Bears Enter Six-Game Road Swing



The Missouri State softball team will play a single game at Wichita State Tuesday (March 25) at 4 p.m., followed by a doubleheader Wednesday (March 26) at Kansas beginning at 3 p.m. The Bears, 14-5 overall and 3-2 in MVC play, will face conference foe Drake in a Noon doubleheader Saturday (March 29) in Des Moines, Iowa, followd by a single game Sunday (March 30) starting at Noon.

The Bears enter the busy week with momentum from winning two of three conference games against 2007 NCAA qualifier Illinois State this past weekend (3/21-22) and defeating No. 11 Oklahoma 3-2 Wednesday (March 19) at Norman, Okla.

The Shockers Wichita State enters today’s (March 25) game against Missouri State with a 22-12 overall record and 4-2 MVC mark. The Shockers finished fourth in the conference in 2007 with a 18-9 mark. Wichita State returns 10 letterwinners from last year’s 37-28 squad.

The Jayhawks Kansas enters Wednesday’s (March 26) doubleheader against the Bears with a 23-8 overall record, their best start since 1992. The Jayhawks finished seventh in the Big 12 Conference in 2007 with a 7-11 mark. Kansas returns 13 letterwinners from last year’s 33-24-1 squad.

The Bulldogs Drake State enters the weekend (March 25-26) series against Missouri State with a 12-13 overall record and tied with the Bears at 3-2 MVC action. The Bulldogs finished ninth in the conference in 2007 with a 6-17 mark. Drake returns 10 letterwinners from last year’s 16-36 squad.

Series records Missouri State leads the series with Wichita State by a 43-37 margin. The Bears won 2-of-3 games against Wichita State in 2007. Kansas owns a comanding 68-16 record in games against the Bears. The Jayhawks shut out the Bears in both games of a 2007 doubleheader. Missouri State is 37-32-1 in games against Drake. The Bears lost 2-of-3 games against the Bulldogs in 2007.

Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 515-484-2 (.515) in her 20th season at Missouri State. Last season, the Bears finished 21-29 overall. 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. 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 500th career game at Missouri State in a 1-0 triumph over Indiana State on April 22, 2007. She joined only Illinois State’s Melinda Fischer in the MVC and an elite group of 41 active head coaches with 500 Division I wins. The Missouri State Bears are playing in their 40th season and have an all-time record of 894-720-2 (.554).

Last Time out -- The Missouri State softball team’s two-out, six-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning broke up a scoreless duel and sent the Bears to a 6-0 victory in their series finale against Illinois State Saturday (March 22) at MSU Softball Field in Springfield. Senior third baseman Michelle Armentrout doubled home three runs to highlight the decisive frame, and senior pitcher Melissa Porche was dominant on the mound once again, striking out 11 Redbirds to notch her eighth win of the year.

Porche (8-3), who fanned 14 Illinois State batters in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, struck out the side in the top of the first Saturday and retired 16 of the first 17 batters she faced in all to give Missouri State’s offense time to click. She limited ISU to just two hits on the afternoon in her eighth complete game and third shutout of the season.

Illinois State’s Rachel Smith followed up a two-hit shutout on Friday with four more shutout innings to start Saturday’s game. But MSU’s offense finally shook off the rust in the fifth, putting the first two batters on via an infield single from Jana Shewmaker and a fielder’s choice on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Jenna Schwark. Following a Jen Carr sacrifice, Smith issued an intentional walk to pinch hitter Ashley Knehans to load the bases. The Redbirds’ strategy paid off initially when Tyler Porter slapped a grounder to Kara Nelson at third who promptly threw home to retire the lead runner for the second out. But Christa Gammon drew a four-pitch walk to drive home Schwark with the game’s first run, and Armentrout blasted a bases-clearing double to right-center field to break the contest wide open.

Junior shortstop Jessie Smith capped the scoring with a two-run blast over the centerfield fence for her first homer of the season and the 16th of her Missouri State career, moving her into a tie for fourth-place on the Bears’ all-time home run list.

The Redbirds (11-12 overall, 1-2 MVC) threatened in the top of the sixth when they put runners on second and third with one out. But Porche got Tiffany Prager to line to Armentrout at third, who easily doubled-off Katie Mathis at third to end the inning.

Porche retired the side in order in the seventh to lock up her 49th career victory at Missouri State. The win moved the Buena Park, Calif., native into a tie with Shannon Buslepp for third on MSU’s career victory list.

Smith (3-2) was tagged with the loss for the Redbirds after giving up five runs on three hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.

The Bears rallied from a two-run deficit to pick up a 3-2 win in the first game of the two teams doubleheader on Friday (March 21), before the Redbirds powered up for an 8-0 victory in the nightcap.

The Bears came back from a 2-0 hole in the first contest, plating the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth on freshman Porter’s infield single. After Schwark singled to start the inning, Brooke Kempker laid down a sacrifice bunt and Gammon grounded back to the mound to advance the runner to third. Porter followed with a slow roller between the pitcher and second baseman and beat the throw to first to score Schwark with the go-ahead run.

Porche registered yet another standout performance, turning in her seventh complete game in nine starts this season. In all, she struck out 14 Redbirds on the afternoon to improve to 7-3.

Illinois State jumped out to an early lead in the contest courtesy of a two-run homer by Casey Gorrell in the top of the second inning. Michelle Henderson was hit by a Porche delivery to lead off the frame and, with one out, Gorrell lined a shot over the right-center field fence to give the Redbirds the lead.

But that would be all the offense ISU would get, as Porche settled into a groove and allowed just three more hits the rest of the way, squashing the Redbirds’ final rally attempt in the seventh by fanning the last two hitters of the game. She allowed only five hits and two walks on the day and struck out five of the final six batters to close the door on Illinois State.

MSU got a big lift from a pair of freshmen in the comeback. Porter went 3-for-4 on the day, including the key go-ahead hit in the sixth off ISU’s Amber Smith (4-5), and Knehans came through with a two-out, pinch-single to score Carrie Roberson with the tying run in the fifth.

In the second game of the twinbill, Illinois State put on a power display that included three home runs en route to the 8-0, five-inning decision. Six of the Redbirds’ nine hits went for extra bases, starting with Mathis’s RBI-triple to right field that scored the game’s first run in the top of the second inning. Kara Nelson followed with a run-scoring single to left to give the visitors the early 2-0 advantage.

Returning All-MVC first-teamer Jessie Buker added to the lead in the third with a two-out homer, and Kaprice Williams followed suit in the fourth with a towering drive over the left-center field fence to lead off the inning.

ISU tacked on four more runs in the fifth, highlighted by Prager’s two-run homer to right following a double by Nelson to start the inning. Williams and Diciembre Vaca added RBI singles to cap the scoring.

Redbirds’ starter Rachel Smith (3-1) had little trouble with the Bears in the second game, allowing just two hits in completing the five-inning shutout.

Nelson, Buker and Williams each posted two-hit games to lead an Illinois State offense that recorded its first three-homer game in over two seasons.

MSU’s Lauren McGinley (4-1) shouldered her first loss of the season after allowing all eight runs.

500 Club Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse picked up her 500th victory at Missouri State with a 1-0 win over Indiana State (4/22/07). Hesse became the third coach to join the 500-win club in the Valley, joining Illinois State’s Melinda Fischer and Creighton’s Brent Vigness. Only 47 active Division I coaches began the 2007 season with more than 500 wins. Hesse picked up her 400th win against Indiana State on March 20, 2004, with a 9-1 victory over the Sycamores in Springfield.

Bears among MVC Leaders Missouri State players listed among the top 10 in Missouri Valley Conference statistical categories this season include: Melissa Porche is first in ERA (0.90) and saves (5), second in opponent batting average (.181), third in strikeouts (108), wins (8) and shutouts (3) and fifth in appearances (17), complete games (8) and innings pitched (83.2), and seventh in games started (10). Offensively Michelle Armentrout is irst in doubles (8), second in slugging percentage (.635), third in on base percentage (.468), and seventh in batting average (.365). Christa Gammon is fourth in steals (7).

In team categories Missouri State is ranked first in ERA (1.74) and fielding percentage (.983) and third in batting average (.270).

Several Bears finished among the top 10 in MVC statistical categories last season. Porche was second in the league in innings pitched (232.0) and games started (35). She finished fourth in strikeouts (222), tied for third in appearances (41), and seventh in earned-run average (2.17).

Jessie Smith led the league with 17 stolen bases and Brooke Kempker topped the hit by pitch category, with 10. Jen Carr’s perfect fielding percentage tied atop the category, as she was one of only five players to be errorless with over 100 fielding chances.

Powerful Porche Missouri State senior pitcher Melissa Porche is the Missouri Valley Conference Co-Pitcher of the Week (3/24). Porche went 3-0 last week, allowing 11 hits in 21 innings of work. She recorded 26 strikeouts and allowed opponents a mere .157 batting average in three complete games.

Porche won the same award outright a week ago and shares the honor with Wichita State’s Ashly Bright this week. The MSU right-hander pitched the Bears to a 3-2 decision over No. 11 Oklahoma Wednesday (March 19), limiting the Sooners to four hits and one earned run. Porche leads the MVC in earned run average (0.92) and is second in opponent batting average (.181).

She struck out 14 batters and allowed just five hits in MSU’s 3-2 victory over Illinois State Friday (March 21). Porche completed the weekend MVC series against the Redbirds with a dominating shutout Saturday (March 22), allowing just two hits, while striking out 11 Redbird batters in a 6-0 MSU win.

Porche leads the conference in ERA (0.92) and saves (5), and is second in opponent batting average (.181). She struck out a 2008 MVC leading and career-high 19 batters in the Bears’ 1-0 nine-inning win over Saint Louis (3/1). Her offensive numbers include .286 batting average, .518 slugging percentage, 29 total bases and team-highs in RBIs (14) and and homeruns (3). She had a five RBI performance in the Bears’ 13-7 win over Saint Louis (3/2)..

Porche to the rescue Senior pitcher Melissa Porche picked up three saves in the Florida Atlantic "Strike Out" Cancer Tournament (Feb. 15-17). She earned her fourth save of the season in the Bears’ 4-1 win over Saint Louis (3/12) and her league-leading fifth against Indiana State (2/14). She led the country with seven saves as a sophomore in 2006. Porche went 1-1 as a starter in the Bears’ season-opening tournament, strking out 27 opposing batters in 20 innings and compiling a 1.35 ERA.

Impact Freshmen -- Missouri State’s freshmen are making a big impact for the Bears in 2008. Ashley Knehans is hitting .310 and her RBI single was the game-winner in the Bears’ 3-2 victory over No. 11 Oklahoma (3/19). A pair of freshmen have become mainstays at the top of the batting order. Leadoff hitter Christa Gammon is hitting .262 with an on base percentage of .338 and leads the team in steals with seven on eight attempts. Number two hitter Tyler Porter is batting .311 with an on base percentage of .354 and Jenna Schwark is hitting .273.

Off to the races Missouri State stole an MVC leading eight bases in the Bears’ 13-7 win over Saint Louis (3/2). MSU is 25-of-33 in stolen base attempts with freshman Christa Gammon leading the Bears at 7-for-8. Junior Jessie Smith, who led the league with 17 stolen bases a year ago, is 5-of-7 so far in 2008.

One-run Setbacks Missouri State didn’t experience much luck in one-run games last season, as the Bears were 4-9 in games decided by one run. The Bears are 8-3 this season in one-run games.

No Run Support In 16 of pitcher Melissa Porche’s 19 losses last season, MSU was shut out or scored only one run. The Bears have been shut out in two of Porche’s starts this season -- a 1-0 loss to Long Island (2/15) in the Bears’ season-opener and a 1-0 decision against Indiana State (2/14).

Early Offense Missouri State is 10-1 when scoring the first run of the game, and 5-0 when scoring a run in the first inning in 2008. The Bears were 20-5 last season when scoring the first run of the game, and 15-3 when tallying a run in the first inning. On the contrast, MSU was 1-24 when its opponent scored first, including an 1-10 mark when the opposition scores in the first inning. Missouri State won their only game when an opponent scored first when the Bears rallied from a two-run Northern Iowa opening frame to take a 10-8 victory on April 7.

MVP for McGinley Sophomore pitcher Lauren McGinley is off to a fast start in 2008. McGinley was selected the MVP of the Florida Atlantic "Strike Out" Cancer Tournament (Feb. 15-17) in Boca Raton, Fla. She earned three wins in 11.2 inings of work en route to a 0.77 ERA.

Last Year The 2007 Missouri State softball team was plagued by injuries and inconsistency as the Bears finished with a 21-29 record, the program's fewest wins since 2001. Newcomers accounted for 204 starts, including 136 by the team's four freshmen, as inexperience played a factor in the team's struggles. The Bears started the season with a five-game winning streak but ended the campaign with six straight losses, and had four losing streaks of more than four games during the season. The team's competition was stiff, as the Bears played 10 games against teams that made the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

The Bears struggled offensively, finishing ninth of 10 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average (.236) and hits (292). Defensively, Missouri State was very solid, finishing third in the MVC and 29th nationally with a .969 fielding percentage. On the mound, MSU relied very heavily on junior Melissa Porche, who pitched in 41 of the 49 games and accounted for 71 percent of the team's innings pitched.

Despite the disappointing record, the 2007 Bears featured numerous outstanding performances and accomplishments. Head coach Holly Hesse picked up her 500th career Division I coaching victory in a 1-0 triumph over Indiana State on April 22. Hesse joins only Illinois State's Melinda Fischer in the MVC and an elite group of 41 active head coaches with 500 Division I wins.

The team's record could have been much different had it not been for many close losses. The Bears were 4-9 in one-run games and 1-5 in extra inning games. Three was the magical number for the 2007 Bears, as the team was an impressive 19-3 when scoring three or more runs but was 2-26 when failing to tally three runs. Missouri State was also 17-4 when leading after the third inning, but 1-20 when trailing after the third frame.

IN the Record Books Several current players have etched their names into the Missouri State softball record books. As a freshman in 2006, Jessie Smith scored 40 runs and hit eight home runs to rank third for a single season in each category. Her 87 total bases were also sixth-most all-time. Michelle Armentrout recorded 138 assists from third base in 2006 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 Fourteen 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), Sara Cole (assistant- Evansville), and Deanna Keim (graduate assistant- Central Missouri). Also included are Katie Martin (student assistant) and Courtney Owens (student assistant) currently at Missouri State; both were members of last years’ 40-win team.

MVC Preseason Poll The Missouri State softball team was picked to finish fifth in the 2008 Missouri Valley Conference coaches’ preseason poll. Regular season and MVC tournament champion Creighton was the overwhelming favorite among coaches, gathering nine first-place votes and 97 points total. Wichita State received the other first-place vote and garnered 85 total points. Southern Illinois (81) and Illinois State (72) were selected third and fourth respectively.The Bears received 52 points, followed by Bradley (46), Evansville (44), Indiana State (35), Drake (25) and Northern Iowa (13).



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