Bears Look to Extend Win Streak Wednesday at Wichita State
Missouri State Bears (20-17, 8-6 MVC)
vs. Wichita State Shockers (13-28, 6-8 MVC)
Site: Wilkins Stadium (1,000)Location: Wichita, Kan.
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.comLive Video: GoShockers.com
The Missouri State Bears will ride their longest win streak in over three years into a Wednesday Missouri Valley Conference doubleheader against the Wichita State Shockers before wrapping up their eight-game road trip with a three-game series versus the Southern Illinois Salukis in Carbondale, Friday and Saturday.
Missouri State won all five of its outings last week, claiming both ends of a non-conference doubleheader against UMKC, then sweeping its three-game series with Bradley last weekend in Peoria. After slumbering for the better part of three weeks, the Bears' offense erupted last week to out-score the opposition by a 34-9 margin over the five-game stretch. MSU also got a solid week from junior right-hander Natalie Rose, who picked up all five wins for the Bears in the circle and posted an 0.82 earned run average for the week.
-The Bears batted .336 as a team and out-scored their five opponents by a 34-9 margin last week
-Missouri State has dropped six consecutive games in its series with SIU, including both meetings with the Salukis two years ago in their last trip to Charlotte West Stadium
-The last three Missouri State victories in its series with Wichita State have been shutouts, including two games in-a-row at Wilkins Stadium
-The Bears are 18-3 this year when entering the sixth inning leading or tied with the opposition
-Natalie Rose earned all five Missouri State wins in the circle last week, posting a 25-to-1 strikeout-walk ratio and a 0.82 ERA over 25.2 innings pitched
-Rose leads the MVC with four saves and 169 strikeouts; the junior right-hander is fifth on the Bears' career strikeout list with 368 punchouts
-Kirstin Cutter posted a pair of two-hit games last week and has scored two runs in four of MSU's last six contests
-Ashley Knehans climbed into MSU's all-time top five for career home runs with her 16th long ball as a Bear last Saturday at Bradley; the senior hit .533 (8-for-15) and slugged .837 last week
-The Bears recorded their first two hits of the season with the bases loaded last week, but are still just 2-for-28 (.071) on the year
-Caitlin Chapin went 4-for-5 and drove in five runs in last Tuesday's doubleheader sweep of UMKC
-Lauren Eisenreich saw her career-best eight-game hit streak come to an end Sunday at Bradley; the sophomore batted .500 (11-for-22) with two home runs and seven runs batted-in over the streak, which represents the longest by a Bear since Jessie Smith's 12-gamer in February 2009
-Tyler Porter led the Bears with a .538 (7-for-13) batting average and six runs scored last week; she also recorded her first stolen bases of the season, going 3-for-3 in steal attempts vs. Bradley over the weekend the senior outfielder enters the week with a career-long six-game hit streak and an MVC-high 12 sacrifice hits on the season
-Jenna Schwark is a .414 (12-for-29) hitter in 10 career games vs. Wichita State
The Bears enter Wednesday's action with a 47-42 edge in their series with Wichita State, despite dropping two of three games from the Shockers last year. MSU has won its last two contests vs. WSU at Wilkins Stadium, while the two clubs have evenly split their last 10 meetings.
Against Southern Illinois, on the other hand, the Bears have lost six straight games, including all four meetings a year ago. MSU does still hold a slim 40-38 advantage in the series with SIU coming into the weekend.
Scouting The Bears
Missouri State is off to a 20-17 start, including eight wins in its first 14 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 Opposition
Wichita State comes into a Tuesday matchup with nationally-ranked Oklahoma State on a three-game win streak after sweeping Creighton last weekend in Omaha. The Shockers, who were picked to finish eighth in the Valley, enter play this week with a 13-28 overall record and a 6-8 mark in MVC play. WSU returns 11 letterwinners from last year's 22-31 squad that finished seventh in the conference. Leading the way this year has been senior catcher Heather Gerritse, a preseason All-MVC selection who paces the squad with a .333 average. Senior first baseman Jamie Hull, meanwhile, leads the team with five home runs and 27 RBIs to go along with a .307 batting mark, and sophomore infielder Hayley Temple (.305) has started all 41 games for the Shockers. In the circle, sophomore right-hander Katie Armagost has been WSU's most-consistent performer, entering the week with a 5-10 record and 3.86 ERA, but freshman lefty Sloan Anderson picked up two of her four wins on the year over the weekend at Creighton.
Preseason MVC co-favorite and defending regular-season champ Southern Illinois hasn't disappointed the prognosticators, coming into this week's action 27-12 overall and 10-2 in the Valley with wins in eight straight contests. SIU brings back 12 letterwinners from last season's 38-20 squad that defeated the Bears all four times the two teams played in 2010. Keying the Saluki attack is junior outfielder Mallory Duran with her .385 batting average and 11 stolen bases. Like Duran, junior shortstop Haley Gorman has made every start this year for SIU, coming into the week with a .300 average, nine steals and 23 RBIs. Sophomore Morgan Barchan's .359 average ranks fifth in the Valley, while freshman Taylor Orsburn leads the club with 32 RBIs to go along with seven home runs. Finally, senior utility Cristina Trapani has heated up as of late to enter the week with six homers and 31 runs batted-in, and freshman Jayna Spivey leads all Salukis with eight long balls in her debut season. The SIU pitching staff, which has compiled a 3.22 ERA to rank fourth in the Valley, is led by senior right-hander Danielle Glosson, who comes into the week with a league-high 17 wins against eight losses and a 2.25 ERA.
Bears Under Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, '82) is 589-575-2 (.506) 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.
On A Roll
With wins in all five games last week, Missouri State established not just a season high for consecutive wins, but their longest win streak in over three years. The last time the Bears posted five straight victories was during the 2008 season, when they won six games in-a-row from February 15-24. The Bears' current streak is just their eighth such stretch of five or more consecutive wins over the last decade.
The Bears broke out of an eight-game batting slump by hitting .336 (44-of-131) in five games last week. What's more, Missouri State scored at least five runs in all but one of those outings after failing to tally more than three runs in each of its previous eight contests. Additionally, the Bears registered their first two hits of the season with the bases loaded after going hitless in their first 24 at-bats in those situations.
Missouri State seniors Ashley Knehans and Tyler Porter combined to bat .536 (15-of-28) while slugging .714 to power the Bears' perfect 5-0 week. Each recorded at least one hit in every game last week, with Porter matching her career-long hit streak of six games while scoring a team-high six times over the five-game stretch. Knehans tied a career high for hits in a single game Tuesday against UMKC, going 3-for-3 in MSU's 9-1 win. She clubbed her 16th home run as a Bear in Saturday's series opener at Bradley to highlight MSU's three-run first inning that paved the way to a 10-1 rout and eventual series sweep. In all, the duo scored nine runs and drove in six while also playing perfect defense in 36 chances in the field.
Coming Up Roses
Junior right-hander Natalie Rose narrowly missed picking up her third Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week honor Monday. The league's panel of experts instead awarded the honor to Drake's Jenna DeLong, who became the Bulldogs' career strikeout leader in the midst of a 3-0 week. As a result, Rose--who also earned the same honor on both March 14 and March 28--likely became the first pitcher in the history of mankind to post five victories, a 0.82 ERA and a 25-to-1 strikeout-walk ratio in a given week and not be named her conference's pitcher of the week.
Rose pitched the Bears to their longest win streak in three years, allowing a mere three earned runs in 25.2 innings pitched. The Henryetta, Okla., product pitched all five innings of the Bears' 9-1 win over UMKC in the opening game of last Tuesday's doubleheader, then came back in relief in the second contest to earn the win in MSU's 5-4, come-from-behind victory. In all, she gave up just three hits while registering 10 strikeouts over 7.1 innings on the day. The MVC's strikeout leader, Rose matched a season high by fanning nine Bradley Braves in Saturday's series-opening, 10-1 MSU win, scattering nine hits and allowing just one run in the second of her three complete-game efforts of the week. She came back Sunday with 4.1 innings of shutout ball in a 7-2 win in the first game of a doubleheader before working her 18th complete-game of the year to earn the 3-1 victory in the nightcap.
Rose leads the MVC in saves (4), strikeouts (169), innings-pitched (174.0) and starts (27), and ranks third in wins (15).
Eisey On The Prize
Sophomore outfielder Lauren Eisenreich saw her career-long hit eight-game hit streak come to an end in Sunday's series finale at Bradley, but not before she had posted the longest such streak for a Bear in over two years. Her three-run shot in the third inning of Sunday's first game handed the Bears a 7-0 lead, all but clinching MSU's fourth win in as many games. The Blue Springs, Mo., native's recent tear concluded with a .500 (11-for-22) performance at the plate, including two home runs and seven runs batted-in over the eight-game stretch.
Jekyll And Hyde
In their 17 losses this season, the Bears have hit only .188 (77-of-409), compared to .304 (161-of-530) in their 20 victories. After coming into last week with a .215 batting average with runners in scoring position on the season, MSU promptly went a combined 17-for-44 (.386) in its five wins against UMKC and Bradley.
By going 1-0 in one-run contests last week, the Bears improved to 11-5 on the season in such 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.
Illinois State battered Missouri State pitching for 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. That clout ushered in a stretch that has seen MSU out-homer the opposition by a 5-3 margin over the ensuing 11 games.
The Bears enter Wednesday's doubleheader with homers in three straight games for the first time since last season, when they went deep in four straight games, May 8-13. The school record for home runs in consecutive contests also came in 2010, as MSU clubbed a total of 11 homers in seven successive games from March 26-April 3.
Off And Running
By taking two of three games from UNI, March 19-20, Missouri State posted its first opening series win in Valley play since 2006, when they swept Indiana State in a three-game set en route to starting the MVC season with 10 straight victories. Over the previous four years since that season, the Bears had gone a combined 1-9 in their first conference series.
Additionally, Missouri State started 4-1 in Valley play, marking its best conference start since beginning the 2006 season with 10 consecutive victories. That year, the Bears went 18-4 in MVC play to finish second before capturing the Valley Tournament title and advancing to the school's fifth NCAA Tournament.
Knehans Joins Century Club
Senior first baseman Ashley Knehans became the 36th Bear to record 100 career hits by going 2-for-3 in MSU's MVC opener against UNI (March 19). Knehans joined fellow seniors Jenna Schwark and Christa Gammon, who each notched their 100th hits last season.
Who Came Up With This Schedule, Anyway?
Missouri State has played seven games against four ranked opponents through its first 37 contests of the season. In those seven outings, the Bears have been out-hit 62-21 and out-scored 44-4 in going 0-7 against No. 13 Texas (twice), No. 18 Missouri, No. 10 Oklahoma (twice) and No. 18/21 Oklahoma State (twice). The Bears now have a 15-game losing streak vs. teams ranked in the NFCA Top 25, with their last win coming at then-No. 11 OU on March 19, 2008.
Follow the Bears
Live stats for all five Missouri State softball games this week 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.