Bears Look to Keep Momentum Going Against No. 12 Oklahoma State
Missouri State Bears (11-18, 6-3 MVC) vs. No. 12/11 Oklahoma State Cowgirls (32-7, 4-0 Big 12)
Thursday, April 8 @ 5 p.m.
Killian Softball Stadium (1,200)Springfield, Mo.
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.comSeries History: OSU leads 20-5
Last Meeting: OSU won 3-2 on March 30 at Stillwater
Current Streak: OSU has won five straight dating back to 2007
Coming off their first-ever three-game sweep of Creighton this past weekend, the Missouri State Bears will look to continue a recent hot streak when they kick off a six-game home stand with a single contest against the nationally-ranked Oklahoma State Cowgirls Thursday (April 8), at 5 p.m. The Bears will also welcome the Bradley Braves to Killian Softball Stadium for a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series, beginning with a noon doubleheader on Saturday.
Missouri State will be looking to translate the same level of play that produced five straight MVC road wins to its home field, where the Bears have dropped four straight games. MSU has posted all six of its conference wins away from Killian Softball Stadium.
-The Bears are batting .290 in league play, good for fourth in the conference; MSU’s 3.13 team ERA is also fourth in MVC play
-Eight of MSU’s 18 losses on the season have been one-run setbacks
-Missouri State has posted all six of its MVC victories away from Killian Stadium and is 7-6 overall in true road contests this season
-After starting the season 0-3, senior Lauren Supak has been the Bears’ top pitcher in conference play, winning four of her five decisions while posting a 2.00 ERA and holding the opposition to a .210 batting average over eight appearances
-Supak's three-hit shutout of Wichita State (3/25) was her third blanking of the Shockers in as many career starts
-Freshman infielder Caitlin Chapin enters Thursday's game with a career-long seven-game hit streak, over which she has hit .458 (11-for-24) with four home runs and 11 RBIs dating back to March 26
-Chapin has a team-best six multi-RBI games, including one of three 4-RBI games turned in by a Bear this season
-Chapin has been one of the Bears’ leading hitters in MVC play, going 11-for-24 (.458) with a team-highs of three homers and 11 RBIs; her six homers rank third all-time among MSU freshmen
-Freshman Kirstin Cutter has been MSU’s leading hitter in Valley play, batting .478 with hits in seven of nine games
-Junior infielder Jenna Schwark has recorded a hit in at least one hit in 21 of MSU’s first 29 contests this season and leads the club in overall batting (.326), hits (29) and total bases (45)
-Sophomore right-hander Natalie Rose paces the MVC and ranks 26th nationally with two saves on the season
-MSU is 1-13 when trailing after four innings of play and just 3-16 when the opposition scores the first run of the game
Follow the Bears
Live stats for each of this week’s games will be available at the official home of Bears Softball on the Web, www.MissouriStateBears.com. Additionally, the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader with Bradley will be broadcast on KBFL 1060 AM and online at www.radiospringfield.com, with Rob Evans calling the action.
A live video stream of Saturday’s first contest will be available through Bears Live, MSU’s premium broadband video destination for exclusive live and on-demand streamed content. The subscription-based service will include video as well as an audio play-by-play feed, courtesy of Meyer Communications, for six regular-season MSU softball games in 2010.
Oklahoma State has dominate the series with MSU, as the Cowgirls have won 20 of the previous 25 contests the two teams have played. OSU claimed a 3-2 decision on March 30 in Stillwater in the two clubs’ first meeting of the season.
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 go 11-11 over their last 22 contests and enter the weekend 6-3 in league play. The MSU offense has been led by junior infielder Jenna Schwark, who was batting .326 with four homers, 15 runs scored and a team-high 45 total bases coming into the week. Another junior, Jenna Schwark, has also been strong at the plate so far in 2010, entering Thursday’s contest with a .308 batting mark to go along with 16 runs scored and six stolen bases. MSU has gotten significant contributions from a talented freshman class, led by Catilin Chapin, Kirstin Cutter and Madison Hargrove. Chapin had a team-best 20 RBIs to go along with six home runs, and Cutter was hitting .315 with five steals. Hargrove has been strong both at the plate and behind it, posting a .295 batting average while starting all but one of MSU’s first 29 games at catcher. Junior Ashley Knehans has been the Bears’ top power threat with a career-high six home runs and 14 RBIs through the first half of the season. In circle, a trio of returnees have shared duties, led by senior Lauren Supak (5-4, 3.15 ERA), who has gone 4-1 with 23 strikeouts in eight MVC outings, posting a 2.00 ERA. Senior Lauren McGinely (4-7, 3.80 ERA) has made a team-high 13 starts, completing five games, and sophomore Natalie Rose (2-7, 3.89 ERA, 2 saves) has a club-high 60 strikeouts in 63.0 innings of work, primarily in a relief role.
Scouting the Cowgirls
Oklahoma State is 32-7 and ranked 11th in this week’s ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll, thanks in large part to a pitching staff that has posted a combined 1.84 earned run average. Senior Anna Whiddon leads the team with a 17-3 record, 1.97 ERA, 133 strikeouts and a Big 12-high four saves. Freshman Kat Espinosa has also been solid, going 12-3 on the season with a 1.43 ERA. The Cowgirls’ offense has also been strong, batting .302 as a team. Junior Mariah Gearhart has a team-high .417 batting average and 38 runs scored, while sophomore Julie Ward is slugging .721 and has a Big 12-leading 18 doubles, seven home runs and 46 runs batted in.
With six home runs last week, the Bears upped their total to 22 long balls through 29 games. That figure has already surpassed their season totals from each of the last two seasons, when MSU hit 20 and 21 homers, respectively, and ranks as the sixth-highest team total ever at Missouri State. With 20 regular-season games remaining on the schedule, the Bears are on pace to shatter the school record for team home runs in single season. The 2006 squad clubbed 34 round-trippers en route to a 40-17 campaign.
Chapin on the Charts
One of the primary reasons for the Bears’ success with the long ball has been the emergence of freshman Caitlin Chapin, who shares the team lead with six home runs. Her total already rates among the top 10 all-time single-season figures in school history and is the third-best mark ever for a Missouri State freshman. The Ozark, Mo., native needs just one more homer to match Staci Watti (2000) for the No. 2 spot on the chart, and only two more to equal Jessie Smith’s (2006) MSU freshman record of eight dingers.
Six Bears have posted hit streaks of five games or more this season. Freshman Caitlin Chapin enters Thursday’s game with a career-long seven-game hit streak, over which she has hit .458 (11-for-24) with four home runs and 11 RBIs dating back to March 26.
Junior infielder Jenna Schwark also stretched her hit streak to seven games at the onset of the season before going hitless against Sam Houston State (Feb. 20). She 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.
In addition to Chapin and Schwark, Madison Hargrove (six games), Tyler Porter (six), Alaina Burkhart (five) and Christa Gammon (five) have also recorded hit streaks of at least five straight games in 2010.
With their first-ever three-game sweep of Creighton this past weekend, the Bears improved to 6-1 on the road in MVC play. Their six conference road wins matches their top season total since 2006, when they went 9-1 in MVC road games for the year. The Bears’ current five-game road win streak in league play is also a program high over the last four seasons. MSU won its last nine Valley road games in 2006, after dropping its first match-up of the season at Wichita State.
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. From March 24-27, MSU was even better, hitting .342 with five homers as a team to outscore its four opponents by a combined 25-17 margin.
Gammon on the Go
Junior infielder Christa Gammon was red-hot at the plate in MSU’s four road games March 24-27, 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 March 26 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 the following day. 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.
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 from March 24-27. The group was especially effective in a doubleheader sweep of Evansville (March 27), 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 on March 24, 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.
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.
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.
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 strung together another six-game streak (March 19-27) in which she went 8-for-19 (.421). Additionally, she has been one of the toughest catchers in the Valley to run on, nailing nine would-be base-stealers on the season to rank second in the conference.
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. After claiming a 3-2 decision at Creighton last Friday, MSU’s record in one-run affairs improved to 3-8. Over the past two seasons, the Bears have played 27 one-run games, going just 10-17 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.
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.
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.