Missouri State Bears (13-22, 8-6 MVC) vs. Drake Bulldogs (26-11, 7-4 MVC)
Saturday, April 17 @ 12 p.m. (DH)
Sunday, April 18 @ 12 p.m.
Buel Field (500)Des Moines, Iowa
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.comLive Video: GoDrakeBulldogs.comSeries History: MSU 38-35-1
Last Meeting: DU won, 7-2, at 2008 MVC Championship
Current Streak: DU has won three straight dating back to 2008
After dropping both ends of their doubleheader with Wichita State to close out a six-game home stand Wednesday, the Missouri State Bears will hit the road for a three-game Missouri Valley Conference set with the Drake Bulldogs this weekend.
The Bears took two of three games from Bradley to claim their third consecutive MVC series win, but struggled to generate any offense against the Shockers on Wednesday, falling by scores of 5-1 and 5-3. Drake won two of its three MVC games against UNI last week before handing Illinois State its first two conference losses of the season with its doubleheader sweep of the Redbirds in Normal on Thursday.
-The Bears are hitting just .204 without a home run over their last six games
-As many as 11 Bears could see their first game action against Drake this weekend; MSU's series with DU last year was completely wiped out due to inclement weather, making Saturday's games the first meetings in the series since the 2008 MVC Championship
-Missouri State has posted six straight MVC road victories, 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 five of her seven decisions while posting a 2.24 ERA and holding the opposition to a .240 batting average over 11 appearances
-Supak saw a 22.2 consecutive scoreless innings streak vs. Wichita State come to an end in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss
-Freshman infielder Kirstin Cutter ranks sixth among the league’s hitters with a .405 batting average in MVC play
-Freshman Caitlin Chapin has a team-best six multi-RBI games, including one of three 4-RBI games turned in by a Bear this season
-Junior infielder Jenna Schwark leads the club and ranks 10th in the MVC in overall batting (.327); she is tied for the team lead in hits (34), and tops on the squad with 14 walks and 51 total bases
-Sophomore right-hander Natalie Rose has allowed just two earned runs over her last 20.1 innings pitched; Rose paces the MVC and ranks 36th nationally (as of April 13) with two saves on the season
Follow the Bears
Live stats for each of this weekend’s games will be available at the official home of Bears Softball on the Web, www.MissouriStateBears.com. Additionally, Drake will be streaming live video (subscription required) of Saturday's contests on its official athletics web site, www.GoDrakeBulldogs.com.
The Bears hold a slim 38-35-1 edge in their series with Drake. This weekend’s three-game set will be the first time MSU and DU have squared off since the Bulldogs nipped the Bears in the 2008 MVC Championship in Carbondale to claim their first Valley title in 14 years. Last year’s series in Springfield was completely wiped out due to inclement weather.
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 13-15 over their last 28 contests, including wins in eight of their last 12 games in league play. The MSU offense has been led by junior infielder Jenna Schwark, who is batting .327 with four homers, 14 runs scored and a team-high 51 total bases. Another junior, Christa Gammon, has also been strong at the plate so far in 2010, entering Saturday’s action with a .312 batting mark to go along with team highs of 21 runs scored and eight stolen bases. MSU has gotten significant contributions from a talented freshman class, led by Caitlin Chapin, Kirstin Cutter and Madison Hargrove. Chapin has a team-best 21 RBIs to go along with six home runs, and Cutter is hitting .310 with six steals. Hargrove has been strong both at the plate and behind it, posting a .280 batting average while starting all but one of MSU’s first 35 games at catcher. Junior Ashley Knehans has been one of the Bears’ top power threats 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 (6-6, 2.92 ERA), who has gone 5-2 with 36 strikeouts in 11 MVC outings, posting a 2.26 ERA. Senior Lauren McGinely (4-8, 4.28 ERA) has made a team-high 15 starts, completing five games, and sophomore Natalie Rose (3-8, 3.35 ERA, 2 saves) has a club-high 66 strikeouts in 77.1 innings of work, primarily in a relief role.
Scouting the Bulldogs
Drake was tabbed fourth in the Valley’s preseason poll and has done little to disappoint with a 26-11 overall mark thus far. The Bulldogs are led by one of the MVC’s top hitters in junior catcher Erin Mollohan, who paces the club with a .333 batting average and 20 RBIs. Senior infielder Elena Leon gives DU a dual threat with a team-high nine homers to go along with an MVC-best 16 stolen bases. Freshman Lindsey Vande Wall has made key contributions in her first year in the Drake program with eight long balls, 20 RBIs and 12 steals to her credit. Drake’s pitching staff, led by the junior duo of lefty Brynne Dordel and right-hander Jenna DeLong, has made things tough on the opposition, combining for an MVC-high 296 strikeouts on the year and the fifth-best team ERA (1.54) in the nation. Dordel’s 1.28 ERA is the lowest in the MVC, while DeLong has matched her teammate with 13 wins.
Century Club for Schwark
Junior infielder Jenna Schwark recorded her 100th career hit with a fifth-inning single last Thursday against 12th-ranked Oklahoma State to become the 34th Bear to eclipse the century mark for hits. The Broken Arrow, Okla., product has been the Bears’ top hitter throughout the course of the season, especially over their recent hot streak. Schwark has four multi-hit games in her last eight outings, batting .474 (9-for-19) with four RBIs and six runs scored over the same period, to help MSU go 4-4.
Coming up Roses
Sophomore right-hander Natalie Rose has been a force out of the Bears’ bullpen over the last two weeks to help key MSU’s turnaround in conference play. The Henryetta, Okla., native has gone 2-1 with two saves while posting a miniscule 0.69 ERA over her last 20.1 innings spanning eight appearances. Rose has been successful thanks in large part to her command, which has produced a stretch of 22 1/3 innings without a single walk. That follows a stretch of 55.0 innings to start the season in which she issued 21 bases on balls while compiling a 1-7 record and 4.45 ERA.
Chugging Along with Chapin
Freshman Caitlin Chapin continues to make significant contributions to the Bears’ offensive efforts. In Wednesday's game one loss to Wichita State, the Ozark, Mo., native saw her 11-game streak of reaching base safely come to an end. Over the 11-game stretch, Chapin went 13-for-30 (.433) with four homers and 12 RBIs to go along with a .541 on-base percentage and a .900 slugging percentage. Chapin drew six walks in all over last weekend's series win over Bradley to record a team-high .692 on-base percentage for the week.
With six home runs the week of March 29-April 4, the Bears upped their total to 22 long balls. 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 16 regular-season games remaining on the schedule, the Bears are within reach of 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 saw her career-long seven-game hit streak come to an end April 8 vs. Oklahoma State. The Ozark, Mo., prodcut hit .458 (11-for-24) with four home runs and 11 RBIs during the stretch that extended 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 April 2-3, 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 few 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.
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 10 would-be base-stealers on the season to rank second in the conference.
One and Done
After claiming a 2-1 decision vs. Bradley on Sunday, MSU’s record in one-run affairs improved to 4-9. Over the past two seasons, the Bears have played 29 one-run games, going just 11-18 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.