Bears Set for Road Series with MVC Preseason Favorite Creighton
 

 

 

Missouri State Bears (8-18, 3-3 MVC) at Creighton Bluejays (14-13, 2-2 MVC)

Friday, April 2 @ 2 p.m. (DH)Saturday, April 3 @ 12 p.m. (DH)
CU Sports Complex (1,000)Omaha, Neb.
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.comSeries History: CU leads 44-23
Last Meeting: CU took two of three games in 2009
Current Streak: CU has has won one game

Overview
After coming up just short against #15 Oklahoma State Tuesday, the Missouri State Bears continue an eight-game road swing with a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series with the three-time defending league champion Creighton Bluejays this weekend in Omaha.

With their doubleheader sweep of Evansville on Saturday, the Bears closed out a week that saw them win three of their four MVC games. Creighton dropped both of its conference contests against Southern Illinois over the weekend and enters Friday’s action 2-2 in Valley play.

Quick Hits
-The Bears are batting .312 in MVC play, good for fourth in the conference
-After starting the season 0-3, senior Lauren Supak has been the Bears’ top pitcher in conference play, winning three of her four decisions while posting a 2.27 ERA and holding the opposition to a .225 batting average over six appearances
-Supak's three-hit shutout of Wichita State (3/25) was her third blanking of the Shockers in as many career starts
-Junior outfielder Tyler Porter saw her six-game hit streak come to an end Saturday at Evansville; Porter had either scored a run or recorded a hit in nine of her last 10 games coming into the week
-Junior infielder Jenna Schwark has recorded a hit in 12 of the Bears’ last 17 games; Schwark had at least one hit in 19 of MSU’s first 25 contests this season
-Freshman catcher Madison Hargrove has thrown out an MVC-best nine baserunners attempting to steal on the year
-The Bears are 0-13 in 2010 when scoring two runs or less, but 6-0 when plating six runs or more; MSU is 0-13 when trailing after four innings of play and just 2-16 when the opposition scores the first run of the game
-Junior infielder Christa Gammon scored five times in MSU’s 14-10 win over Evansville Saturday and went 7-for-8 over the first two games of the series with the Purple Aces; Gammon ranked 10th in the MVC with a .342 overall batting average entering the week
-Eight of MSU’s 18 losses on the season have been one-run setbacks
-Freshman infielder Caitlin Chapin has a team-best five multi-RBI games, including one of three 4-RBI games turned in by a Bear this season; Chapin has been the Bears’ leading hitter in MVC play, going 8-for-13 (.615) with a team-high seven RBIs
-Missouri State is 4-14 when comitting and error and 1-9 when the opposition plays error-free ball
-Freshman infielder Kirstin Cutter has recorded a hit in six of her last eight games, going 8-for-19 (.421) with four runs scored

Follow the Bears
Live stats for all four Bears softball games this week will be available on the Missouri State Athletics official web site, www.missouristatebears.com.    

Additionally, select MSU softball games will be broadcast live via streaming video on Bears Live, MSU’s premium broadband video destination for exclusive live and on-demand streaming content. The subscription-based service will include video and audio courtesy of Meyer Communications for six regular-season MSU softball games in 2010.

Series Records
Creighton has dominated the series with MSU entering the weekend with a 44-23 all-time edge vs. the Bears. The Jays took two of three meetings last year in Springfield, but the Bears snapped an eight-game losing streak to CU with their 1-0 win on April 25.

MSU has dropped nine straight regular-season contests on the Bluejays’ home turf and is 4-14 all-time vs. CU in Omaha. The Bears’ lone win at CU over the last decade came in the quarterfinal round of the 2006 MVC Tournament, when MSU posted a 4-0 decision en route to its fifth conference tournament title.

Scouting the Bears
Picked to finish seventh in this year’s preseason Missouri Valley Conference race, the Bears have recovered from an 0-7 start to win six of their last 13 contests and enter the weekend 3-3 in league play. The MSU offense has been led by junior infielder Christa Gammon, who is batting .329 with 14 runs scored and six stolen bases on the year. Another junior, Jenna Schwark, has also been strong at the plate so far in 2010, coming into the weekend with a .305 batting mark to go along with three homers and a team-high 38 total bases. MSU has gotten significant contributions from a talented freshman class, led by Catilin Chapin and Madison Hargrove. Chapin has driven in a team-best 16 runs while clubbing four home runs, and Hargrove has posted a .315 batting average while starting all but one game behind the dish. Junior Ashley Knehans has been the Bears’ top power threat with a career-high five home runs and 13 RBIs through the first half of the season. In circle, a trio of returnees have shared duties, led by senior Lauren Supak (4-4, 3.52 ERA), who has gone 3-1 with 25 strikeouts over her last eight appearances, posting a 2.08 ERA. Senior Lauren McGinely (3-7, 3.98 ERA) has made a team-high 12 starts, completing five games, and sophomore Natalie Rose (1-7, 4.15 ERA, 1 Save) has a club-high 54 strikeouts in 59.0 innings of work, primarily in a relief role.

Scouting the Bluejays
The three-time reigning Valley champion Creighton Bluejays have gotten off to a 14-13 start overall and enter this weekend’s series 2-2 in MVC play. The Jay’s possess a pair of dangerous weapons in three-time Valley Pitcher of the Year Tara Oltman and the 2009 MVC Player of the Year Renae Sinkler. Oltman is the conference’s all-time leader in both wins and complete games and comes into the series 12-6 with a 1.50 ERA overall. Sinkler appears to be well on her way to another MVP honor in 2010, entering Friday’s action with a .394 average and league highs of 13 homers and 31 RBIs. The senior first-baseman also leads the circuit in slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored and total bases.

Shaking off the Rust
After slumbering through the first month of the season batting just .230 as a team, Missouri State has displayed some signs of life at the plate over the last two weeks. Over a nine-game stretch from March 7-18, the Bears batted .316 as a team while outscoring the opposition 47-41. The Bears averaged over five runs and eight hits per game over the same period, following a stretch of 10 games to open the season in which MSU was shut-out four times and averaged just over two runs per contest. Last week, MSU was even better, hitting .342 with five homers as a team to outscore its four opponents 25-17.
    
Gammon on the Go
Junior infielder Christa Gammon was red-hot at the plate last week, particularly during the Bears' weekend series at Evansville. She reached base in eight of nine at-bats, going 7-for-8 over MSU's first two games with the Purple Aces. The Belleville, Ill., product had three hits in a 5-4 loss on Friday before turning in a career-best 4-for-4 effort that included three runs driven-in, two doubles and a pair of steals in game one of a doubleheader Saturday. Gammon reached base and scored in each of her five plate appearances in the 14-10 MSU win to register the highest single-game run total for a Bear since at least the 1997 season when the school began logging individual game highs.

Fresh Look
Missouri State's freshman quartet of Caitlin Chapin, Kirstin Cutter, Lauren Eisenreich and Madison Hargrove combined to go 19-of-41 (.463) in MSU's four games last week. The group was especially effective in Saturday's doubleheader sweep of Evansville, going 7-for-14 with four runs driven-in in a 14-10, game-one win and 7-for-13 (.538) in a 6-2 victory in the nightcap.

Supak Shocks the Shocks
With  a 1-0 win at Wichita State last Wednesday, senior righty Lauren Supak continued a stretch of dominance vs. the Shockers. Supak has turned in complete-game shutouts in each of her three career outings against WSU. She blanked the Shockers, 5-0 on March 26, 2009, in Wichita after giving up only six hits, and duplicated the feat on April 15 of last season, registering a 4-0, seven-hitter at Killian Stadium. In all, the Colorado Springs native has allowed just 16 hits while fanning eight over her 21.0 straight shutout innings vs. WSU.

For Starters
With their 12-4 win over IUPUI on March 17, the Bears improved to 27-9 in home openers since 1975, including a 15-7 mark under head coach Holly Hesse. After dropping a 3-0 decision to SIU March 19, however, Missouri State fell to 16-11 in conference openers. The Bears have lost or split each of their last four Valley-opening series after SIU claimed both ends of the doubleheader.

Big Boppers
The Bears turned in their most-productive two-game stretch ever March 17, scoring 29 runs and pounding six homers in a doubleheader sweep of IUPUI. In that two-game period alone, MSU more than doubled its season home run total and upped its team batting average from .240 to .276. MSU's 17 runs scored in game two represented its highest single-game total since February 2007, when it defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff by a 20-4 score.

Nice Like Weiss
Bubba Weiss posted a career day in the Bears' doubleheader sweep of IUPUI (3/17), leading the Missouri State attack with six hits and five RBIs on the afternoon. The senior third-baseman went 4-for-4 with a key first-inning, two-run single and a home run in game one, before tallying two more hits and a pair of RBIs in the nightcap.

Streaking Along
One Bear who did get a running start to the 2010 campaign was junior infielder Jenna Schwark, who stretched her hitting streak to seven games before going hitless against Sam Houston State (Feb. 20).Schwark just missed equaling her career-long streak of eight (2/20/09 through 3/7/09), which started at last year's Sleep Inn Classic.

Another junior infielder, Christa Gammon, saw her career-best five-game hit streak come to an end in the Bears' 4-3 loss to Kansas (March 14). The junior infielder batted .467 (7-for-15) during the streak, which included a pair of multi-hit games and dated back to the Bears' March 7 loss to Saint Louis. Over a nine-game stretch from March 7-18, Gammon was the Bears' most-consistent hitter, batting .444 with a team-high 12 hits, three steals and eight runs scored.
   
Beware of the Mad Dog
Despite seeing her six-game hit streak come to an end vs. Rutgers (March 18), freshman catcher Madison Hargrove continues to make her presence felt both at the plate and behind it. She went 1-for-3, driving in the Bears’ lone run in a 3-1 setback at SIUE (March 9), before going 4-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored in three games at the Kansas Invitational (March 13-14). Hargrove’s fifth-inning single plated what would prove to be the deciding run in an 8-7 victory over the host Jayhawks (March 14). The Shawnee, Kan., product then registered the first mulit-hit game of her career in the nightcap, going 2-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in a 4-3 MSU loss.   

Hargrove has batted .395 (15-for-38) over the Bears’ last 15 games, stringing together another six-game streak (March 19-27) in which she has went 8-for-19 (.421). Additionally, she has been one of the toughest catchers in the Valley to run on, nailing a league-high nine would-be base-stealers on the season.

One and Done
The Bears posted their first victory in a one-run contest this season with an 8-7 win at Kansas on March 14. With its 3-2 loss at Oklahoma State Tuesday, MSU's record in one-run affairs fell to 2-8. Over the past two seasons, the Bears have played 26 one-run games, going just 9-17 in those outings.

At Home on the Range
Despite entering the Kansas Invitational with an all-time mark of just 17-70 against KU, the Bears posted their second straight victory over the Jayhawks with an 8-7 win in game one of the two clubs' March 14 doubleheader. The Bears also posted a breakthrough  offensive showing at Arrocha Ballpark for the second consecutive year. Last March, MSU pounded KU with 14-hit barrage in a 13-8 victory for its top hit and run totals of the year.

All-Tourney Honors for Knehans
Junior Ashley Knehans earned all-tourney honors at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic (Feb. 19-20) after batting .500 with her first home run of the season and three runs scored in the Bears' four contests.

Off and Running?
The Bears 2-10 start represented their worst start to a season on record through 12 games. Missouri State dropped its first seven games before topping SEMO (March 6) to end a 12-game losing streak that surpassed the previous school-record dry spell of 10 games, which occurred during the 1989 season. In each of the Bears' two previous winless starts of five games or more under Holly Hesse, they have rebounded to post a winning season in each instance. In 2000, the Bears bounced back to finish 30-28, then came back from an 0-5 start in 2003 to go 29-25 overall.

MVC Preseason Poll
The Missouri State softball team was picked to finish seventh in the 2010 Missouri Valley Conference coaches' preseason poll. Three-time defending regular-season champion Creighton was the overwhelming favorite among coaches, gathering eight first-place votes and 97 points total. Southern Illinois garnered 85 total points to place second, followed by UNI (77) and Drake (71), which received one first-place vote. Illinois State (66) was picked fifth, while the Bears received 36 points, which was 11 points shy of Wichita State in the sixth spot. Bradley (33), Indiana State (21) and Evansville (17) rounded out the bottom third of the poll.


Christa Gammon saw her career-best five-game hit streak come to an end in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Kansas. The junior infielder batted .467 (7-for-15) during the streak, which included a pair of multi-hit games and dated back to the Bears’ March 7 loss to Saint Louis. Over the last nine games, Gammon has been one of the Bears’ most-consistent hitters, batting .379 with a team-high 11 hits, three steals and seven runs scored.

 

Madison Hargrove enters the weekend on a roll for the Bears after recording a hit in all four games last week and two of MSU’s four midweek games vs. IUPUI and Rutgers this week. She went 1-for-3, driving in the Bears’ lone run in a 3-1 setback at SIUE (March 9), before going 4-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored at the Kansas Invitational over the weekend. Hargrove’s fifth-inning single plated what would prove to be the deciding run in an 8-7 victory over the host Jayhawks in Sunday’s first game. The Shawnee, Kan., product then registered the first mulit-hit game of her career in the nightcap, going 2-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in a 4-3 MSU loss. Hargrove has batted .412 (7-for-17) over the Bears’ last nine games.


One and Done

The Bears posted their first victory in a one-run contest this season with Sunday’s 8-7 win at Kansas. After dropping the second game of the day to the Jayhawks, MSU’s record in one-run affairs fell to 1-6. Over the past two seasons, the Bears have played 24 one-run games, going just 9-15 in those outings.


At Home on the Range

Despite entering last weekend’s Kansas Invitational with an all-time mark of just 17-70 against KU, the Bears posted their second straight victory over the Jayhawks with Sunday’s 8-7 win in game one of the two clubs’ doubleheader. The Bears also posted a season-best offensive showing at Arrocha Ballpark for the second consecutive year. Last March, MSU pounded KU with 14-hit barrage in a 13-8 victory for its top hit and run totals of the year, and Sunday’s eight-run outburst represented a 2010 season high for the Bears as well.


All-Tourney Honors for Knehans

Junior Ashley Knehans earned all-tourney honors at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic (Feb. 19-20) after batting .500 with her first home run of the season and three runs scored in the Bears’ four contests.


House Warming

The Bears kick off their second season at Killian Softball Stadium this week hoping their new park brings a few more victories than it did a year ago. MSU’s 5-11 mark at Killian last season represented its worst home mark since the 2001 season, when the Bears won just three of 17 home dates. Conversely, the Bears’ 8-10 road mark and 6-4 record in neutral-field contests last year were its best since the 2006 squad went 12-9 in true road games and 23-13 overall away from home.   


Despite stopping a seven-game home losing streak with a pair of wins the week of April 14-20 and defeating league-leading Creighton on the final home weekend of the season, the Bears’ offense never really got untracked at home. MSU batted .233 as a team and hit just six of its 18 home runs on the season at home. Bears pitchers found their new park to be even more inhospitable, having registered a 3.35 earned run average in 16 games at Killian. However, MSU junior pitcher Lauren Supak experienced few troubles in her new park, as the right-hander posted a 1.95 ERA in 11 home appearances. The Colorado Springs product saw her streak of 17.1 straight scoreless innings at home end when Creighton scored in the top of the first inning on April 25.


Watch the Leather, Man

The 2009 season saw the Bears post impressive defensive numbers once again, as MSU finished among the top 50 teams nationally in fielding percentage for the fourth consecutive year. The Bears were the 43rd-best Division I fielding team overall, posting a .968 team fielding percentage, their fourth-highest season mark in 27 years as a Division I program.

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