Softball to open conference campaign



The Missouri State softball team will open Missouri Valley Conference play against Creighton this weekend in Springfield. The teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game Sunday, with both days beginning at 12 noon at the MSU Softball Field. The Bears split a doubleheader with North Dakota State on Tuesday, losing game one, 3-1, and taking the nightcap, 5-1.

on the Radio  All three games of the Bears’ series with Creighton will be broadcast on KBFL 99.9 FM and 1060 AM in Springfield. Art Haines will provide the play-by-play.

The opponents  Creighton is 14-5 on the season after going 3-1 this week. The Bluejays swept a doubleheader Wednesday at Missouri-Kansas City, winning by scores of 8-0 and 6-0. As the Bears did Tuesday, Creighton split two games with North Dakota State on Thursday, winning game one, 1-0, and falling to the Bison in the nightcap, 3-0, in nine innings.

The Bears dropped a 6-0 decision to Creighton at the Holiday Inn Select Tulsa Festival (2/23) earlier this season. In the game, Creighton’s Jessica German hit a two-run home run in the top of the second inning to give the Bluejays an early 2-0 lead. Missouri State answered in the bottom of the fourth with a Melissa Porche solo homer, to cut the deficit to 2-1. Creighton responded in the top of the fifth, as Bailey Dawson singled, scoring two runners to put the Bluejays up 4-1. The teams were even with six hits each in the game, as Dusti Foster led the Bears with a 2-for-2 game at the plate. Freshman Megan Ramsey took her first collegiate loss on the mound, allowing four runs on six hits in 4.2 innings.

Creighton is led offensively by sophomore Bailey Dawson and junior TJ Eadus, who combined have 11 home runs and 34 RBIs. On the mound, Tara Oltman leads the way with an 8-2 record and 1.24 ERA in 50.2 innings. The Bluejays’ 1.54 team ERA is the best in the MVC during the nonconference season.

Series records Creighton now holds a 36-22 all-time advantage over Missouri State in the series after their win over the Bears earlier in the season. The teams did not play a year ago, as rain forced the cancellation of the teams’ weekend series in Omaha. Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse is 20-29 against her alma mater. Hesse was a standout pitcher at Creighton from 1979-82, where she became the first 20-win hurler in school history and led the Bluejays to three consecutive College World Series appearances.

Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 491-462-2 (.515) in her 19th season at Missouri State. Last season, Hesse led the Bears to a school-record 40 wins and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. 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 400th career game at Missouri State on March 20, 2004, in a 9-1 victory over Indiana State at the Missouri State Softball Field, and is 9 wins away from 500. She ranks 49th among active head coaches in career wins. The Missouri State Bears are playing in their 39th season and have an all-time record of 870-698-2.

Bears split with NDSU The Missouri State softball team split two games against North Dakota State Tuesday (3/13) at the Missouri State Softball Field, losing game one, 3-1, and winning the nightcap, 5-1.

Sophomore Jessie Smith gave the Bears an early lead with one swing of the bat in game one, as the shortstop blasted a solo home run to center field in the bottom of the first to put MSU ahead 1-0. Starting pitcher Melissa Porche was able to hold the NDSU batters in check until the fifth inning, when the Bison scored two runs on four consecutive hits to take a 2-1 lead. Two doubles in the sixth inning led to another NDSU run to stretch the lead to 3-1. The Bears had a hit in each of the final two innings, but were unable to close the deficit. North Dakota State outhit the Bears, 9-5, in the game. Porche (7-6) suffered the defeat, allowing three runs on nine hits in seven innings, while striking out four.

Missouri State again jumped to an early lead in game two, as sophomore Elysha Swider doubled to score junior Lacie Ballard in the second inning to put the Bears up 1-0. MSU tacked on a run in the fifth, as the Bears notched three consecutive singles capped by Kempker’s RBI single to increase the lead to 2-0. Missouri State blew the game open in the sixth, as Swider reached on an error with two outs to start the rally. Freshmen Lauren McGinley and Dusti Foster recorded back-to-back singles, with Swider scoring on Foster’s hit. Katie Martin then stepped in and ripped a two-run double off the left field wall to extend the lead to 5-0.

A NDSU solo homer in the top of the seventh spoiled Ramsey’s shutout, but the freshman was very impressive for the second consecutive outing for the Bears, allowing only three hits in the complete game effort. Ramsey struck out four and walked one, as she evened her record at 4-4 on the season.

Martin was outstanding in both facets of the game, as the senior centerfielder made three outstanding plays in the field, including a diving catch to end the game, and led the  Bears with a 2-for-4 performance at the plate. Foster also recorded a two-hit game for Missouri State, as the Bears outhit NDSU 8-3.

Powerful Porche   Missouri State junior pitcher Melissa Porche led the country last season with seven saves and pitched 16 complete games as a starter, as she went 17-8 with a 2.17 ERA. So far this season, Porche is 7-6 with a 2.12 ERA in 85.2 innings of work. She currently ranks second in the MVC with 92 strikeouts and is tied for second with 18 appearances.

The Buena Park, Calif., native pitched a no-hitter in the championship game of the Central Arkansas Lead-Off Tournament against host UCA, as the Bears captured the tournament title with a 6-0 victory. Porche took a perfect game into the seventh inning before walking the leadoff batter. The righthander struck out 11 in the game and 33 during the tournament as she went 3-0 and was voted to the all-tournament team. She also threw a complete game one-hitter against Central Arkansas (2/10) in the teams’ first meeting. Porche picked up two wins at the Holiday Inn Select Tulsa Festival, including her third complete game shutout of the season in the Bears’ 7-0 victory over Stephen F. Austin (2/23). Last week against UMKC, the hurler picked up her fourth complete game shutout of the season, allowing only three hits, as the Bears defeated the Kangaroos, 6-0, in game one of the doubleheader.

At the plate, Porche currently owns a five-game hit streak to tie for the longest of the season on the team. She is hitting .246 with 14 hits, four doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, 27 total bases, and 11 runs scored.

New position, same Results   Two of Missouri State’s returning all-conference selections from last season are making position changes in 2007. First Team All-MVC selection Jessie Smith has moved from right field to shortstop and Katie Martin has relocated from left field to center field. The new position has not changed the pair’s offensive production, as the two have led the Bears’ offensive attack so far this season.

Martin leads the team with 22 hits, 15 RBIs, five doubles, two triples, 18 runs, 16 walks, and 43 total bases. She is also tied for the team’s best batting average at .333, leads the Bears with a .652 slugging percentage, and has a team-best eight multi-hit games. Martin’s 16 base on balls are second-most in the Valley, and her runs scored, on-base percentage, RBIs, doubles, triples, and total bases are in the top 10 in the league.  The senior from Baldwin City, Kan., was the offensive star in the Bears’ 7-0 victory over Stephen F. Austin (2/23), going 2-for-3 with a second-inning grand slam and a sixth-inning RBI double. Martin also launched a solo homer in both games of the SLU Cancer Center Classic (3/4), in a win against Southeast Missouri State and a loss to Saint Louis. In game two of a doubleheader against UMKC (3/7), Martin was 2-for-2 and reached base four times, stole three bases, and scored two runs.

Smith is 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts to lead the team and the MVC, and she is second on the Bears’ squad behind Martin with 19 hits, 13 RBIs, 17 runs scored, 34 total bases, and 12 walks. The Blue Springs, Mo., native is third on the team with a .523 slugging percentage. The sophomore had three hits, including a pair of two-run homers, and scored three runs in Missouri State’s 20-4 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff Feb. 11 at the Central Arkansas Lead-Off Tournament.

Smith and Martin are two of only three Bears to have started every game this season. The duo is tied for the team lead in home runs, as each have four on the season. The two have made easy transitions to their new positions as Smith and Martin have posted .983 and .972 fielding percentages, respectively. Smith leads the team with 35 assists and has shown great range and a strong arm. Martin has made multiple highlight-reel plays, including a fully-extended diving catch for the final out of the Bears’ 5-1 victory over North Dakota State (3/13).

Fab Four frosh   Missouri State has four freshmen on its roster, and each has played a significant role this season. Lauren McGinley has started every game for the Bears, 20 at first base and two on the mound. The Oklahoma City, Okla., native has seven hits with five RBIs and three runs scored, and is errorless in 121 fielding chances. Jodie Shead has started all but four games this season, including 17 in left field. A graduate of softball powerhouse Lafayette High in Wildwood, Mo., Shead is tied for the team lead with three sacrifice bunts, is second on the team with four doubles, and ranks fourth on the squad with 13 hits. Dusti Foster has started 20 of 22 games at second base for the Bears, picking up eight hits, two doubles, six runs, and 10 total bases. The Stroud, Okla., native has two multi-hit games, including a 2-for-3 performance with an RBI single and run scored in game two of the doubleheader against North Dakota State (3/13). Pitcher Megan Ramsey has started eight games and appeared in 13 contests, and has a 4-4 record. The Ottawa, Kan., native has emerged as the number two starter for the Bears and has a 2.64 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 50.1 innings. Ramsey has been outstanding in her last two starts, as she has thrown consecutive complete game three-hitters, including her first collegiate shutout against UMKC (3/7). She has lowered her ERA from 3.47 to 2.64 in those two starts, picking up the win in both contests.

Backstop combo   The Bears will utilize two catchers throughout the season with sophomore Jen Carr and junior Lacie Ballard. So far this season, the pair has each started 11 games behind the plate. A native of Lomita, Calif., Carr has no errors in 68 chances, and is third on the team with nine walks. She hit her first career home run, a two-run shot, against Southeast Missouri State (3/4) in a 10-4 MSU victory. Carr has also started two games as the designated hitter. Ballard is hitting .261 with 12 hits, three doubles, a triple, and five RBIs. The St. Louis, Mo., native is third on the team with 14 runs scored. Ballard has four multi-hit games to tie for second-most on the team. She has also made five starts as the designated hitter. Behind the plate, she is 78 of 81 in fielding chances and has thrown own five on the base paths.

Armentrout returns   Junior third baseman Michelle Armentrout returned to the Bears’ lineup against UMKC (3/7) following a nine-game absence due to an injury. The Broken Arrow, Okla., native had a hit and RBI in both games against UMKC. In 13 starts this season, Armentrout has a .316 batting average with 12 hits, three doubles, a triple and a home run. Her .526 slugging percentage ranks second on the team and her 20 total bases are fourth-best. Armentrout was named to the season-opening UCA Lead-Off Classic all-tournament team, as she was 8-for-15 with two doubles, a triple, a home run, and five RBIs in the five games. In the season opener against Jackson State (2/10), the junior hit a three-run triple to account for all the scoring as the Bears won 3-2.

Shewmaker shines   While filling in for the injured Michelle Armentrout at third base from Feb. 25 through Mar. 4, Jana Shewmaker provided the Bears with an offensive spark. The junior from Buffalo, Mo., hit .360 with nine hits, 13 RBIs, and 16 total bases in the nine games she started during this time. Making her first starts of the season at third base at the Holiday Inn Select Tulsa Festival, Shewmaker led the Bears with nine RBIs and a .455 batting average in the tournament. She went 3-for-4 with five RBIs in the Bears’ 14-6 victory over Eastern Illinois (2/24). The third baseman also led the team with 11 assists in the tournament, as she earned all-tournament honors. Shewmaker led the Bears with four RBIs in their 10-4 victory over Southeast Missouri State (3/4), which included a two-run double and her first homer as a Bear, a two-run shot, in the second.

Since Armentrout’s return, Shewmaker has been primarily used as the team’s designated hitter. While starting only 13 of the team’s 23 games this season, Shewmaker is tied for second on the team with 13 RBIs. Her .297 batting average and .486 slugging percentage rank fourth on the team. She has accumulated 11 hits, two doubles, a triple, and 18 total bases this season.  

Bean Ball   Brooke Kempker leads the Valley in a category she’d rather not-- hit by pitch. The sophomore outfielder from Jefferson City, Mo., has been hit seven times this season in 46 plate appearances, which is nearly once every six times she steps to the plate. Kempker, who has started 13 games and played in 17, leads the Bears with a .478 on-base percentage and is tied for the team-lead with a .333 batting average.

One-run Setbacks   Missouri State has not had much luck in one-run games this season, as the Bears are 1-5 in games decided by one run. MSU lost decisions of 2-1 to Centenary (2/18), 3-2 to Eastern Illinois (2/25), 6-5 to Tulsa (2/25), 1-0 to Oklahoma State (2/28) and 3-2 to Saint Louis (3/4). The Bears’ lone one-run victory came in the season-opener, a 3-2 win over Jackson State (2/10).

Early Offense   The Bears are 11-2 this season when scoring the first run of the game, and 9-1 when tallying a run in the first inning. On the contrast, MSU is 0-10 when their opponent scores first, including an 0-7 mark when the opposition scores in the first inning.

Hit or Miss   The recipe for a Missouri State victory this season has been simple: outhit the opponent. When the Bears outhit their oppositions, they are 11-0. However, when opponents equal or surpass MSU’s hit total in a game, the Bears are 0-12.

IN the Record Books Several current players have etched their names into the Missouri State softball record books. As a freshman last season, Jessie Smith scored 40 runs and hit eight home runs to rank third for a single season in each category. Her 87 total bases are also sixth-most all-time. Michelle Armentrout recorded 138 assists from third base last season 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 Thirteen 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), and Deanna Keim (graduate assistant- Central Missouri). Also included are Samantha Fleeman (volunteer assistant) and Shannon Buslepp (student assistant) at Missouri State; both were members of last years’ 40-win team.

MVC Preseason Poll   The Missouri State softball team was picked to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason coaches poll. The Bears accumulated 57 points, finishing behind Wichita State (71 points), Southern Illinois (83 points), and preseason favorite  and defending regular season champion Illinois State (86 points). Creighton was picked fifth, followed by Indiana State, Bradley, Drake, Evansville, and Northern Iowa. Senior centerfielder Katie Martin, junior pitcher Melissa Porche, and sophomore shortstop Jessie Smith were all-MVC selections a season ago. Smith was only the second freshman in school history to be named to the first team, while Martin and Porche were second-team picks. However, no Bears were selected to the 2007 MVC preseason all-conference team.

UP Next Next week, Missouri State will hit the road for MVC contests at Wichita State and Bradley. The Bears will play a doubleheader in Wichita on Wednesday, March 21, and will play a three-game series in Peoria Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25.



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