Softball Bears Finish Regular Season at Creighton



The Missouri State softball team will conclude its regular season with a three-game Missouri Valley Conference weekend series at Creighton Saturday (May 3) and Sunday (May 4). The two teams will play a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday. Start times both days are 12 p.m.

The Bears enter the weekend Valley series winners of four of their last 10 games, losing two of three games against Southern Illinois (4/26-27) in Valley action.

The Bluejays Creighton has clinched a share of the MVC regular-season title, entering its series with the Bears at 18-3 in Valley action and 40-14 overall. The Bluejays are 16-2 at home this season, including a perfect 9-0 Valley record. Creighton returns 14 letterwinners and all three of its pitchers from last year’s NCAA qualifying 40-14-1 overall and 19-4-1 MVC championship team.

Series records Creighton leads the series with Missouri State by 39-22 margin. The Bears lost three games against the Bluejays last season.

Where can they finish? Seven of the eight spots for the 2008 State Farm MVC Softball Championship have been decided, with one place left to be determined this final weekend of Valley regular season action. MSU could potentially finish anywhere from third to seventh, depending on the its series with the Bluejays.

Coach Holly Hesse Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse (Creighton, ’82) is 526-497-2 (.513) in her 20th season at Missouri State. Last season, the Bears finished 21-29 overall. 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 only Illinois State’s Melinda Fischer in the MVC and an elite group of 41 active head coaches with 500 Division I wins. The Missouri State Bears are playing in their 40th season and have an all-time record of 905-733-2 (.553).

Last Time out -- Missouri State closed out the home portion of its 2008 schedule with a doubleheader split against Arkansas, Tuesday (April 29) at MSU Softball Field. The softball Bears are now 25-18 overall heading into their regular-season ending series at Creighton this weekend.

Missouri State capitalized on five Razorback errors to win the first game 5-2. MSU sophomore Lauren McGinley (7-4) worked 3 1/3 innings to start the game, before yielding to senior Melissa Porche, who struck out five Arkansas batters to match her single-season career-high with her 16th win of the season with 3 2/3 innings of one-hit relief.

After back-to-back first-inning doubles scored the Lady Razorbacks’ first run, senior Michelle Armentrout led-off the MSU second with a single to center and scored on freshman Ashley Knehans’ two-run home run to left to give the Bears a 2-1 lead. MSU took advantage of two Arkansas errors and scored three runs in the third on three hits. Junior Jessie Smith singled to right, scoring juniors Elysha Swider and Brooke Kempker. Smith later scored on an error by the Lady Razorback shortstop Dayna Huckabee on a hard grounder by Porche to give the Bears a 5-1 advantage.

Swider was 2-for-3 while Smith and Knehans each tallied a pair of RBIs to lead the MSU offense in game one.

Arkansas came out swinging in game two, as Kayla Johnson doubled home Jessica Bachkora, who led off the game with a single, to give Arkansas a 1-0 first-inning lead.

MSU threatened in its half of the first before freshman Jenna Schwark was doubled off of first on a hard liner to shortstop by freshman Christa Gammon. Consecutive singles by Smith, Armentrout and Porche loaded the bases, but Knehans grounded out to third to end the threat.

With two outs in the fourth, Arkansas strung together five consecutive hits to bat around and score five runs to extend its lead to 6-0. Johnson’s three-run double was the big hit of the inning, chasing Porche after just 3 2/3 innings.

Porche led off the MSU fourth with a double off of the top of the left field fence, and Kempker followed with a single to move the MSU senior to third. Swider’s sacrifice fly to deep left-center plated Porche with Bears’ lone run of the game, and the Razorbacks scored three more runs in the fifth on four consecutive hits to push their lead to 9-1.

Porche (16-13) allowed eight hits and six runs in the setback, while McGinley gave up three runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings of relief work.

500 Club Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse picked up her 500th victory at Missouri State with a 1-0 win over Indiana State (4/22/07). Hesse became 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 Missouri State players listed among the top 10 in Missouri Valley Conference statistical categories this season include: Melissa Porche is second in saves (6), third in strikeouts (245), appearances (38) and innings pitched (201.2), wins (16), games started (26), complete games (21), fourth in ERA (1.87), opponent batting average (.211), and fifth in shutouts (4). Michelle Armentrout is sixth in doubles (10), seventh in RBIs (28) and eighth in slugging percentage (.552). Christa Gammon is fifth in steals (8). Jessie Smith is sixth in steals (7) and triples (2).

In team categories Missouri State is ranked first in fielding percentage (.980), second in ERA (2.58) and eighth in batting average (.247).

Several Bears finished among the top 10 in MVC statistical categories last season. Porche was second in the league in innings pitched (232.0) and games started (35). She finished fourth in strikeouts (222), tied for third in appearances (41), and seventh in earned-run average (2.17).

Jessie Smith led the league with 17 stolen bases and Brooke Kempker topped the hit by pitch category, with 10. Jen Carr’s perfect fielding percentage tied atop the category, as she was one of only five players to be errorless with over 100 fielding chances.

Powerful Porche Missouri State senior pitcher Melissa Porche was the Missouri Valley Conference Co-Pitcher of the Week (3/24). Porche went 3-0, allowing 11 hits in 21 innings of work. She recorded 26 strikeouts and allowed opponents a mere .157 batting average in three complete games.

Porche won the same award outright the week prior. The MSU right-hander pitched the Bears to a 3-2 decision over No. 11 Oklahoma Wednesday (March 19), limiting the Sooners to four hits and one earned run. Porche leads the MVC in earned run average (0.92) and is second in opponent batting average (.181).

She struck out 14 batters and allowed just five hits in MSU’s 3-2 victory over Illinois State Friday (March 21). Porche completed the weekend MVC series against the Redbirds with a dominating shutout Saturday (March 22), allowing just two hits, while striking out 11 Redbird batters in a 6-0 MSU win.

Porche is second in the conference in saves (6) and in ERA (1.57), third in strikeouts (207), appearances (32), and innings pitched (169.2), fourth in opponent batting average (.206), games started (22), complete games (18) and fifth in shutouts (4).

Nice Glove Work Missouri State ranks second nationally and first in the Valley with a .980 fielding percentage. Texas A&M leads the nation with a .983 fielding percentage

Porche to the rescue MSU senior pitcher Melissa Porche, the MSU career saves leader, has six saves in 2008. Porche picked up three saves in the Florida Atlantic "Strike Out" Cancer Tournament (Feb. 15-17). She earned her fourth save of the season in the Bears’ 4-1 win over Saint Louis (3/12), her fifth against Indiana State (2/14) and sixth against Wichita State (4/2). She led the country with seven saves as a sophomore in 2006.

Impact Freshmen -- Missouri State’s freshmen are making a big impact for the Bears in 2008. Ashley Knehans is hitting .261 and her RBI single was the game-winner in the Bears’ 3-2 victory over No. 11 Oklahoma (3/19). A pair of freshmen have become mainstays at the top of the batting order. Leadoff hitter Christa Gammon is hitting .208 with an on base percentage of .290 and leads the team in steals with eight on 11 attempts. Number two hitter Tyler Porter is batting .229 with an on base percentage of .295 and Jenna Schwark is hitting .271 with a .315 on base percentage.

Off to the races Missouri State stole an MVC leading eight bases in the Bears’ 13-7 win over Saint Louis (3/2). MSU is 39-of-52 in stolen base attempts with freshman Christa Gammon leading the Bears at 8-for-11. Junior Jessie Smith, who led the league with 17 stolen bases a year ago, is 7-of-9 so far in 2008.

One-run Setbacks Missouri State didn’t experience much luck in one-run games last season, as the Bears were 4-9 in games decided by one run. The Bears are 10-9 this season in one-run games.

No Run Support In 16 of pitcher Melissa Porche’s 19 losses last season, MSU was shut out or scored only one run. The Bears have been shut out in four of Porche’s starts this season -- a 1-0 loss to Long Island (2/15) in the Bears’ season-opener and a 1-0 decision against Indiana State (2/14), Wichita State (3/25) and Drake (3/30).

Early Offense Missouri State is 17-3 when scoring the first run of the game, and 9-1 when scoring a run in the first inning in 2008. The Bears were 20-5 last season when scoring the first run of the game, and 15-3 when tallying a run in the first inning. On the contrast, MSU was 1-24 when its opponent scored 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 last April 7.

MVP for McGinley Sophomore pitcher Lauren McGinley was selected the MVP of the Florida Atlantic "Strike Out" Cancer Tournament (Feb. 15-17) in Boca Raton, Fla. She earned three wins in 11.2 inings of work en route to a 0.77 ERA. The sophomore is now 7-4 on the season with a 4.07 ERA.

Last Year The 2007 Missouri State softball team was plagued by injuries and inconsistency as the Bears finished with a 21-29 record, the program's fewest wins since 2001. Newcomers accounted for 204 starts, including 136 by the team's four freshmen, as inexperience played a factor in the team's struggles. The Bears started the season with a five-game winning streak but ended the campaign with six straight losses, and had four losing streaks of more than four games during the season. The team's competition was stiff, as the Bears played 10 games against teams that made the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

The Bears struggled offensively, finishing ninth of 10 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference in batting average (.236) and hits (292). Defensively, Missouri State was very solid, finishing third in the MVC and 29th nationally with a .969 fielding percentage. On the mound, MSU relied very heavily on junior Melissa Porche, who pitched in 41 of the 49 games and accounted for 71 percent of the team's innings pitched.

Despite the disappointing record, the 2007 Bears featured numerous outstanding performances and accomplishments. Head coach Holly Hesse picked up her 500th career Division I coaching victory in a 1-0 triumph over Indiana State on April 22. Hesse joins only Illinois State's Melinda Fischer in the MVC and an elite group of 41 active head coaches with 500 Division I wins.

The team's record could have been much different had it not been for many close losses. The Bears were 4-9 in one-run games and 1-5 in extra inning games. Three was the magical number for the 2007 Bears, as the team was an impressive 19-3 when scoring three or more runs but was 2-26 when failing to tally three runs. Missouri State was also 17-4 when leading after the third inning, but 1-20 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 in 2006, 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 in 2006 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 Katie Martin (student assistant) and Courtney Owens (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 fifth in the 2008 Missouri Valley Conference coaches’ preseason poll. Regular season and MVC tournament champion Creighton was the overwhelming favorite among coaches, gathering nine first-place votes and 97 points total. Wichita State received the other first-place vote and garnered 85 total points. Southern Illinois (81) and Illinois State (72) were selected third and fourth respectively.The Bears received 52 points, followed by Bradley (46), Evansville (44), Indiana State (35), Drake (25) and Northern Iowa (13).



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