Softball Treks to Des Moines, Chicago for Five-Game Weekend
April 4, 2014
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - The Missouri State softball team (20-12, 3-3) will have a tournament-like five-game weekend spilling into early next week with a trip to Des Moines, Iowa for three games at Drake (8-22, 1-5) on Saturday and Sunday followed by two games in Chicago against Loyola (12-16, 3-3) on Monday. Both games against Loyola will be played at Northwestern University's Sharon Drysdale Field.
Ashley Brentz continues to be virtually unstoppable at the plate since moving to the leadoff role nine games ago. In that span, she has hit safely in eight of those games while raising her season batting average by 61 points and now leads the Bears with a .326 average. Brentz also leads MSU with 17 walks and a .425 on-base percentage.
The Bears have had little trouble producing runs with two outs in an inning, especially with Bethany Sullinger or Heather Duckworth at the plate. Sullinger leads the Valley in two-out RBI this season with 18. Duckworth is second with 17.
Chelsea Jones has been solid all season as a two-way player. At the plate, she is hitting .313 with a team-high nine doubles on the year. In the circle, she is 8-3 with a 3.09 ERA. On the season, she has given up just 10 walks and entered the week seventh in the nation in fewest walks per game allowed at 0.73.
Fellow hurler Erin Struemph has had an outstanding freshman season thus far. She is tied atop the league with 90 strikeouts for a MVC-best 7.16 strikeouts per game average. Her 2.31 ERA ranks third in the Valley and she is also among the top-5 league pitchers in opponent's batting average (.225), batting average against with runners (.211) and batting average against with two outs (.194). Struemph's three saves and three shutouts are tied for the most in the MVC.
Drake has struggled to an 8-22 record, but one of those victories came at the hands of the Bears in a non-conference game in Stillwater, Okla., in early March. Junior Rebekah Schmidt has tossed nearly every inning for the Bulldogs (140.2 of 190.1) and has a 3.88 ERA. The Drake bats have a combined .236 average, led by freshman Megan Sowa's .364 average, the only hitter batting better than .300.
Loyola hasn't fared much better with a 12-16 record and are similarly unbalanced with just a single hitter batting better than .300 in junior Jessica Balzano (.361). Senior Brittany Gardner has been the anchor of Loyola's staff completing 11 of her 13 starts and leading the staff with a 3.77 ERA. Monday's rescheduled doubleheader will mark the first-ever meetings between the Bears and Ramblers.
Missouri State returns home on Saturday, April 12 and Sunday, April 13 with a three-game series against Indiana State. Games start at 12:00 p.m. both days. Sunday's series finale will be the Bears' Pink Game. Fans will get free admission with donations to the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks encouraged.