Bears travel to Indiana State for weekend series



The Missouri State softball team continues their road trip with a three-game series at MVC rival Indiana State this weekend. The Bears split with #20/22 Southern Illinois last weekend in a weather-shortened series, handing the Salukis their first home loss of the season. Indiana State (17-20 overall, 3-11 MVC) enters the series on a high note, as the Sycamores defeated 18th/19th-ranked Illinois State, 8-7, in 11 innings on Wednesday in Terre Haute.

The Opponents Indiana State used a six-run fifth inning to rally from a 6-0 deficit against Illinois State Wednesday. Lauren Kebely hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th to score pinch runner Lindsey Starwalt as the Sycamores took an 8-7 decision. Indiana State junior Darcy Wood earned the pitching victory as she threw an 11-inning complete game, giving up seven runs on 12 hits while striking out five batters.

The Sycamores broke a nine-game losing streak with a 1-0, 11-inning victory over Creighton last Sunday in game one of a doubleheader before falling in the nightcap, 4-3, in Terre Haute. Wood pitched a complete game two-hit shutout in ISU’s victory, but took the defeat in relief in game two against the Bluejays.

Wood, the ace of the Indiana State pitching staff, is 10-15 in 32 appearances, including 17 complete games in 23 starts. She is second in the MVC with 193 strikeouts. The Sycamores are led offensively by Meredith Simpson, who is hitting .333 with 40 hits and 25 runs scored. She is the only player hitting over .300 for Indiana State.

Series Records Missouri State swept the Sycamores last season in Springfield, winning by scores of 4-1, 8-1, and 4-3. The Bears hold a 39-16 advantage in the all-time series.

Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 498-472-2 (.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 two 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 877-708-2.

Last Week The Missouri State softball team used strong pitching from Melissa Porche and timely hitting to take a 4-3 victory over 20th/22nd-ranked Southern Illinois in game one of a doubleheader, but fell in the nightcap, 8-0, in five innings Sunday in Carbondale. The Bears’ victory in game one was the first defeat suffered at home this season by the conference-leading Salukis.

Junior Michelle Armentrout gave the Bears a 1-0 lead on a fourth-inning solo home run. The Bears added three more runs in the fifth, as sophomore Jessie Smith led off the inning with a double to right field. Senior Katie Martin then ripped a double of her own, scoring Smith. Porche followed with a single down the left field line to score Martin and give the Bears a 3-0 lead. After advancing to second on a passed ball and to third on a Jana Shewmaker sacrifice, Porche scored on an RBI bunt by Armentrout.

Southern Illinois got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double by Katie Wilson. The Salukis added two unearned runs in the sixth to pull within a run at 4-3. SIU could get no closer, as Porche set down the Salukis in order in the bottom of the seventh to preserve the victory. The junior righthander evened her record at 13-13, as she allowed four hits and one earned run in the complete game effort, while striking out seven.

Game two was dominated by the Salukis, as the home team scored four first-inning runs and never looked back. The big blow of the inning was a three-run home run by SIU’s Jayme Wamsley. The Salukis added three more runs in the third inning, with Katie Wagner’s two run double and run scored accounting for the SIU tallies. Tiffanie Dismore’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the fifth ended the contest on account of the run rule.

SIU’s Ashley Hamby (13-3) threw five no-hit innings and was a first-inning error away from a perfect game. Porche had a rough outing in her second stint of action on the mound, allowing four first-inning runs on three hits in her only inning of work to take the defeat, falling to 13-14. Freshman Megan Ramsey surrendered three runs on four hits in two innings of relief and Lauren McGinley pitched the final 1.2 innings, allowing a run on two hits.

Martin Honored Senior outfielder Katie Martin was selected as the Prairie Farms/Missouri Valley Conference Female Scholar-Athlete of the Week on April 12 for her performance 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 and split with UNI. 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 over UNI.

On April 4, Martin was named as one of 20 semifinalists for the Lowe’s CLASS Award in recognition of her accomplishments both on and off the field.

She is one of 20 candidates, with the winner being selected through fan balloting in conjunction with votes by coaches, media and various sponsors after the field is narrowed to 10 finalists later this month. The winner will be announced during the 2007 NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Martin was nominated for the honor based on her performance on the diamond as well as her personal character and achievements in the classroom and community. Martin is the softball representative for Missouri State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and has been active in MSU softball’s fundraising and community service efforts throughout her four years at Missouri State.

500 Club Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse is two 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. 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 Several Bears rank among the top 10 in Missouri Valley Conference statistical categories. Pitcher Melissa Porche leads the league in innings pitched (179.2) and is second in games started (27). She is also third in strikeouts (177), fourth in appearances (33), and seventh in earned-run average (2.06).

Jessie Smith leads the league with 14 stolen bases and Brooke Kempker is atop the hit by pitch category, with eight. Katie Martin is third in the Valley with 12 stolen bases, tied for fifth with 23 walks, tied for sixth with two triples, and is eighth with a .433 on-base percentage. 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.

Nationally, the Bears rank 16th in fielding percentage. Kempker is 26th in hit by pitch per game, with a 0.24 average.

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 game against Wichita State (4/4) and responded with a walk-off double in the 11th inning of the Bears’ 1-0 victory. Martin has remained in the second spot the last five games, and has hit .450 since moving from the leadoff role. Missouri State is 5-2 since Smith assumed the role of leadoff batter, and the shortstop is hitting .320 with three doubles, two home runs, and five RBIs.

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 13-14 with a 2.06 ERA in 179.2 innings of work. She currently leads the MVC in innings pitched and is third in the league with 177 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 have made position changes in 2007. First Team All-MVC selection Jessie Smith moved from right field to shortstop and Katie Martin 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 .984 and .982 fielding percentages, respectively. Smith leads the team with 66 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 with five multi-RBI games.

Martin leads the team with 38 hits, eight doubles, two triples, 27 runs, 23 walks, and 65 total bases. She also leads the Bears with a .322 batting average, .551 slugging percentage, .433 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 23 base on balls are tied for third fifth. 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’s 3-for-4 performance against Southern Illinois in game one of last weekend’s doubleheader extended her hit streak to seven games, the longest of the season on the team. The steak was snapped in game two of the doubleheader. She has 14 stolen bases this season which leads the MVC, and is second on the Bears’ squad behind Martin with 34 hits, 24 runs scored, 61 total bases, and 15 walks. The Blue Springs, Mo., native is also second on the team with a .281 batting average and .504 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 115 starts through 40 games this season.

Lauren McGinley is one of three Bears to have started every game this season, with 35 coming at first base and two on the mound. The Oklahoma City, Okla., native has 10 hits with five RBIs and three runs scored. McGinley held a perfect fielding percentage until she committed an error against UNI (4/6), but the first baseman is still 209 of 211 (.991) in fielding chances this season.

Jodie Shead has started 28 games and played in 32, 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. Her .233 batting average is the fourth-best mark on the team, and she has 18 hits and six RBIs. Shead 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 20 contests, and has a 5-6 record. The Ottawa, Kan., native has emerged as the number two starter for the Bears and owns a 3.31 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 72 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 17 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 .219 with 16 hits, five doubles, a triple, and six RBIs. The St. Louis, Mo., native is fourth on the team with 16 runs scored. Ballard’s five doubles tie for third on the team and she has four multi-hit games this season. The junior 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 30 starts this season, Armentrout has a .233 batting average with 21 hits, four doubles, a triple, a home run, and 12 RBIs. Her 21 hits and 33 total bases rank fourth on the team and she is fifth with 12 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 22 games this season, Shewmaker is third on the team with 17 RBIs. She is hitting .229 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 (4/7). 

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 95 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 26th in the nation, as she’s been hit 0.24 times per game. Kempker, who has started 29 games and played in 33, ranks second on the team with a .376 on-base percentage and is third with a .247 batting average. She is fifth on the squad with 13 RBIs and 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 26 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 experienced much luck in one-run games this season, as the Bears are 3-7 in games decided by one run. However, the Bears have won their last two games decided by a lone run, a 1-0, 11-inning victory over Wichita State (4/4) and a 4-3 triumph over Southern Illinois (4/15). 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 13 of pitcher Melissa Porche’s 14 losses, MSU has been shut out or scored only one run.

Early Offense The Bears are 17-3 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 1-19 when their opponent scores 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 on April 7.

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 13-0. However, when opponents surpass MSU’s hit total in a game, the Bears are 2-19. MSU is 3-3 this season when hits are even.

Lucky Number 3 Through 40 games this season, the Bears are 17-1 when scoring at least three runs in a game. However, Missouri State is 1-21 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 1-16 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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