Bears Hit the Road for Wednesday Night Contest with Arkansas
Missouri State Bears (17-18)vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (25-20) When: Wednesday, April 22 @ 7 p.m.
Where: Bogle Park (Fayetteville, Ark.) Live Stats: http://www.missouristatebears.com/liveStats/liveStats.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=13800&KEY= Live Video: http://www.missouristatebears.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=13800&KEY=&ATCLID=1384186
The Missouri State softball team will attempt to build on a pair of shutout victories last week with midweek road match-ups against Arkansas (Wednesday) and Oklahoma State (Thursday) before hosting Missouri Valley Conference-leading Creighton in a three-game set, Saturday and Sunday.
Despite losing three of their five scheduled games last week to weather, the Bears stopped a five-game losing streak with wins over Wichita State and Evansville. MSU enters the week tied with Illinois State for the fifth spot in The Valley standings with just two regular-season conference series remaining.
The Bears snapped a seven-game losing streak at home with last Wednesday’s 4-0 win over Wichita State
Senior Jana Shewmaker broke out of an 0-for-11 slump, batting .333 in the Bears’ two victories last week; Shewmaker’s 2-for-3 performance Wednesday sparked the Bears’ offense in a 4-0 victory over Wichita State, with her three-run homer proving to be the key blow in MSU’s key four-run, first inning
With her two shutouts last week, junior pitcher Lauren Supak stretched her scoreless innings streak to 16 1/3 innings and now ranks seventh in the conference in overall earned run average (1.87) and fifth in MVC play with a 1.07 ERA
Follow the Bears
Live stats for all five Bears softball games this week will be available on the Missouri State Athletics official web site, www.missouristatebears.com. Additionally, live streaming video of Wednesday’s contest at Arkansas, Thursday’s match-up at Oklahoma State and the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader with Creighton will be shown on Bears Live (subscription required), which is accessible through missouristatebears.com.
The Bears hold a slim 17-15 edge in the series with Arkansas after splitting a doubleheader with the Razorbacks in Springfield last year. Oklahoma State has defeated the Bears 18 times in 23 meetings, including a 2-1 decision on March 17 in Springfield. Thursday’s match-up will be the Bears’ first with the Cowgirls in Stillwater since the 2006 season, when the two clubs split a doubleheader at Cowgirl Stadium. Creighton, which leads the series with MSU 42-22, has taken seven straight and nine of the last 10 meetings with the Bears. The two-time defending Valley champs swept a three-game series from MSU in their last trip to Springfield in 2007.
Scouting thE Razorbacks
An NCAA Tournament qualifier last year, Arkansas returns 20 letterwinners from its 37-29 squad from 2008. The Razorbacks enter Wednesday’s contest 25-20 on the season following a rough weekend that saw them drop three lopsided contests to sixth-ranked Alabama. Nevertheless, Arkansas’ 10 Southeastern Conference wins matches their highest total under head coach Jamie Pinkerton. One of the top power-hitting clubs in the SEC, the Razorbacks lineup features seven players with at least four home runs on the season. Leading the pack is junior Miranda Dixon, a 2008 NFCA All-South Region performer and UA’s all-time home run leader, with nine long balls and a team-high 33 RBIs on the season. Also the Razorbacks’ ace in the circle, Dixon has compiled a 16-8 record and four saves, the latter ranking fourth in all of Division I softball. UA’s top performer at the plate so far in 2009 has been senior cadtcher Whitney Cloer, who enters the week batting .350 with eight homers and 33 runs driven in to match Dixon for the club lead. Junior outfielder Jessica Bachkora leads the team with 16 stolen bases to go along with a .291 batting average, five dingers and 26 RBIs. Arkansas’ all-time runs scored leader, senior infielder Kayla Johnson is hitting .288 and leads the team with 29 runs scored on the season.
Scouting thE Cowgirls
The Cowgirls have been solid in all phases of the game in compiling a 29-16 record thus far in 2009. Oklahoma State has been particularly strong in the circle, registering the fourth-best team earned run average in the Big 12 (2.22) and 15 shutouts through its first 45 games. Sophomore lefty Sarah Odom leads the club with a 13-4 mark and 2.11 ERA. Junior right-hander Anna Whiddon has been just as effective, going 14-11 with a 2.26 ERA to go along with 14 complete games, three saves, eight shutouts and 145 strikeouts in 152.0 innings pitched. OSU’s offense enters the week with a .276 batting average, paced by one of the Big 12’s leading run-producers in second baseman Alysia Hamilton. The sophomore has 42 RBIs entering the week to go along with a team-high .338 batting average. Sophomore shortstop Mariah Gearhart has been the chief beneficiary of Hamilton’s hitting prowess, sporting the third-highest run total (40) in the conference while registering a team-high .461 on-base percentage, good for ninth in the league. She is also tied for the Big 12 top lead in stolen bases with 27 successful steals in 29 attempts this season. Finally, freshman first baseman Julie Ward leads the Cowgirls and ranks third in the league with nine homers to go along with a team-best .549 slugging percentage.
Scouting thE Bluejays
The two-time defending Missouri Valley Conference champions are once again ahead of the pack in the league race with just two league series remaining in the regular season. Creighton, which received votes in both major softball polls this week after taking two of three from Southern Illinois last weekend, returns eight regular starters from last year’s 43-17 squad that advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years. The Bluejays, who enter the week 26-12 overall and 14-4 in MVC play, make their living with the combination of pitching and defense. CU’s 1.68 team earned run average leads The Valley and ranks 20th nationally, while its 0.975 fielding percentage is the ninth-best mark in all of Division I softball. Individually, junior Tara Oltman is once again the top pitcher in the conference, coming into the week with a 0.93 ERA, good for eighth in the nation. The two-time MVC Pitcher of the Year leads the MVC in nearly every major statistical category, including ERA, wins (21), innings pitched (195.2), strikeouts (200), complete games (24), shutouts (9), saves (2) and opponent batting average (.163). The Jays are batting .258 as a team, paced by junior Renae Sinkler’s .352 batting average, nine homers and 28 runs batted in. Senior catcher Laura Kratochvil and junior infielder Michelle Koch are the only other CU regulars batting above the .300 mark, entering the week with averages of .338 and .337, respectively.
Bears under Holly Hesse
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 546-519-2 (.513) in her 21st season at Missouri State. Last season, the Bears finished 28-22 and 11-13 in the MVC to place seventh, but MSU recorded three wins in two days at the MVC Tournament to reach the title game.
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. The Bears’ second-place MVC finish marked the 12th time during her tenure the Bears have finished in the top-five of the conference standings. It 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 500th career game at Missouri State in a 1-0 triumph over Indiana State on April 22, 2007. She joined Illinois State’s Melinda Fischer and Creighton’s Brent Vigness as the only active MVC coaches with 500 career wins.
Home Sweet Home
The 2009 season marks the debut of the Bears’ brand new, 1,200-seat home park, Killian Softball Stadium. Financed and constructed as part of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board’s $2.7 million renovation of the Roger G. Killian Sports Complex, MSU’s new home will give the Bears a state-of-the-art facility and open up the possibility of hosting future NCAA regional competitions.
MSU’s March 7 dedication ceremony included over 40 former players and coaches from all but three of Missouri State’s 40 varsity softball teams. The Bears dropped their first game at their new park, a 4-1 decision to SEMO on March 6, but bounced back to knock off UMKC by a 3-1 score the following day to commemorate the facility’s dedication.
Climbing the Charts
Jessie Smith has continued her assault on the Missouri State record book in recent weeks, moving up the charts in several offensive categories. Most notably, Smith has bested her own career marks in home runs (25), slugging percentage (.554) and total bases (313), while also moved into second place on MSU’s career runs scored list (120). She needs just three more runs to reach Kate Madden’s all-time mark of 123. Additionally, Smith’s homer against Wichita State on March 26 moved her into a tie for 12th on The Valley’s career home run list, matching four others.
This weekend’s series with Creighton will mark the final home contests for six Missouri State seniors. Ashley Arbon, Jen Carr, Brooke Kempker, Jana Shewmaker, Jessie Smith and Elysha Swider will be honored on field at Killian Softball Stadium prior to the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Despite stopping a seven-game home losing streak with a pair of wins last week, the Bears’ offense still has yet to get untracked at Killian Softball Stadium. MSU is batting .248 as a team and has hit just six of its 17 home runs on the season at home. Bears pitchers have found their new park to be even more inhospitable, having registered a 3.57 earned run average in their first 13 games at Killian compared to a 2.18 ERA in 22 outings away from home.
MSU hopes its performances in wins over Wichita State and Evansville are signs of better things to come at its new home. The Bears batted .283 while posting a pair of shutouts, as MSU junior pitcher Lauren Supak gave up just 11 hits in two complete-game efforts. Supak has experienced few troubles in her new park, as the right-hander has posted a 1.62 ERA in nine home appearances, but had not earned a home win before going 2-0 at Killian this past week. The Colorado Springs product finished the week having completed 17.0 consecutive scoreless innings over her last three starts at home.
Senior shortstop Jessie Smith not only leads the Bears in most nearly every offensive category, she also ranks as one of the toughest players to strike out in all of Division I softball. The Blue Springs, Mo., native leads The Valley and ranks 14th nationlly, fanning just four times through her first 106 at-bats this season entering last week. Against Evansville this past Saturday, Smith extended her streak of consecutive games without a strikeout to 13, a span of 40 at-bats dating back to March 21. In all, she has gone down on strikes just one time in 38 MVC at-bats in 2009.
The Bears one-two punch of Lauren McGinley and Lauren Supak in the circle has the opposition seeing double as of late. MSU’s two Laurens have combined to go 7-6 with a 1.43 ERA, nine complete games and five shutouts over the Bears’ last 13 games. McGinley has worked into at least the sixth inning in seven of her last eight starts, while Supak has posted eight consecutive starts of 5 2/3 innings or more.
Missouri State broke out of a midseason slump by batting .283 as a team in its two wins last week. The Bears had hit just .192 in going 2-6 over their previous eight games. MSU’s four-run outburst against Wichita State on Wednesday marked the first time they had totaled more than three runs in a game since besting the Shockers by a 5-0 score at Wilkins Stadium on March 26.
The Bears have found the proposition of even getting a game in to be quite difficult as of late. After losing just three total games to weather over the season’s first five weeks, MSU has seen 10 of its last 28 games wiped out due to inhospitable conditions. The Bears have lost seven conference games, including their entire series with Drake and two of their three games with Evansville this past weekend.
Despite playing just four home games over the last four weeks, the Bears have discovered something that works over their lengthy stay on the road, compiling an 8-4 record away from Killian Softball Stadium since Feb. 27. MSU pitchers have been especially tough over that period, registering a 2.01 earned run average and four shutouts to compliment an efficient, yet inconsistent offense that has generated 3.8 runs per game despite hitting only .225 as a team. Junior Lauren McGinley has spearheaded the Bears’ effort in the circle, going 6-3 with a 1.19 ERA during the same 12-game stretch.
Let’s Play Two
Missouri State and Iowa State nearly completed a double dip on March 19, despite the schedule calling for just a single game. The Bears and Cyclones engaged in the second 13-inning contest in MSU history in a game that took three hours and nine minutes to complete. That matched a March 24, 1992 game against Louisiana-Lafayette, won by the Ragin’ Cajuns, 2-1, for the longest game on record at Missouri State. It also represents just the third contest involving a Valley team to extend 13 or more innings since the 2001 season, and the conference’s longest since Indiana State battled Saint Louis in a 14-inning affair on March 22, 2007.
A Shew-in at First
In addition to leading the Bears with a .429 batting average the week of March 16-22, senior first baseman Jana Shewmaker turned in a record-setting day in the field against Iowa State on March 19, registering an all-time MSU single-game high of 22 putouts. That figure bested Ashley Meredith’s MSU individual record of 21 putouts, set May 8, 2004, against Bradley in a 12-inning game. It also represents the third-highest total by a Valley player since the 2001 season. As a team, Missouri State’s 39 putouts against the Cyclones surpassed its previous single-game record of 37, set in the Bears’ only other 13-inning contest on record (3/24/92 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette).
A Not-So-Fine How-Do-You-Do
UNI used a string of big innings to sweep its three-game series with the Bears to open MVC play, March 14-15. The Panthers outscored MSU by a 34-14 margin over the three games, setting a Missouri State opponent record for both total runs scored and total scoring margin in a conference series. In their 477 previous conference games in 25 Valley seasons, the Bears had allowed the opposition to score 11 runs or more in a single game just seven times. UNI accomplished the feat in all three contests, besting the Bears by scores of 12-5, 11-5 and 11-4. The Panthers’ 34 runs also represented the highest successive three-game total on record for a Missouri State opponent.
Laurels for lauren
Junior Lauren McGinley was named the Missouri Valley Conference’s Co-Pitcher of the Week for the period February 23-March 1, the league office announced March 2. McGinley picked up both Missouri State victories at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn., posting 9.2 scoreless innings in all.
McGinley earned a win in relief in MSU’s first game of the day on February 27, a come-from-behind 7-6 decision over Valparaiso. With the go-ahead run on third base, she recorded the final two outs of the seventh inning before Jessie Smith won it for the Bears with a lead-off homer in the bottom half of the inning.
In MSU’s 4-0, nine-inning win over Tennessee Tech later in the day, McGinley turned in her second shutout of the season and her second extra-innings complete-game effort of 2009. She limited the Golden Eagles to just four singles, only one of which came after the fourth inning, in a career-best nine innings of work.
McGinley picked up another honor from the conference office on March 26 when she was named Prairie Farms MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week. The Valley’s Scholar-Athlete program honors its student-athletes for their athletic performance for a one-week period and academic success in the classroom. McGinley went 2-0 with a 1.07 earned-run average in three starts the week of March 16-22, as the Bears swept a three-game series from Indiana State. The Oklahoma City native, who has a 3.86 cumulative grade-point average in physical education, blanked ISU, 4-0, on March 21, yielding just three hits while striking out four. The following afternoon she took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before settling for a two-hit shutout in a 2-0 Bears’ triumph.
McGinley became the first Bear to be honored with the award since Melissa Porche earned the distinction March 25, 2008.
Bears Go Deep
After hitting just two home runs in its first nine games of the season, Missouri State has clubbed 15 long balls in its last 26 contests. The Bears hit three home runs in their 9-8 loss to Central Arkansas (Feb. 22), marking the first time they accomplished the feat since last April 26 vs. Southern Illinois. Christa Gammon led-off the ball game with an inside-the-park homer down the left field line, and Ashley Knehans belted her first homer of the year two batters later. With two out in the seventh inning, Jen Carr launched just her second career homer, a two-run shot that pulled the Bears to within one run. Last weekend at the Frost Classic, it was Jessie Smith’s turn to power up, as the Bears’ all-time home run leader twice broke her own school record against Valparaiso. Her first dinger started a four-run, sixth-inning rally and her lead-off shot in the bottom of the seventh handed MSU a 7-6 win. In MSU’s nightcap, Jenna Schwark’s two-run bomb in the top of the ninth sealed the Bears’ 4-0 victory over Tennessee Tech.
MSU continued its homer binge at the All-Missouri Classic, getting another two-run homer from Carr to pull even with Saint Louis in the top of the fifth inning March 8, and a two-out, grand slam from Knehans-the first of her career-in the seventh to wrap up an 8-4 win.
Watch the leather, man
Missouri State ended the 2008 season ranked second nationally and first in The Valley with a .981 team fielding percentage. Texas A&M led the nation in fielding with a .984 percentage. MSU’s mark was the sixth-best fielding percentage in NCAA Division I history. Among the Bears’ regulars, Christa Gammon and Elysha Swider posted perfect fielding percentages in 2008.
The Bears have finished among the nation’s top 30 teams in fielding percentage each of the last three seasons after posting a .969 mark in 2007 to finish 29th and a .975 percentage in 2006 to rate 12th in the land.
So far in 2009, MSU has posted a .968 fielding percentage, good for second in the MVC.
Missouri State was 20-4 when scoring the first run of the game, and 10-1 when scoring a run in the first inning in 2008. That followed a 2007 season in which the Bears were 20-5 when scoring first and 15-3 when tallying a run in the first inning.
MSU is 14-6 when scoring first, but just 4-7 when plating a run in the first inning in 2009. The Bears have outscored the opposition 27-11 in the first inning, but have been outscored 43-23 in the second and third innings.
bears ink six
The Bears received six commitments for the 2009-10 academic year during the November National Letter of Intent signing period. Holly Hesse and her staff announced the additions of Caitlin Chapin (Ozark, Mo.), Stevie Pierce (Plano, Texas), Alaina Burkhart (Neosho, Mo.), Lauren Eisenreich (Blue Springs, Mo.), Madison Hargrove (Shawnee, Kan.) and Kirstin Cutter (Oklahoma City, Okla).
Burkhart (OF) hit .392 in her first year at Crowder College en route to earning second-team NJCAA all-region honors. The Neosho, Mo., native hit leadoff for former Bear softball standout and current Crowder coach Lori (Dilbeck) Videmschek, and will add speed to the MSU outfield and a versatile bat to the Bears’ lineup. A three-time all-district and all-Southwest Conference honoree at Neosho High, Burkhart helped the Wildcats to three district titles as a prep standout.
Chapin (IF) completed her career at Ozark (Mo.) High School as one of the area’s most decorated players. A four-time All-Ozarks selection, Chapin set OHS career records for home runs, runs batted in, runs scored and hits, leading the Lady Tigers to three district titles. In 2007 she clubbed 11 home runs, which tied for the fourth-highest single-season total in Missouri high school softball history, en route to leading Ozark to a fourth-place Class 4 finish.
Cutter (SS) was an all-state selection at Oklahoma City’s Western Heights High School this past fall. Primarily a strong-armed shortstop, Cutter is a left-handed slap-hitter who is quick on the base baths. A four-time all-conference honoree, Cutter has also competed in basketball, cross country and soccer at Western Heights.
Eisenreich (OF) earned all-district honors in helping Blue Springs High School to the Missouri Class 4 title with a perfect 32-0 team record this fall. The daughter of former major league outfielder Jim Eisenreich, she was a part of three district championship squads at Blue Springs, picking up all-region honors each of her last two seasons as a prep. A defensive specialist in centerfield, Eisenreich possesses a strong arm and an uncanny ability to track the ball.
Hargrove (C/SS) enters her final prep season this spring at Mill Valley (Shawnee, Kan.) High School as a three-year starter and two-time all-conference selection as a catcher for the Jaguars. Hargrove’s strong arm and athleticism could provide her the unique opportunity to see playing time both behind the plate and at shortstop for the Bears.
Pierce (1B/OF) is another prep standout with the ability to provide added punch to Bears’ lineup. The Plano (Texas) High School product hit .485 with four homers as a junior and has earned three all-district nods. Pierce brings the versatility to play first base and the outfield. She played summer ball for the Texas Glory Gold, a team that featured 13 players committed to play at Division I institutions.
MVC Preseason Poll
The Missouri State softball team was picked to finish sixth in the 2009 Missouri Valley Conference coaches’ preseason poll. Two-time defending regular-season champion Creighton was the overwhelming favorite among coaches, gathering nine first-place votes and 97 points total. Illinois State garnered 85 total points to place second, followed by Southern Illinois (78) and reigning MVC Tournament champ Drake (60), which received one first-place vote. The Bears received 45 points, which was 13 points shy of Wichita State in the fifth spot. Evansville (42), Indiana State (33), Bradley (25) and UNI (24) round out the bottom half of the poll.