Softball Bears Look to Rebound Against Oklahoma State
Missouri State Bears (9-10, 0-3 MVC)
When: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 Where: Killian Softball Stadium (springfield, mo.)
Radio: None Live Stats: www.missouristatebears.com
The Missouri State Bears will be looking to rebound after being swept this past weekend in its MVC-opening series against UNI with a pair of non-conference home match-ups with Big 12 foes Oklahoma State and Iowa State this week before embarking on their first road trip of the conference season at Indiana State. The Bears will square off against OSU on Tuesday (March 17) at 5 p.m., and Iowa State on Thursday at 4 p.m., at Killian Softball Stadium in Springfield. MSU will then head to Terre Haute, Ind., for a Saturday (March 21) Noon doubleheader, followed by a single game Sunday (March 22), also slated for a 12 p.m. first pitch.
The Bears (9-10, 0-3 MVC) will try and stop a season-high three-game skid after running into a buzz saw of a UNI offense that accumulated 34 runs and 38 hits in its weekend series with MSU. Oklahoma State comes into the week with a 21-6 overall mark and wins in 16 of its last 18 contests. After a 13-2 start to the season, Iowa State has dropped 11 of its last 14 games, including five straight coming into the week. Indiana State just finished a 2-1 weekend at Wichita State to open MVC play and enters the week with a 6-9 overall mark.
Follow the Bears
Thursday’s game with Iowa State will be the third 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 five Bears softball games this week will be available on the Missouri State Athletics official web site, www.missouristatebears.com. Additionally, Thursday’s contest with Iowa State will be 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, as well as audio courtesy of Meyer Communications for eight select regular-season MSU softball games in 2009.
Despite matching a season high with three errors in its second game against UNI (March 14) and committing four total miscues in last weekend’s series, MSU remains second in The Valley with a .966 fielding average
MSU was swept in a three-game, MVC-opening series for the second time in three seasons, but just the third time ever last weekend
Senior shortstop Jessie Smith continues to swing a hot bat for the Bears, ranking second in the Missouri Valley Conference in both hitting (.474) and slugging percentage (.772) and third in on-base percentage (.523)
The Bears were outhit in each of their three losses to UNI last weekend and by a combined 38-24 margin in the series; MSU is 6-1 in games in which it outhits the opposition, but just 3-9 when it fails to do so
Scouting thE Cowgirls
The Cowgirls have been solid in all phases of the game in compiling a 21-6 record thus far in 2009. Oklahoma State has been particularly strong in the circle, registering the second-best team earned run average in the Big 12 (1.58) and 13 shutouts through its first 27 games. Junior right-hander Anna Whiddon leads the staff with an 11-4 mark and 1.28 ERA, while No. 2 starter Sarah Odom has been nearly as effective, going 8-1 with a 2.09 ERA. OSU’s offense enters the week with a .286 batting average, paced by the Big 12’s leading run-producer in second baseman Alysia Hamilton. The sophomore has a league-high 35 RBIs entering the week to go along with a .381 batting average. Sophomore shortstop Mariah Gearhart has been the chief beneficiary of Hamilton’s hitting prowess, totaling the second-most runs scored (32) in the conference while registering a team-high .495 on-base percentage, good for fifth in the league. She is also one of the Big 12’s top base-stealing threats with 20 successful steals in 21 attempts this season.
Scouting thE Cyclones
Iowa State’s strength centers on a pitching staff that has compiled a 1.92 earned run average while handing out a Big 12-low 1.16 walks per seven innings. Keying the Cyclones attack is sophomore right-hander Rachel Zabriskie, who held the Bears to just one unearned run and four hits in a complete-game effort on Feb. 20 in ISU’s 6-1 victory. Zabriskie has completed 15 of her 16 starts and comes into the week with a 9-9 record and 1.11 ERA, the fourth-lowest mark in the conference. ISU’s second starter, junior Charissa Carlin has also been strong in 2009, coming into the week with a 7-4 mark and 3.26 ERA in 13 starts. At the plate, the Cyclones are hitting .259 as a team, led by Kelsey Kidwell’s .305 mark. The junior outfielder has team highs of 32 hits and 20 runs scored through the first 29 games of the season. Junior catcher Alex Johnson has driven in a team-best 20 runs, while junior infielder Sydni Jones has been the Cyclones top power threat, clubbing three homers to date. Sophomore Carleigh Berry teamed up with senior Jacquelyn Beatty to drive home five runs in ISU’s win over the Bears at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic earlier this season.
Scouting thE sycamores
Indiana State picked up a pair of road wins at Wichita State to start MVC play last weekend to halt a six-game losing streak. ISU started the season 4-3, including a victory over preseason Valley favorite Creighton, before seeing its offense falter and score just 11 runs over the course of its six-game slide. The Sycamore offense is led by a pair of senior standouts in Meredith Simpson and Katie Armour. Simpson was an All-MVC pick a year ago after finishing second in the league with 11 homers and sixth in the batting race with a .359 average. This year, ISU’s shortstop is nearly on pace with last year’s performance, batting .358 with a pair of home runs through the first third of the season. Armour has been even better, hitting a team-high .438 to rank fourth in The Valley to go along with 16 RBIs and a .472 on-base percentage, both also among the top marks in the MVC. Senior pitcher Darcy Wood is the Sycamores ace in the circle, coming into the week with a 4-5 record and the conference’s third-highest strikeout total (76) in 2009.
Missouri State enters the week with a .500 or better record against two of its three opponents. The Bears have split their previous 12 meetings with Iowa State, including a 6-1 loss (Feb. 20) earlier this season at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic. MSU has dominated the series with Indiana State, taking 42 of the previous 60 contests from the Sycamores. Oklahoma State has defeated the Bears 17 times in 22 outings, including a doubleheader sweep in its last trip to Springfield two years ago.
Bears under Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 538-511-2 (.513) 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
The 2009 season marks 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.
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.
A Not So Fine How-Do-You-Do
UNI used a string of big innings to sweep its three-game series with the Bears to open MVC play this past weekend. The Panthers outscored MSU by a 34-14 margin over the three games, setting a Missouri State opponent record for both total runs scored and total scoring margin in a conference series. In their 477 previous conference games in 25 Valley seasons, the Bears had allowed the opposition to score 11 runs or more in a single game just seven times. UNI accomplished the feat in all three contests, besting the Bears by scores of 12-5, 11-5 and 11-4. The Panthers’ 34 runs also represented the highest successive three-game total on record for a Missouri State opponent.
On the bright side
The Bears’ offense did display several reasons to be optimistic last weekend. Missouri State recorded 24 hits and nine walks in the three-game set with UNI. MSU came into the series ranked seventh in the conference in hits, averaging just 6.8 safeties per game, and ninth in walks, with just 28 total bases-on-balls in its first 16 games. Additionally, the Bears came into Valley play averaging just 3.4 runs per outing before tallying 14 (4.67 per game) in the series with the Panthers.
Bears Go Deep
After hitting just two home runs in its first nine games of the season, Missouri State has clubbed nine long balls in its last 10 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 one-third 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 the week as the program’s career leader in slugging percentage (.552) and total bases after surpassing Deidre Shores’ career mark of 283 with her first-inning single in the Bears’ second game of last weekend versus UNI (3/14). Smith is also No. 4 on the Bears’ all-time runs scored list (107 and 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 7-5 in such games and 2-5 when failing to total at least three runs. The Bears are now 49-11 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 .966 fielding percentage, good for second in the MVC.
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 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 15. Jessie Smith’s .474 batting average and .772 slugging percentage rank second in the conference, while her .523 on-base percentage ranks third. The senior shortstop is third in doubles (6), fourth in hits (27) and total bases (44), faith in steals (7) and triples (1), ninth in home runs (3) and tenth in runs scored (14). Jenna Schwark is also among the league’s leaders in runs scored, entering the week tied for seventh with 16. In the circle, Lauren McGinley’s nine starts is eighth in The Valley and her five wins is the eighth-highest total in the MVC. Natalie Rose’s 54 strikeouts rank tenth heading into the week, while her 13 appearances rank fourth in the circuit.
fab frosh Now Super Sophs
Missouri State will be looking for even bigger things from a talented sophomore class that made an immediate impact for the Bears in 2008. Ashley Knehans clubbed three home runs and finished fourth on the team with 14 runs batted in. Her RBI-single was the game-winner in the Bears’ 3-2 victory over No. 11 Oklahoma (3/19). Leadoff hitter Christa Gammon led the team in steals with eight in 11 attempts, while Jenna Schwark was MSU’s fourth-leading hitter with a .259 batting average and a team-high nine sacrifice hits. Tyler Porter made 40 starts in the Bears’ outfield and scored 17 runs, good for fourth on the club.
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 7-4 when scoring first, but just 1-5 when plating a run in the first inning. The Bears have outscored the opposition 16-8 in the first inning, but have been outscored 35-11 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 19 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.