Softball Bears head to UNI for weekend series
 

 

 

The Missouri State softball team will play a three-game Missouri Valley Conference weekend series against Northern Iowa Saturday (April 12) and Sunday (April 13). The two teams will face each other in a doubleheader Saturday and single game Sunday. Start times for both days is 12 p.m.

The Bears enter the weekend Valley series riding a four game winning streak, sweeping a three-game set against Bradley (4/5-6).

The Panthers Northern Iowa enters today’s (April 12) doubleheader against Missouri State with a 15-20 overall record and 2-9 MVC mark. The Panthers finished 10th in the conference in 2007 with a 5-17 mark. Northern Iowa returns 13 letterwinners from last year’s 19-32 squad. Head Coach Ryan Jacobs is in his first season at UNI.

Series records Missouri State leads the series with Northern Iowa by a 34-29 margin. The two teams split a pair of games in 2007.

Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 520-490-2 (.513) 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. The Bears’ second-place MVC finish marked the 12th time during her tenure the Bears have finished in the top-five of the conference standings. It 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 899-726-2 (.553).

Last Time out -- Missouri State defeated Bradley 5-1 Sunday (April 5), at the MSU Softball Field to sweep the two teams’ three-game Missouri Valley Conference weekend series. The Bears are now 19-11 overall and 8-6 in Valley play.

Missouri State scored three runs on four hits in the fourth. Doubles by freshman Ashley Knehans and junior Brooke Kempker and a single by freshman Jenna Schwark each plated MSU runs. Kempker and Schwark each had two hits for the Bears in the contest.

With one on in the fifth senior Michelle Armentrout hammered a first-pitch home run to left to account for the rest of the Bears’ scoring. Freshmen Tyler Porter and Elysha Swider each singled in the Bears’ eight-hit attack.

Senior Melissa Porche (11-8) pitched her 14th complete game of the season, striking out 10 Bradley batters, yielding five hits and one sixth inning run..

MSU won both games of an MVC doubleheader against Bradley Saturday (April 4). The softball Bears won the opener 2-1 and crushed the Braves 12-4 in the second contest.

Junior shortstop Jessie Smith enjoyed a huge day for the Bears at the plate, going 5-for-8 with six RBIs and two runs scored. Smith’s single to center scored Porter in the opening frame of the first game to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.

Bradley’s Amanda Clack homored in the third to tie the game at 1-1. Armentrout’s single in the fifth scored Smith, who reached base on a Bradley error, for the final 2-1 margin.

Porche (10-8) pitched her 13th complete game of the season in the opener, striking out 12 Bradley batters and yielding just three hits.

Missouri State took advantage of two Bradley errors in second inning of game two, scoring four runs on four hits. Senior Lacie Ballard, who went 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs and two runs scored for the game, singled home junior Jana Shewmaker for the Bears’ first run. Porche added a two RBI single to center and Smith added another RBI single to center to give MSU a 4-0 cushion.

Ballard and Smith both knocked in a pair of runs in MSU’s six-run third inning. Ballard’s single to center scored the first two runs of the frame, followed by Knehan’s RBI single to right. Smith’s triple to left banged high off of the fence and was the first of her two consecutive triples. Armentrout doubled to left center for the seventh MSU hit and sixth RBI of the inning.

Bradley scored four runs in the fourth to chase Bears’ sophomore starter Lauren McGinley, who improved to 6-2. Porche, who pitched the final two outs of the fourth and a scoreless fifth, was 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs and three runs scored. Smith’s second two RBI triple in the fifth ended the shortened run-rule contest and accounted for the final 12-4 margin.

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 saves (6), second in ERA (1.35), third in strikeouts (178), appearances (27) and innings pitched (139.2), fourth in opponent batting average (.196), games started (18), and fifth in shutouts (3) and complete games (14). Michelle Armentrout is third in doubles (9) and slugging percentage (.600), seventh in on base percentage (.438) and 10th in batting average (.338). Christa Gammon is fourth in steals (7) and Jessie Smith is eighth (6).

In team categories Missouri State is ranked first in ERA (2.25) and fielding percentage (.982) and fifth in batting average (.257).

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 was the Missouri Valley Conference Co-Pitcher of the Week (3/24). Porche went 3-0, 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 the week prior. 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 saves (6), and is second in ERA (1.35), opponent batting average (.196). 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)..

Nice Glove Work Missouri State ranks third nationally and first in the Valley with a .982 percentage.

Porche to the rescue MSU senior pitcher Melissa Porche and Wichita State’s Ashley Bright are tied for the Valley lead in saves with six. 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), her fifth against Indiana State (2/14) and sixth against Wichita State (4/2). She led the country with seven saves as a sophomore in 2006.

Impact Freshmen -- Missouri State’s freshmen are making a big impact for the Bears in 2008. Ashley Knehans is hitting .261 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 .218 with an on base percentage of .299 and leads the team in steals with seven on 10 attempts. Number two hitter Tyler Porter is batting .256 with an on base percentage of .326 and Jenna Schwark is hitting .280.

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 33-of-46 in stolen base attempts with freshman Christa Gammon leading the Bears at 7-for-10. Junior Jessie Smith, who led the league with 17 stolen bases a year ago, is 6-of-8 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 9-6 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 four 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), Wichita State (3/25) and Drake (3/30).

Early Offense Missouri State is 14-3 when scoring the first run of the game, and 6-1 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 last April 7.

MVP for McGinley Sophomore pitcher Lauren 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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