an RBI.
GETTING THAT FIRST HIT OUT OF THE WAY
Sophomore Ali Trickey also singled against Kennesaw State on opening day. She scored twice in that game as well, a career high.
It didn't take long for freshman Mary Stephens to get comfortable with collegiate softball. She laced a two-run single down the third base line in her first game against Coastal Carolina on Friday, February 8. She followed that up with her first two-hit performance against the Chanticleers on Saturday, February 9, including a double, her first extra-base hit. Then for Stephens' encore, she blasted her first career home run, a two-run shot, against Boise State on February 15.
Freshman Bethany Sullinger didn't take long to make na impact either. In her first career start on February 23 agaisnt Toledo, she laid down a perfect squeeze bunt for an RBI. In her next at-bat, she blasted a two-run home run for her first career hit.
Fellow freshman Braxton Coil became the second Bear this season to begin her career with an extra-base hit. Coil roped a double to right-center at SIU Edwardsville (March 13) for her first MSU base knock.
Last season, Brentz and Pierce tied with 29 walks each, the fourth-best single season totals in school history.
STEALTHY ON THE BASES
The base running has been stellar for MSU as well. Twice on opening weekend, and again at Memphis (March 12), Bears' runners eluded the tag at the plate to score on bang-bang plays.
CAREER DAY 2013
There isn't much senior Stevie Pierce hasn't accomplished to date in her career. However, in the game at Chattanooga on February 24, she set career bests with three hits and three runs scored.
Junior Stacia Boeckstiegel brought her A-game against ACC opponent Georgia Tech (Feb. 9). She pelted the left side of the field with her first multi-hit game, going 3-for-3 with two singles and a double, all to the left side. She continued to come up big at the plate with her first three-RBI game at Chattanooga on Feb. 24. Then at Memphis, Boeckstiegel jacked two home runs in game one and scored twice in each game of the twin bill, both career bests.
Fellow junior Heather Duckworth drove in three runs against the Yellow Jackets. It was her third career three-RBI game as she accomplished that feat twice last season (April 3 at UMKC; April 6 vs. Bradley). Duckworth continued her impressive plate performance with a three-hit outing against Iowa State (Feb. 16) and scored three runs versus UTSA (Feb.17), both career-bests.
In the circle, sophomore pitcher Chelsea Jones fanned six Chanticleers in the season opener (Feb. 8), besting her five-strikeout performance from last season at Eastern Illinois (March 22).
Ali Trickey crossed the plate twice against Kennesaw State on Friday, February 8. She had 11 runs scored in her freshman campaign, but the game against KSU was her first multi-run game.
Junior Kerri Cunningham had a break-out weekend at the UTSA Classic. She had a career-best two stolen bases against Boise State (Feb. 15). She also had her first career multi-RBI games, accomplishing the feat against Iowa State (Feb. 16) and UTSA (Feb. 17).
Rebecca McPherson's home run against UTSA (Feb. 17) not only ended a season-opening slump, but the three-run shot was a career best RBI performance. McPherson then had a career high two runs score at Memphis (March 12).
MSU will play seven more games against teams that participated in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. MSU will host Missouri for a doubleheader at Killian Stadium on April 3. Missouri State will be on the road to face the other NCAA Tournament teams at Arkansas, Tulsa and Illinois State (3 games).
MVC PRESEASON POLL