Missouri State controls its own destiny to make the MVC Tournament as it wraps up the regular season with three games at Evansville
May 2, 2014
Evansville Series Notes
The Missouri State softball team (25-25, 8-15) controls its own destiny as far as qualifying for the MVC Tournament when the Bears face the Evansville Purple Aces (18-30, 6-17) in Indiana to conclude the regular season. MSU currently holds a one-game lead on the eight-seed and final spot in the postseason tournament. The Bears can climb as high as the six-seed with a sweep and some help.
The Last Meeting
April 21, 2013
Missouri State has been successful in Evansville in recent years. The Bears are 10-3 in the last 13 games against the Purple Aces in Indiana. Last season, the Purple Aces ended the Bears' season with a 4-2, eight-inning win in the opening round of the MVC Tournament. Overall, the Bears lead the all-time series by a 35-23 margin.
Despite a tough week in the win-loss columns, the Bears continued to produce some impressive offensive contributions. First baseman Bethany Sullinger continued her assault on the MSU record books. In Saturday's doubleheader against Illinois State, the sophomore drove in four runs to run her season total to 40 RBI. It is the fourth-most in a single season and just six shy of tying the school record. Astoudingly, 24 of her 40 RBI have come with two outs, by far the most by any MVC player.
Sullinger also hit her fourth triple of the season on Saturday. She is tied with teammate Heather Duckworth for the most triples in the MVC, a figure that puts both players at 27th nationally. As a team, Missouri State is 20th in triples per game.
Freshman hurler Erin Struemph racked up 23 strikeouts in six appearances last week. She has 134 punch outs on the year, second-best among MVC pitchers. She also becomes the first freshman pitcher to lead MSU in strikeouts in a season since Monica Johnson struck out 172 in her first season with the Bears in 1987. Struemph leads the MVC in strikeouts per game at 6.80, 111th in the nation, and is the only Valley pitcher with more strikeouts than hits allowed (133).
Junior Chelsea Jones drove in her 29th run of the season on her team-best fourth sacrifice fly on Saturday. Her four sac flies ranks her second in the conference and 17th in the country. Jones is also in the top-50 in the nation in fewest walks allowed per seven innings at 1.32, 42nd-best.
- Freshman Erin Struemph's 10 strikeouts against Illinois State on Saturday gave her 134 on the season, the second-most in the MVC. She is the only Valley pitcher with more strikeouts than hits allowed (133).
- Bethany Sullinger drove in her 39th and 40th runs of the season with her fourth triple of the year on Saturday. She ranks fourth in school history with 40 RBI in a season.
- The Bears have a combined 97 extra-base hits this season (62 doubles, 15 triples, 20 home runs), the second-best total in a season since 1982 (120 extra-base hits in 2006 [70 2B, 16 3B, 34 HR]).
- Junior pitcher Chelsea Jones has only walked 21 batters in 111 innings on the season. She entered the week ranked 42nd in the nation with just 1.32 walks allowed per seven innings.
- On Saturday, Jones hit her fourth sacrifice fly of the year, the most on the team and 17th-best in the country.
- Senior second baseman Ashley Brentz has drawn 74 career walks, the sixth-most in MSU history.
ACROSS THE DIAMOND
Evansville Purple Aces: Since a 9-5 start to the season, the Purple Aces have stumbled to a 9-25 since. Evansville is still mathematically alive to make the MVC Tournament, but would need to sweep the Bears this weekend. UE has not won a league series this season and are just 6-17 in MVC play. Newcomers Megan Gurski and Chandra Parr are the only Purple Aces hitting better than .300 at .359 and .305, respectively. As a team, UE is hitting .250. Evansville has sent seven different pitchers to the circle this season for a combined 5.01 ERA. Gurski has shouldered much of the workload with 139 innings pitched and has half of the Aces wins on the year. Last year, the Aces took 3-of-4 from the Bears including an eight-inning win in the first round of the MVC Tournament.
EXTENDING HER LEGACY
Head Coach Holly Hesse is second in all-time wins by an MVC coach with 671. With a 7-1 victory over South Dakota State on February 15, Hesse earned milestone win 650. She trails only current Illinois State coach Melinda Fischer (934 wins).
Sophomore Bethany Sullinger took over first base and the clean-up spot in the order after the first weekend of the season. Since then, she has burst into the MSU records books and blown away the competition in the Valley. With her four runs batted in against Illinois State on April 26, she has 40 RBI on the year, the fourth-best single season in school history and just six shy of tying the school record for a season.
Even more astonishing, of her 40 RBI, 24 have come with two outs. The next closest MVC player has 18 two-out RBI.
STEALING TO APPLAUSE
Senior Kerri Cunningham successfully stole her 22nd base of the year on April 19 at UNI. The speedy centerfielder is inching closer to the record books as her 22 steal total is tied for the 3rd-most steals in a season. Her 22 steals are also the most since Amanda Bean had 23 in 2003.
Missouri State has picked up five weekly honors from the MVC this season, the most since 2006. Erin Struemph has earned the league's Newcomer of the Week honor twice, exactly one month apart (February 24 and March 24). Junior Chelsea Jones has been named MVC Pitcher of the Week twice (March 3 and March 17). Bethany Sullinger was the recipient of the league Player of the Week honor on February 17 after a stellar weekend in Arlington, Texas.
On May 1, Heather Duckworth became the 15th MSU recipient of the Capital One Academic All-District honor and first since Jenna Schwark in 2010.
KNOCKING AT THE DOOR
Senior second baseman Ashley Brentz drew her 74th career walk against Wichita State on April 22. She is just two walks shy of joining the top-5 all-time.
Fellow senior Heather Duckworth converted her 368th career assist at the hot corner on April 26 versus Illinois State. She needs just six more assists to move into the top-5 on the career list. Duckworth also has 33 career doubles, three short of the top-5 list.
Freshman pitcher Erin Struemph has been a tremendous addition to the Bears' pitching staff. She has 10 wins and is sixth in the MVC with a 3.30 ERA. She has completed nine of her 20 starts on the year, three of which have been shutouts, and has earned three saves.
Struemph struck out an MVC-best 11 in April 19th's win at UNI. Her season total of 134 strikeouts in second in the MVC, but she leads the league with 6.80 strikeouts per game. She is the only pitcher in the MVC with more strikeouts (134) than hits allowed (133).
She is third in the Valley in batting average against with two outs (.220), fourth in overall opponent's batting average (.248) and her batting average against with runners on base (.253) is fifth-best in the league. On the season, Struemph has struck out at least one batter in 30 of 37 outings, including two appearances of just 0.2 innings.
Bethany Sullinger's triple against Illinois State on April 26 was the Bears' 97th extra-base hit (62, 15, 20) of the season. It is the second-most total extra-base hits in a year since 1982, eclipsed only in 2006 when the Bears had 120 total extra-base hits (70, 16, 34).
Sullinger's three-bagger was Missouri State's 15th triple of the year, the most since MSU hit 16 in 2006.. She is tied with teammate Heather Duckworth atop the Valley with four triples. It is the most triples hit in a season by a player since Sara Cole had six in 2006.
Junior Chelsea Jones became just the second Bear since 1997 to hit three doubles in the same game when she accomplished the feat against UT Arlington on Feb. 14. She drove in a run with each of those doubles.
The only other Bear to have three doubles in a game was Staci Wattie against Maryland on March 24, 2000.
Missouri State topped its season total from 2013 (5) by hitting six triples at the Blues City Classic (Feb. 21-23). The Bears hit three triples against Alabama A&M (Feb. 21), the first three-triple game since April 2, 1998 versus Saint Louis. In the bottom of the third inning against the Bulldogs, Stacia Boeckstiegel and Heather Duckworth each tripled, the first time in three seasons (March 26, 2011) that two players tripled in the same inning.
TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM
Senior catcher Stacia Boeckstiegel was hit by a pitch against Central Michigan (Feb. 14), her first HBP this season. She was also hit on March 15 against Bradley and again on March 29 versus SIU. She has now been plunked 19 times in her three seasons and is four shy of tying the school record.
The Bears have clubbed 20 home runs on the year, led by Sullinger's six long balls. Boeckstiegel and Sullinger hit back-to-back dingers against Central Michigan.
Redshirt sophomore Erin Duewel accounted for the Bears' only home run of opening weekend when she hit the first of her career in the sixth inning of the second game at Georgia Tech (Feb. 8).
Elena Gambill was the only Bear to go deep at the Blues City Classic. She blasted a solo shot to left in the second inning against Lipscomb (Feb. 23).
Heather Duckworth hit her first home run of the year against SEMO. The three-run blast came on her birthday (March 1) and helped her set a career high with seven total bases in the game.
Missouri State clubbed four dingers in Stillwater and added two more at Central Arkansas (March 11). Boeckstegel went yard in the final game at Oklahoma State and again at UCA becoming the second player this year to homer in back-to-back games (Sullinger, Feb. 14, at UTA and vs. Central Michigan).
The Bears hit a pair of long balls in the series finale against Indiana State (April 13). Duewel went deep to pull the Bears within a run and Chelsea Jones put an insurance run on the board with her second dinger of the year. Jones also went yard in the finale at UNI (April 19) and again on April 22 versus Wichita State.
SWEEPING THROUGH TEXAS
The Bears went down to Texas and swept all five games at the UTA Maverick Invitational (Feb. 14-16) for their first five-game winning streak since early in the 2012 season. MSU defeated 2013 MAC Champion and 2014 favorite Central Michigan and took two games each from host UT Arlington and South Dakota State.
Missouri State pitched back-to-back shutouts to claim the title in Arlington.
The Bears' winning streak continued in Southaven, Miss. extending to eight games, the longest win streak since 2011. MSU also pitched two more shutouts, making it four shutouts over the span of five games.
HOT IN TEXAS IN FEBRUARY
Sophomore first baseman Bethany Sullinger picked up MVC Player of the Week honors (Feb. 17) after a scorching weekend at the plate. In five games at the UTA Maverick Invitational, she hit .625 with a stellar 1.250 slugging percentage.
On Valentine's Day, Sullinger clubbed three home runs, two of which came against MAC favorite Central Michigan. She hit safely in all five games and had career bests in hits, runs scored and RBI. She also drew her first career walk and stole her first career base.
WAITING IN THE WINGS
Head coach Holly Hesse has commitments from five players to join the 2015 squad. Joining the Bears for the 2014-15 academic year are Kaitlin Beason (Webb City, Mo.), Molly Fields (Breese, Ill.), Chelsea Thomas (McKinney, Texas), Erika Velasquez Zimmer (Coppell, Texas) and Hailee Vigneaux (Nixa, Mo.).