The Missouri State softball team will continue their nine-game home stand with a three-game series with Evansville Saturday and Sunday. The Bears were beaten twice by Kansas on Wednesday, 4-0 and 3-0. Evansville enters the series at 19-10 and 3-5 in the MVC, while the Bears are 13-19 and 2-5. Missouri State will look to end their current five-game home losing streak this weekend.
on the Radio The first game of the doubleheader Saturday and the Sunday game against Evansville will be broadcast on KBFL (1060 AM).
The opponents Evansville is 19-10 after splitting a midweek doubleheader with Southeast Missouri State. The Purple Aces fell in game one to the Redhawks, 5-3, before winning the nightcap in extra innings, 7-6. Evansville is 3-5 in league play with two wins over Indiana State and a win over 17th-ranked Illinois State. Evansville was 17-4 after taking two of three from Indiana State in their MVC-opener, but the Purple Aces have lost six of their last eight games.
The Purple Aces are led offensively by junior Brittany Herald, who leads the conference with a blistering .482 batting average. Herald leads the team with 40 hits, nine doubles, and 28 RBIs. On the mound, Evansville has three pitchers with at least eight decisions. Junior Danny Murphy is 7-3 with a 2.79 ERA, Jacki Bradley is 5-3 with a 2.70 ERA, and sophomore Ashley Hobbs is 6-3 with a 2.99 ERA. Hobbs leads the team with 70.1 innings pitched and 60 strikeouts.
Former Bear Sara Cole is in her first season as an assistant coach for Evansville. Cole started every game on last season’s 40-win team and led the Bears with 21 stolen bases and six triples. She ranks second all-time at MSU with 19 career triples.
Series records Missouri State holds a 17-15 edge in the all-time series after sweeping Evansville in a three-game MVC series last season in Evansville. The Bears defeated the Purple Aces 7-0, 5-2, and 5-2; it was one of five conference sweeps in 2006 for MSU.
Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 493-469-2 (.512) 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 currently seven 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 872-705-2.
Kansas RECAP Missouri State lost twice to Kansas Wednesday, as the Jayhawks got complete game shutouts from starting pitchers Valerie George and Sarah Vertelka to win 4-0 and 3-0 at the MSU Softball Field.
The Jayhawks jumped on Missouri State starter Megan Ramsey in game one, scoring three first-inning runs on two doubles and a two-run home run. Ramsey retired nine of the next 10 KU batters before allowing a solo homer to lead off the fifth inning.
Missouri State managed three infield hits in the opener, one each by sophomore Jessie Smith, junior Lacie Ballard, and freshman Jodie Shead, but never had more than one base runner in any inning. Smith also stole her MVC-leading 12th base in the first inning. Ramsey (4-6) allowed four runs on seven hits, while recording six strikeouts.
Kansas again struck quickly in game two, as Amanda Jobe hit a two-run home run in the second inning to take a 2-0 lead. The Jayhawks tallied another run in the third inning after a single and run-scoring double. The freshman Vertelka limited Missouri State to a third-inning infield single by Katie Martin.
Porche (9-11) was outstanding on the mound for Missouri State, as she gave up only four hits in the game. The junior struck out the side in both innings KU scored, and struck out at least two batters in five different innings. With the 13 K’s, Porche pushed her season total to 136, five shy of a career high.
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 tough-luck 9-11 with a 1.98 ERA in 134.2 innings of work. She currently ranks second in the MVC in innings pitched and is tied for second in the league with 136 strikeouts.
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). In a 6-0 win over UMKC (3/7), the hurler picked up her fourth complete game shutout of the season, allowing only three hits. Porche suffered two tough-luck losses against Creighton in the opening weekend of MVC play (3/7-3/8), dropping games of 1-0 and 2-0 to the Bluejays after pitching nine-inning complete games in each contest. In both contests, the Bluejays scored in the ninth inning and the Bears could not provide Porche any run support. Despite taking the loss in both games, her ERA dropped from 2.12 to 1.82. During the weekend, Porche passed the 100-strikeout mark for the third consecutive season.
After going 2-2 in doubleheader splits with Wichita State (3/21) and Bradley (3/25), Porche tied a season high with 13 strikeouts in game two of a doubleheader against Kansas (3/28), but again suffered the loss after the Bears were shutout. In 10 of Porche’s 11 losses, MSU has been shutout or scored only one run.
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 positions have 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 29 hits, 15 RBIs, six doubles, two triples, 20 runs, 19 walks, and 51 total bases. She also leads the Bears with a .305 batting average, a .537 slugging percentage, a .421 on-base percentage, and has a team-best ten multi-hit games. Martin’s 10 stolen bases are tied for second-most in the Valley and her 19 base on balls are tied for third. 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 has a league-leading 12 stolen bases this season, and 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 launched a solo home run for the Bears’ only run in a 3-1 loss to North Dakota State (3/13). Smith has four multi-hit games and three multi-RBI games this season.
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, with four each. The two have made easy transitions to their new positions as Smith and Martin have posted identical .977 fielding percentages. Smith leads the team with 47 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. The foursome has accounted for 95 starts through 32 games this season.
Lauren McGinley has started every game for the Bears, 29 at first base and two on the mound. The Oklahoma City, Okla., native has 10 hits with five RBIs and three runs scored, and is errorless in 172 fielding chances. McGinley is one of only four players in the MVC with over 170 fielding chances without an error.
Jodie Shead has started 24 games and played in 26, including 23 starting assignments in left field. A graduate of softball powerhouse Lafayette High in Wildwood, Mo., Shead is tied for the team lead with four sacrifice bunts, tied for second with four doubles, and ranks third on the squad with 17 hits. She owns the team’s fourth-best batting average at .250. Shead has three multi-hit games and is one of six Bears to have hit safely in five straight games, which she accomplished earlier this season.
Dusti Foster has started all but two games this season for the Bears at second base, picking up eight hits, two doubles, seven 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 a doubleheader against North Dakota State (3/13).
Pitcher Megan Ramsey has started 10 games and appeared in 16 contests, and has a 4-6 record. The Ottawa, Kan., native has emerged as the number two starter for the Bears and has a 3.11 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 63 innings. Ramsey threw consecutive complete game three-hitters against UMKC and North Dakota State earlier this season. Her first collegiate shutout came against UMKC (3/7) in a 6-0 Bears win.
Backstop combo The Bears will utilize two catchers throughout the season with sophomore Jen Carr and junior Lacie Ballard. So far this season, Carr has started 17 games while Ballard has been the starter in 14 contests. A native of Lomita, Calif., Carr has no errors in 112 fielding 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 .241 with 14 hits, three doubles, a triple, and five RBIs. The St. Louis, Mo., native is third on the team with 15 runs scored. Ballard has four multi-hit games to tie for second-most on the team. She has also made six starts as the designated hitter. Behind the plate, Ballard has thrown out seven runners 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 22 starts this season, Armentrout has a .231 batting average with 15 hits, three doubles, a triple a home run, and eight RBIs. 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 16 games this season, Shewmaker is third on the team with 13 RBIs and her .388 slugging percentage also ranks third. She is hitting .245 and has accumulated 12 hits, two doubles, a triple, and 19 total bases.
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 eight times this season in 70 plate appearances. She had been hit in seven of her first 34 at bats, which averaged once every five times he stepped to the plate. Kempker, who has started 21 games and played in 25, is second on the team with a .397 on-base percentage and third with a .268 batting average.
Roberson responds Junior Carrie Roberson made her first start of the season in game two of the doubleheader against Bradley (3/25) and responded with an RBI single in the second inning of the Bears’ 3-1 victory. Roberson has played in 21 games as a sub, mainly as a pinch runner.
One-run Setbacks Missouri State has not had much luck in one-run games this season, as the Bears are 1-7 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), 3-2 to Saint Louis (3/4), 1-0 to Creighton (3/17) and 1-0 to Bradley (3/25). 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 13-3 this season when scoring the first run of the game, and 10-2 when tallying a run in the first inning. On the contrast, MSU is 0-16 when their opponent scores first, including an 0-9 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 surpass MSU’s hit total in a game, the Bears are 0-16. The Bears are 2-3 when hits are tied.
Lucky Number 3 Through 32 games this season, the Bears are 13-1 when scoring at least one run in a game. However, Missouri State has not won a game this season without scoring at least three runs. The Bears are 0-18 when failing to tally three runs. Also, the Bears are 12-2 when leading after the third inning, but 1-14 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 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 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 Samantha Fleeman (volunteer assistant) and Shannon Buslepp (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 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 The Bears will continue their nine-game home stand with a midweek conference game against Wichita State on Wednesday, April 4, and will host a weekend series against the University of Northern Iowa, Friday and Saturday, April 6 and 7.