Softball Bears Look to Build Momentum this Weekend at Bradley
Missouri State Bears (17-17, 5-6 MVC)
vs. Bradley Braves (8-31, 1-10 MVC)
Site: Laura Bradley Park (300)Location: Peoria, Ill.
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com
After breaking out of an offensive slump by pounding out 21 hits in a doubleheader sweep of UMKC Tuesday, the Missouri State Bears will head north to Peoria, Ill., to take on the Bradley Braves in a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series this weekend. The Bears and Braves will engage in a doubleheader Saturday beginning at noon, then square off in a single contest Sunday to conclude the series.
MSU appeared to have found its collective stroke at the plate Tuesday afternoon, touching up UMKC pitching for a total of 14 runs in just 11 turns at bat, following an eight-game stretch that saw the Bears go just 2-6, scoring no more than three runs in any of those outings.
This weekend's trip to Peoria begins a stretch of eight straight road games for Missouri State, which climbed back to the .500 mark with its sweep Tuesday. The Bears enter the week with a 5-9 record in away games this season.
-Missouri State has dropped four consecutive road games in its series with Bradley and five of its last six to the Braves in Peoria; the Bears did, however, take two of three from BU last year in Springfield and lead the overall series, 43-24
-The Bears posted season highs for runs (9) and hits (12) in their 9-1 win in the first game of a doubleheader sweep of UMKC Tuesday
-Missouri State has beaten Bradley 37 times in 55 meetings under Holly Hesse, good for a .673 wining percentage; that figure trails only a .750 mark against Indiana State in terms of winning percentage for MSU in a Valley series under Hesse
-Natalie Rose leads the MVC with four saves and 154 strikeouts, ranking ninth and 50th, respectively, among all Division I pitchers through games of April 11; the junior right-hander's total of 12 victories on the year is a career high and is tied for third in the Valley
-Rose, who also paces the MVC in innings pitched (155.2), has walked just 23 batters on the year and her walks per seven innings pitched average rated as the 13th-best in the nation coming into Tuesday's doubleheader; Rose fanned 10 without walking a single hitter over 7.1 innings of work vs. UMKC to lower her average to 1.03 bases-on-balls per seven innings
-Rose is fifth on the Bears' career strikeout list with 353 punchouts
-Kirstin Cutter ranks second in the Valley in hitting (.359) and has at least one hit in 19 of her last 26 games; the sophomore's 10 steals on the season lead the club and represent the fifth-highest total in the MVC
-Ashley Knehans needs one more long ball to climb into the school's career top 5
-Caitlin Chapin recorded the Bears' first hit of the season with the bases loaded in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader sweep of UMKC; MSU batters are now 1-for-25 (.040) with the sacks jammed in 2011
-Chapin has at least one hit in six of MSU's 11 MVC games and is slugging a team-high .593 with 4 RBIs in conference play
-The Bears are 13-1 in games in which they have out-hit the opposition
-MSU is 11-5 in one-run contests in 2011 after going just 14-20 in such games over the previous two seasons
-The Bears are 16-3 this year when entering the sixth inning leading or tied with the opposition
-Ashley Brentz has recorded at least one hit in five of the last six games she has appeared in the starting lineup, going 6-of-16 (.375) in those contests
-Lauren Eisenreich has gone 9-for-18 with 3 RBIs over the Bears' last six games
Missouri State has evenly split its last 10 meetings with the Braves, taking two out of three games from BU last year to snap a four game slide. The Braves swept the Bears in three games in their last visit to Laura Bradley Park in 2009, then knocked MSU out of the MVC Championship at the EastSide Centre in East Peoria later that same spring. The Bears are 43-24 all-time against Bradley, with 37 of those victories coming during head coach Holly Hesse's tenure.
Scouting the Bears
Missouri State is off to a 15-17 start, including five wins in its first 11 Missouri Valley Conference outings after being tabbed fifth in the league's preseason poll. The Bears, who have dropped seven games to nationally-ranked clubs, return 12 letterwinners and seven regular starters from last year's 21-32 squad that finished in a tie for fourth in the Valley's regular-season standings. MSU is led by a trio of returning All-MVC performers, including seniors Jenna Schwark and Christa Gammon, who batted .358 and .337, respectively, a year ago to rank among the conference's top six hitters. Sophomore Caitlin Chapin also enjoyed a banner year in her debut season for MSU in 2010, clubbing eight home runs to match a Missouri State freshman record. In the circle, junior right-hander Natalie Rose should carry the load once again after finishing 2010 with six consecutive complete games during the Bears' critical run through the MVC Tournament.
Scouting the Braves
The Braves have struggled to find their groove so far in 2011, entering the week with an 8-31 record after being picked last in the Valley's preseason poll. The Braves are led by junior infielder Julie Sherman's .336 batting average, and senior catcher Kate Singler's four homers and 19 RBIs. BU, which was hitting .242 coming into the week, has gotten a lift from senior outfielder Brittany Fairbairn, who was hitting .314 with a team-high 38 hits and seven steals. The Braves' pitching duties have been divided evenly between three individuals, with junior right-hander Lindsay Hufeld (3-14) posting team-highs for innings pitched (102.1), strikeouts (62) and complete games (12).
Bears Under Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, '82) is 586-575-2 (.505) in her 23rd season at Missouri State. Last season, the Bears finished 21-32 and tied for fourth in the MVC regular-season race before reeling off three wins in two days at the MVC Tournament to reach the semifinal round.
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. Missouri State's 2006 campaign was the sixth time the Bears have won 30 games in a season, and they enter the 2011 season with an average of over 24 wins per season since her arrival in 1989. The Bears' fourth-place MVC in finish last year marked the 13th time during her tenure MSU has finished in the top-five of the conference standings. Hesse won her 500th career game at Missouri State in a 1-0 triumph over Indiana State on April 22, 2007.
Hargrove Hot Streak
Sophomore catcher Madison Hargrove returned from a four-game absence to continue her recent hot streak at the plate by recording hits in three of her first five at-bats last week vs. Oklahoma State and Arkansas. Those two outings extended Hargrove's hit streak to a career-long six games before she went hitless in three trips to the plate against Creighton Saturday. Coming into Tuesday's doubleheader with UMKC, Hargrove had batted .370 (10-for-27) over her last nine games to hike her season average to .238 after going her previous 12 games without a single hit.
Wake up the Bats
The Bears snapped a string of eight straight games in which they failed to score more than three runs with Tueday's offensive outburst vs. UMKC. MSU tallied a season-high nine runs and matched another 2011 high with 12 hits in the opener, then rallied for four runs late to complete the sweep with a 5-4 win.
In their 17 losses this season, the Bears have hit only .188 (77-of-409), compared to .309 (138-of-446) in their 17 victories.
With their 5-4 win over UMKC Tuesday, the Bears improved to 11-5 on the season in one-run affairs. That mark offers a substantial improvement over MSU's record in one-run games over the previous two years, as the Bears went just 14-20 in those outings in 2009 and 2010.
The Bears were swept in a three-game Valley series for the first time since May 2009 the weekend of April 2-3 at Illinois State. The Redbirds out-scored the Bears 20-4, marking MSU's worst run differential in an MVC series since March 2009, when UNI out-scored the Bears 34-14 over three games at Killian Stadium.
Illinois State clubbed five home runs in their April 2 doubleheader sweep of the Bears, but Ashley Knehans recorded the only long ball in MSU's series finale (April 3) with her second-inning two-run shot. Knehans homer was her first of the season and her 15th as a Bear.
Follow the Bears
Live stats for all three Missouri State softball games this weekend will be available on the Missouri State Athletics web site at missouristatebears.com.
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 eight regular-season MSU softball contests in 2011.