Missouri State softball begins eight-game road trip at MVC leader SIU



  The Missouri State softball team will begin an eight-game road trip this weekend, as the Bears will take on 20th/22nd-ranked Southern Illinois in a three-game series in Carbondale, Ill. The Salukis are currently atop the MVC standings after being picked second in the preseason poll. The three-game series will feature the league’s two best fielding teams, as SIU and MSU have .978 and .973 fielding percentages, respectively.

On the Radio Southern Illinois will broadcast the game via the internet, which can be accessed here. Live stats will also be available on GameTracker.

The Opponents Southern Illinois is leading the MVC with an 11-2 league mark and are 30-8 overall. The Salukis defeated Evansville, 3-2, Tuesday on a walk-off home run by freshman Alicia Garza in the bottom of the 11th inning. SIU’s scheduled doubleheader with Middle Tennessee State on Wednesday was rained out. The Salukis hold a perfect 8-0 record at home this season entering the series.

 The Salukis have posted three-game sweeps of Evansville, Bradley, and Indiana State in conference play. SIU’s only setbacks of the league slate came when Creighton took two of three in Omaha (3/31-4/1). Southern Illinois has nonconference wins over then fifth-ranked LSU and 20th-ranked Florida State.

 SIU is led by 2006 MVC Pitcher of the Year Cassidy Scoggins, who is 16-5 with a 1.66 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 143 innings. Scoggins is joined by Ashley Hamby to form arguably the league’s best pitching duo. Hamby is 12-3 with a 1.56 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 108 innings. Hamby is holding opposing hitters to a .180 average while Scoggins is limiting opponents to a .194 average.

 Garza, the hero in SIU’s win on Tuesday, leads the team with a .391 batting average, 45 hits, and 26 runs scored. Jayme Wamsley leads the Salukis with 25 RBIs and six home runs.

Series Records Missouri State took two of three from Southern Illinois last season in Springfield. The Bears won the opener, 1-0, dropped game two, 5-2, and won the rubber match, 3-2, in eight innings. Missouri State holds a 37-31 advantage in the all-time series.

Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 497-471-2 (.513) 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 three wins away from 500. She entered the season 49th among active Division I head coaches in career wins. The Missouri State Bears are playing in their 39th season and have an all-time record of 876-707-2.

Last Week Missouri State defeated Wichita State, 1-0, in 11 innings on Wednesday and split with Northern Iowa in a weather-shortened series Friday and Saturday in Springfield.

 Senior Katie Martin launched a one-out double to score sophomore Jessie Smith in the bottom of the 11th inning as the Bears defeated Wichita State, 1-0. The double was Martin’s third hit of the day, as she accounted for three of the five Bears hits in the contest. Junior Melissa Porche was outstanding on the mound for the Bears, pitching a complete game shutout. She allowed no Wichita State runner to advance beyond second base in the game. The 11-inning effort marked a season high for Porche, as the junior struck out 12 batters in the contest, one shy of a season high. Following a 9th inning leadoff single, Porche retired the final nine batters she faced in the game.

 In game one of the scheduled three-game series with Northern Iowa on Friday, the Panthers pounded out 10 hits, including two home runs, to defeat Missouri State, 6-1. Porche took the loss on the mound for the Bears, but allowed only one earned run, as MSU committed a season-high four errors in the contest.

  A home run by sophomore Elysha Swider in the bottom of the seventh accounted for the only Bears’ run of the day. Porche (12-13) allowed four runs, with only one earned, on five hits in four innings of work. Freshman Megan Ramsey allowed two runs on five hits in three innings of relief for the Bears.

 On Saturday, the Bears sent 13 batters to the plate and scored eight times in the bottom of the sixth inning to rally from a four-run deficit and knock off Northern Iowa, 10-8. Trailing 6-2 entering the sixth, Missouri State got back-to-back singles from Martin and Porche to start the rally. With one out, sophomore Brooke Kempker tripled to center field to score two and draw the Bears to within one run, and then scored on a Lacie Ballard fielder’s choice to knot the score at 6-6. Freshman Dusti Foster followed with a run-scoring double down the left field line to put the home team on top for good. Smith came through with an RBI triple, and Shewmaker added a two-run single to cap a 2-for-4, three-RBI day and give MSU a 10-6 advantage.

  Porche started the game for the Bears and allowed six runs on six hits over the first five innings before giving way to Ramsey in the sixth. Porche would re-enter the game in the top of the seventh to pick up her first save of the season, after leading the nation with seven a year ago. Ramsey (5-6) got the win for the Bears, allowing a pair of runs on four hits.

 The third game of the series was canceled and will not be made up due to cold weather in the area.

Martin Honored Senior outfielder Katie Martin was selected as the Prairie Farms/Missouri Valley Conference Female Scholar-Athlete of the Week, Commissioner Doug Elgin announced Thursday. Martin joined MSU baseball player Ryan Mantle, the male recipient, as the two were honored for their performances during the period of April 2-8.

 Martin, a native of Baldwin City, Kan., hit safely in all three MSU games, as the Bears defeated Wichita State (1-0 on April 4) and split with UNI (lost 6-1 on April 6, won 10-8 on April 7). The centerfielder has a 3.93 cumulative grade-point average in medical technology. She connected for a walk-off double -- her third of MSU’s five hits in the game -- in the bottom of the 11th inning to drive in the only run in Missouri State’s triumph over WSU. She also had a hit and two runs scored in the Bears’ win versus UNI.

Lineup Change After being shutout in game one of a three-game series with Evansville (3/31), coach Holly Hesse made a lineup change placing sophomore Jessie Smith in the leadoff spot and leading hitter Katie Martin in the ninth spot. The move worked to perfection, as the Bears scored nine and six runs to win the final two games of the series. Smith had a two-run home run in each game, Martin hit a three-run homer in the series finale, and new cleanup hitter Brooke Kempker added four RBIs for the Bears.

 Martin relocated to the second spot in the lineup for MSU’s last three games and responded with a .455 batting average and drove in Smith on a walk-off double in the 11th inning of the Bears’ 1-0 victory over Wichita State (4/4). Missouri State is 4-1 since Smith assumed the role of leadoff batter.

Bears Among MVC Leaders Several Bears rank among the top 10 in Missouri Valley Conference statistical categories. Pitcher Melissa Porche leads the league in innings pitched (171.2) and is tied for second in appearances (31). She is also third in strikeouts (170), seventh in earned-run average (1.96), and ninth in opposing batting average (.227).

  Jessie Smith is tied for the league lead with 13 stolen bases and Brooke Kempker is atop the hit by pitch category, with eight. Katie Martin is tied for third with 22 walks and 12 stolen bases, and is tied for fourth with 26 runs scored. Jen Carr’s perfect fielding percentage is tied atop the category, and she is one of only five players to be errorless with over 100 fielding chances. First baseman Lauren McGinley ranks eighth with 201 putouts and catcher Lacie Ballard is tied for eighth with seven runners thrown out stealing.

 Nationally, the Bears rank 14th in fielding percentage. Kempker is 21st in hit by pitch per game, with a 0.26 average.

500 Club Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse is three wins away from her 500th victory at Missouri State. Hesse will be 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.

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 a tough-luck 12-13 with a 1.96 ERA in 171.2 innings of work. She currently leads the MVC in innings pitched and is third in the league with 170 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. 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.

 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. During the weekend, Porche passed the 100-strikeout mark for the third consecutive season.

 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 shut out. Porche was 2-1 as the Bears won an MVC series with Evansville (3/31 & 4/1), and during the weekend set a new career high in strikeouts, passing her total of 141 from last season.

 Her 11-inning complete game shutout against Wichita State (4/4) was her longest outing of the season as she evened her record at 12-12. Porche had a 20-inning scoreless streak broke in a loss to UNI (4/6) and picked up her first save of the season against the Panthers the following day (4/7) in a 10-8 Bears’ victory.

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 duo’s offensive production, as the two have led the Bears’ offensive attack so far this season.

 Smith and Martin are two of only three Bears to have started every game this season. The pair have made easy transitions to their new positions as Smith and Martin have posted .983 and .981 fielding percentages, respectively. Smith leads the team with 61 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).

One-Two Punch With the recent lineup change, Smith and Martin are now hitting in the first and second spots in the lineup, respectively. The duo is also one-two in nearly every offensive statistical category, including a share of the team lead in RBIs, with 19, and multi-RBI games, with five.

  Martin leads the team with 37 hits, seven doubles, two triples, 26 runs, 22 walks, and 63 total bases. She also leads the Bears with a .327 batting average, a .558 slugging percentage, a .437 on-base percentage, and has a team-best 12 multi-hit games. Martin’s 12 stolen bases are third-most in the Valley and her 22 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. The senior was again the hero in a 1-0, 11-inning victory over Wichita State (4/4) as she hit a walk-off double to score Smith.

 Smith leads the Bears with six home runs, including two-run homers in consecutive games against Evansville (3/31 & 4/1). The shortstop currently holds a six-game hit streak, the longest of the season on the team. She has 13 stolen bases this season to tie for the MVC lead, and is second on the Bears’ squad behind Martin with 31 hits, 23 runs scored, 56 total bases, and 15 walks. The Blue Springs, Mo., native is also second on the team with a .270 batting average and a .487 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).

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 111 starts through 38 games this season.

  Lauren McGinley has started every game for the Bears, 35 at first base and two on the mound. The Oklahoma City, Okla., native has 10 hits with five RBIs and three runs scored. McGinley saw her perfect fielding percentage end with an error against UNI (4/6), but the first baseman is still 204 of 205 in fielding chances this season.

 Jodie Shead has started 28 games and played in 31, including 27 starting assignments in left field. A graduate of softball powerhouse Lafayette High in Wildwood, Mo., Shead is second on the team with four sacrifice bunts, and is tied for fifth with four doubles. She has three multi-hit games and hit safely in five straight games earlier this season.

 Dusti Foster has started all but two games this season for the Bears at second base, picking up nine hits, three doubles, nine runs, and 12 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). Foster’s two-run go-ahead double was part of an eight-run sixth inning in the Bears’ 10-8 win over Northern Iowa (4/7).

 Pitcher Megan Ramsey has started 10 games and appeared in 19 contests, and has a 5-6 record. The Ottawa, Kan., native has emerged as the number two starter for the Bears and has a 3.40 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 70 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. Ramsey got the win in relief in the Bears’ last outing against Northern Iowa (4/7).

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 22 games behind the plate while Ballard has been the starter in 15 contests. A native of Lomita, Calif., Carr has no errors in 145 fielding chances, which is the fourth-most chances without an error in the MVC. She leads the team with five sacrifice bunts, and is third with 10 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 .235 with 16 hits, five doubles, a triple, and six RBIs. The St. Louis, Mo., native is fourth on the team with 15 runs scored. Ballard’s five doubles tie for second on the team and she has four multi-hit games this season. She has also made eight 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 the Kangaroos. In 28 starts this season, Armentrout has a .238 batting average with 20 hits, four doubles, a triple, a home run, and 10 RBIs. Her 20 hits and 29 total bases rank fourth on the team and she is fifth with 11 runs scored. 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 also 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 blast.

  Since Armentrout’s return, Shewmaker has been primarily used as the team’s designated hitter. While starting only 20 games this season, Shewmaker is third on the team with 17 RBIs. She is hitting .246 and has accumulated 16 hits, four doubles, a triple, and 25 total bases. She had a team-high three RBIs, including a double and two-run single, in MSU’s 10-8 victory over Northern Iowa last Saturday. 

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 90 plate appearances. She had been hit in seven of her first 34 appearances, which was equal to once every five times she stepped to the plate. The right fielder ranks 21st in the nation, as she’s been hit 0.26 times per game. Kempker, who has started 27 games and played in 31, ranks second on the team with a .386 on-base percentage and is third with a .260 batting average. She is tied for fourth with 13 RBIs and is fifth on the squad with 19 hits. In game two of a doubleheader with Evansville (3/31), Kempker set a career high with four RBIs as she ripped a pair of two-run doubles to lead the Bears to a 9-1 victory.

Roberson Responds Junior Carrie Roberson made her first start of the season in game two of a doubleheader against Bradley (3/25) and responded with an RBI single in the second inning of the Bears’ 3-1 victory. Roberson has appeared in 25 games as a sub, and is typically the first player off the bench, used mainly in a pinch runner role.

One-run Setbacks Missouri State has not had much luck in one-run games this season, as the Bears are 2-7 in games decided by one run. However, the Bears won their last game decided by one run, a 1-0, 11-inning victory over Wichita State (4/4). MSU has 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’ other one-run victory came in the season-opener, a 3-2 win over Jackson State (2/10).

No Run Support In 12 of pitcher Melissa Porche’s 13 losses, MSU has been shut out or scored only one run.

Early Offense The Bears are 16-3 this season when scoring the first run of the game, and 13-2 when tallying a run in the first inning. On the contrast, MSU is 1-18 when their opponent scores first, including an 1-9 mark when the opposition scores in the first inning. Missouri State won their only game when an opponent scored first in their last outing, as the Bears rallied from a two-run Northern Iowa opening frame to take a 10-8 victory.

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 12-0. However, when opponents surpass MSU’s hit total in a game, the Bears are 2-18. MSU is 3-3 this season when hits are even.

Lucky Number 3 Through 38 games this season, the Bears are 16-1 when scoring at least three runs in a game. However, Missouri State is 1-20 this season when failing to tally three runs in a contest. The lone victory came in a 1-0, 11-inning decision over Wichita State (4/4). In addition, the Bears are 14-2 when leading after the third inning, but 1-15 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 were 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.




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