Missouri State Bears (17-28, 12-10 MVC) vs. UNI Panthers (26-23, 11-11 MVC)
Saturday, May 8 @ 12 p.m. (DH)Sunday, May 9 @ 12 p.m.
Site: Robinson-Dresser Sports Complex (500)Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com
Series History: MSU leads, 34-33
Last Meeting: UNI won, 11-4 (3/15/09)
Current Streak: UNI has won four straight vs. MSU
After posting their third three-game sweep of Indiana State in four years last weekend to close out the home portion of their 2010 schedule, the Missouri State Bears will look to solidify their position in the Missouri Valley Conference standings when they take on the UNI Panthers in a three-game set in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
The Bears enter the final weekend of the regular season alone in fourth in the MVC race with a one game lead on both UNI and Drake. The top four teams in the regular-season standings earn an opening-round bye at next week's State Farm MVC Softball Championship in Des Moines, giving this weekend's series added importance for both clubs. Several seeding scenarios exist heading into the weekend, with the Bears potentially finishing as high as fourth and as low as seventh, depending on the outcomes of other the Valley series.
-With at least one win vs. UNI this weekend, Missouri State would clinch its first +.500 MVC finish since 2006, when it went 18-4 to finish second in the Valley
-The Bears have dropped eight consecutive games in which they have scored three runs or less
-MSU has posted seven MVC victories away from Killian Stadium and is 8-8 overall in true road contests this season
-On the strength of its three-game sweep at Creighton, Missouri State has a 3-4 mark against the top three teams in the MVC standings (Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Creighton); the Bears' three wins vs. the group is tops among the seven Valley squads not ranked in the top three
-Junior Tyler Porter is sixth in the MVC with a .365 batting average during conference play after going 13-for-26 (.500) over the Bears' last eight outings
-Junior Christa Gammon is tied for the MVC lead in triples in conference play with two and ranks second in hits (29), fourth in runs scored (17) and fourth in batting (.387)
-Gammon enters the weekend on a five-game hit streak, her third such streak this season; she has recorded three straight multi-hit games, hitting .526 (10-for-19) during the same stretch
-Gammon has a hit in 15 of the Bears' last 17 games overall, batting .420 (21-for-50) with 11 runs scored since April 10
-Junior Ashley Knehans has three multi-hit games over MSU's last six outings following a string of 16 straight contests without a multi-hit performance; she also has five RBIs in her last five conference games after driving in just four runs in the Bears' first 17 MVC games
-Freshman Caitlin Chapin ranks 13th in MVC play with a .339 batting average and has a team-best eight multi-RBI games overall, including one of four 4-RBI games turned in by a Bear this season
-Chapin is second on the Bears' freshman home run list and needs one more long ball to equal Jessie Smith's freshman record of eight, set in 2006
-Chapin is hitting .385 (15-for-39) with four of her seven homers in MSU's 16 true road games, but just .244 (10-for-41) in 18 contests at Killian Stadium
-Junior infielder Jenna Schwark leads the club and ranks seventh in the MVC in overall batting (.341); she is second on the team in hits (45), and tops on the squad with 18 walks and 65 total bases
-Schwark ranks as the toughest Valley player to strike-out this season, fanning just one time for every 16.5 at-bats; she has struck-out just once in her last 14 games dating back to April 10, and has fanned just three times in 22 MVC games and only eight times overall in 2010
-Sophomore right-hander Natalie Rose's three saves is tied for the top total in the MVC
Follow the Bears
Live stats for each of this weekend's games will be available at the official home of Bears Softball on the Web, www.MissouriStateBears.com.
Missouri State enters this weekend's series with the slimmest of leads in the series vs. UNI. The Bears hold a 34-33 advantage overall against the Panthers, but UNI has taken the last four games and five of the last six meetings of the two clubs. Last year, UNI outscored the Bears 34-13 to sweep the three-game series in Springfield.
Scouting the Bears
Picked to finish seventh in this year's preseason Missouri Valley Conference race, the Bears have recovered nicely from an 0-7 start to the season to post wins in 12 of their last 20 games in league play. The MSU offense has been led by junior infielder Jenna Schwark, who is batting .341 with five homers, 20 runs driven in and a team-high 65 total bases. Another junior, Christa Gammon, has also been strong at the plate so far in 2010, entering the weekend with a .340 batting mark to go along with team highs of 49 hits, 27 runs scored and nine stolen bases. MSU has gotten significant contributions from a talented freshman class, led by Caitlin Chapin, Kirstin Cutter and Madison Hargrove. Chapin has a team-best 26 RBIs to go along with seven home runs, and Cutter is hitting .270 with six steals. Hargrove has been strong both at the plate and behind it, posting a .245 batting average while starting all but two of MSU's first 45 games at catcher. Junior Ashley Knehans has been one of the Bears' top power threats with a career-high six home runs and 19 RBIs. In circle, a trio of returnees have shared duties, led by senior Lauren Supak (6-9, 3.65 ERA), who has gone 5-4 with 48 strikeouts in 15 MVC outings, posting a 3.38 ERA. Senior Lauren McGinley (6-9, 4.72 ERA) has made 18 starts, completing five games, and sophomore Natalie Rose (5-10, 3.18 ERA, 3 saves) has a team-high 92 strikeouts in 108.0 innings of work.
Scouting the Panthers
Picked third in this year's MVC preseason poll, UNI enters the weekend looking to wrap up its second straight winning season. The Panthers are 26-23 overall and 11-11 in conference play despite dropping three straight to Southern Illinois last weekend. UNI's potent lineup features five players with 25 RBIs or more, led by senior Jen Larsen, who enters play with a .361 batting average. Reigning MVC Newcomer of the Year Mackenzie Daigh and fellow sophomore Lindsey Callanan are also hitting above the .300 mark, while Courtney Dunker has clubbed a team-high 12 homers. Junior Eranne Daugharthy has nine homers to go along with a club-best 32 runs driven-in, and 2009 first-team All-MVC honoree Megan Machovec ranks sixth nationally with six triples on the year. In the circle, UNI is led by sophomore lefty Melissa Tillett, who is 7-14 with a team-low 3.33 ERA in 25 appearances. Larsen has also given the Panthers some quality innings, entering the weekend with a 13-8 mark, including four shutouts, and a 4.08 ERA. Sophomore Jaye Hutcheson has been solid out of the bullpen, turning in an MVC-high three saves and a 5-1 record.
Junior infielder Jenna Schwark saw her streak of 29 straight at-bats without a strikeout come to an end in the first inning of Saturday's series opener with Indiana State. The Broken Arrow, Okla., native ranked as the 44th toughest Division I player to strikeout coming into last week and hadn't fanned in the Bears' previous 12 games dating back to April 10. Schwark has gone down on strikes just three times in 60 Valley at-bats and eight times overall, an average of just once every 16.5 at-bats.
Back in Gear
The Bears ended a nine-game stolen base dry spell in Saturday's game one win over Indiana State with Alaina Burkhart's third-inning steal. MSU hadn't recorded a single steal since April 11 and had just three total steals in their previous 17 outings before swiping a total of five bags against the Sycamores over the weekend.
Missouri State broke out the bats over the weekend against Indiana State, scoring 22 runs on 36 hits over its three-game sweep of the Sycamores. That performance represents the first time the Bears have posted three straight double-digit hit totals since Feb. 21-22 of last season, when they pounded out 39 safeties over three games at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic. It also marked the first time the Bears achieved the feat in MVC play since March 2006, when they topped the 10-hit mark in five straight league outings vs. Indiana State and UNI. That series with UNI (March 25-26, 2006) was also the last time a Missouri State squad topped the 20-run plateau in a three-game Valley series, when it tallied 24 runs in sweeping the Panthers.
Pick a Number
Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse has employed 38 unique lineups in the Bears' first 45 contests this season. The Bears utilized 19 different combinations over their first 20 games and have trotted out the same lineup in back-to-back games just five times overall. No spot in the batting order has been safe, as each of the nine slots has featured no fewer than three different players at one time or another in 2010. The leadoff spot has been the most stable, with Christa Gammon filling that role in each of the last 32 games and in 36 outings overall. The six-hole, by contrast, has been filled by 10 different Bears, led by Madison Hargrove's 16 starts in that slot.
After batting just .131 as a team over a four-game stretch (April 14-17), the Bears rebounded with back-to-back nine-hit performances in a 6-0 win at Drake (April 18) and a 4-3 setback to Tulsa (April 21). MSU's offensive outburst represented its top two single-game efforts at the plate since banging out 11 hits in a 6-2 win at Evansville on March 27. Last week, MSU kept its hot streak going by battering Indiana State pitching for 36 hits in its three-game sweep to finish the week with a .366 average over four outings.
Junior outfielder Tyler Porter has emerged from her mid-season batting slump in a big way over the Bears' last eight outings. After collecting hits in just three of her previous 22 at-bats spanning 11 games, the Broken Arrow, Okla., native has gone 13-for-26 (.500) since April 18. In those eight contests, Porter has six multi-hit games and has scored five times to help spark the Bears' offensive resurgence. She snapped out of her funk with a 3-for-3 afternoon vs. Drake (April 18) to key MSU's offense in a 6-0 victory over the Bulldogs. Her three hits and two runs scored matched career highs, and her second-inning double that sparked a two-run rally for the Bears represented her first extra-base hit since Feb. 20, 2009.
After hitting just three home runs over their previous 13 games entering last week, the Bears recorded three long balls over their weekend sweep of Indiana State. That performance upped the Bears' season total to 27, which represents the fourth-highest total on record at MSU. The Bears have already surpassed their season totals from each of the last two seasons, when MSU hit 20 and 21 homers, respectively.
Chugging Along with Chapin
One of the primary reasons for the Bears' success with the long ball has been the emergence of freshman Caitlin Chapin, who leads the team with seven home runs. Her total is tied for the third-best single-season figure in school history and her fifth-inning homer in game one of last Saturday's doubleheader vs. Indiana State moved her into a tie with Staci Wattie (2000) for the No. 2 spot on the MSU freshman home run chart. Chapin needs just one more round-tripper to equal Jessie Smith's (2006) MSU freshman record of eight dingers.
Chapin reached base safely via a hit or walk in 11 consecutive games from March 26-April 11. Chapin drew six walks during the Bears' series win over Bradley (April 10-11) to record a team-high .692 on-base percentage for the week. Over the 11-game stretch, Chapin went 13-for-30 (.433) with four homers and 12 RBIs to go along with a .541 on-base percentage and a .900 slugging percentage.
Century Club for Schwark
Junior infielder Jenna Schwark posted her 100th career hit with a fifth-inning single March 30 against 12th-ranked Oklahoma State to become the 34th Bear to eclipse the century mark for hits. The Broken Arrow, Okla., product has been the Bears' top hitter throughout the course of the season and has played a key role in MSU's recent offensive outburst. She has recorded hits in seven of the Bears' last nine games and went 5-of-14 (.357) with five runs scored and five more driven-in in four outings last week.
Six Bears have posted hit streaks of five games or more this season, including three such stretches turned in by Christa Gammon, who enters the weekend with hits in five straight games and in 15 of MSU's last 17 outings.
Freshman Caitlin Chapin saw her career-long seven-game hit streak come to an end April 8 vs. Oklahoma State. The Ozark, Mo., product hit .458 (11-for-24) with four home runs and 11 RBIs during the stretch that extended back to March 26.
In addition to Gammon and Chapin, Jenna Schwark (seven games), Madison Hargrove (six), Tyler Porter (six) and Alaina Burkhart (five) have also recorded hit streaks of at least five straight games in 2010. Kirstin Cutter would become the seventh Bear to accomplish the feat with a hit in Saturday's series opener.
Missouri State's freshman quartet of Caitlin Chapin, Kirstin Cutter, Lauren Eisenreich and Madison Hargrove combined to go 19-of-41 (.463) in MSU's four games from March 24-27. The group was especially effective in a doubleheader sweep of Evansville (March 27), going 7-for-14 with four RBIs in a 14-10, game-one win and 7-for-13 (.538) in a 6-2 victory in the nightcap.
Highlighted by their first-ever three-game sweep of Creighton (April 2-3), the Bears are 7-3 on the road in MVC play. Their seven conference road wins represents their top season total since 2006, when they went 9-1 in MVC road games for the year. The Bears' five-game road win streak (March 27-April 3) in league play was also a program high over the last four seasons. MSU won its last nine Valley road games in 2006, after dropping its first match-up of the season at Wichita State.
Coming up Roses
Sophomore right-hander Natalie Rose continued a string of solid performances by allowing just one earned run in 17.0 innings vs. Wichita State and Drake, April 14-18. Rose was the Bears' most-consistent pitcher over a nine-game span (March 30-April 18), going 3-1 with a shutout and a save while posting a microscopic 0.46 ERA. Over the course of that same stretch, Rose held the opposition to a .192 batting average while recording 24 strikeouts against just one walk. She was successful thanks in large part to her command, producing a stretch of 33 1/3 innings in which she issued just one base on balls. That followed a stretch of 55.0 innings to start the season in which she handed out 21 walks while compiling a 1-7 record and 4.45 ERA.
The Bears turned in their most-productive two-game stretch ever March 17, scoring 29 runs and pounding six homers in a doubleheader sweep of IUPUI. In that two-game period alone, MSU more than doubled its season home run total and upped its team batting average from .240 to .276. MSU's 17 runs scored in game two represented its highest single-game total since February 2007, when it defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff by a 20-4 score.
Gammon on the Go
Junior infielder Christa Gammon was red-hot at the plate in MSU's four road games March 24-27, particularly during the Bears' series at Evansville. She reached base in eight of nine at-bats, going 7-for-8 over MSU's first two games with the Purple Aces. The Belleville, Ill., product had three hits in a 5-4 loss on March 26 before turning in a career-best 4-for-4 effort that included three runs driven-in, two doubles and a pair of steals in game one of a doubleheader the following day. Gammon reached base and scored in each of her five plate appearances in the 14-10 MSU win to register the highest single-game run total for a Bear since at least the 1997 season when the school began logging individual game highs.
Nice Like Weiss
Bubba Weiss posted a career day in the Bears' doubleheader sweep of IUPUI (March 17), leading the Missouri State attack with six hits and five RBIs on the afternoon. The senior third-baseman went 4-for-4 with a key first-inning, two-run single and a home run in game one, before tallying two more hits and a pair of RBIs in the nightcap. Weiss has been hot as of late as well, with three multi-hit games in her last four outings.
One and Done
With their 8-7 win over Indiana State on May 1, the Bears' record in one-run contests improved to 5-10 on the season. Over the past two seasons, the Bears have played 31 one-run games, going just 12-19 in those outings.
MVC Preseason Poll
Missouri State was picked to finish seventh in the 2010 Missouri Valley Conference coaches' preseason poll. Three-time defending regular-season champion Creighton was the overwhelming favorite among coaches, gathering eight first-place votes and 97 points total. Southern Illinois garnered 85 total points to place second, followed by UNI (77) and Drake (71), which received one first-place vote. Illinois State (66) was picked fifth, while the Bears received 36 points, which was 11 points shy of Wichita State in the sixth spot. Bradley (33), Indiana State (21) and Evansville (17) rounded out the bottom third of the poll.