Softball Sets Sights on Seventh MVC Tournament Title
Lauren Eisenreich drove in a run in the Bears' opening round win last season.
Lauren Eisenreich drove in a run in the Bears' opening round win last season.

May 7, 2013

MVC Tournament NotesGet Acrobat Reader

The Missouri State softball team (22-29, 13-12) will head to Omaha, Neb., in search of a league-record seventh MVC Tournament title. The Bears will be the six-seed for the second-straight season, but are just two years removed from the last tournament title. MSU has by far the most wins in MVC Tournament play with 68 and head coach Holly Hesse is tied with ISU's Melinda Fischer for the most wins by a coach with 46 victories.

Missouri State has been on a roll in the league entering the tournament. The Bears were 7-3 over the final 10 league games catapulting from the ninth spot and out of the tournament up to the six-seed. MSU has at least one win against each team on its side of the bracket.

Senior shortstop Kirstin Cutter picked up three more hits over the weekend finishing the regular season with the more base hits (35) in conference play than any other Valley player. She leads the Bears with 56 hits on the year, 33 runs scored and is the only player to start every game this season. Her 15 stolen bases also leads the team, the third-straight year she has been the squad leader in swipes.

Fellow senior Stevie Pierce continued her phenomenal season by belting her 10th home run of the season at Bradley on Saturday. With that long ball, she tied the single season school record and moved into a tie for fourth on the all-time career homer list (18). Pierce also has 84 career walks and a .995 career fielding percentage, third and fourth, respectively, in program history. She has driven in 35 runs on the year, the fifth-best single season total in school history.

Catcher Stacia Boeckstiegel also tied a school record over the the weekend. In game one on Sunday, she was hit by a pitch, the 10th time this season, tying Brooke Kempker for the most in a season.

In the circle, sophomore Chelsea Jones has been stellar of late, finishing the season 6-1 in her final seven conference decisions. On Saturday, she tied a season-high by striking out six Bradley Braves in her third shutout of the year. On the year, Jones tossed 223.2 innings, the most of any MVC pitcher.

- Senior Kirstin Cutter had three hits over the weekend at Bradley giving her a team-best 56 on the season. She led all Valley players with 35 hits in conference play this year.

- Last Tuesday, Cutter made her 200th start as a Bear. She has played in 208 games, seventh-most in program history.

- Senior Stevie Pierce tied the single season school record with her 10th home run of the year at Bradley on Saturday.

- Junior Stacia Boeckstiegel was hit by a pitch on Sunday, her 10th plunking of the year, tying the school record for a season (Brooke Kempker, 2007).

- Pitcher Chelsea Jones is 6-1 in her last seven MVC games to end the regular season. She has pitched 223.2 innings this season, the most of any Valley hurler.

- The Bears have 68 MVC Tournament wins all-time, the most of any program in tournament history. Holly Hesse has been at the helm for 46 of those victories, tied with Melinda Fischer of Illinois State for the most tournament wins by a Valley coach.

- Over the last five years, MSU is 11-5 in MVC Tournament play, the only team with more than 10 wins over that span.

- Missouri State's offense has compiled some of the best numbers in program history. The .286 team average, 380 hits, 225 runs scored and 27 home runs all rank in the top-5 single seasons in school history.

Video: All games on Thursday and Friday will be available via the MVC video streaming platform, Valley Live. For links, check the softball schedule page. Saturday's title game can be seen on Fox Sports Midwest, check local listings. Audio: None. Live Stats: Live stats will be provided for every game of the MVC Softball Championship. For direct links, visit the softball schedule page at Social Media: In-game updates on Missouri State softball can be found via Twitter (@MSUSoftball).

Evansville Purple Aces: UE senior Tamara Robey is the lone Purple Ace hitting over .300. Her .333 average tops the team which is hitting a league-worst .244 this year. Robey had 29 stolen bases during the regular season, second-most in the league. Fellow senior Kendall Kautz has a team-best 36 RBI with sophomore Kayla Fortner adding 35 runs driven in. In the circle, senior Sarah Patterson has pitched nearly half of the innings and has 125 strikeouts. She went 13-10 with a 2.67 ERA and had five shutouts on the year. Evansville took two-of-three from the Bears in the regular season, but MSU still holds the all-time series lead at 35-22.

Illinois State Redbirds: The Redbirds are at the other end of the spectrum, hitting a league-best .287 as a team. Paced by senior Elizabeth Kay's league-best .418 average, the ISU squad has five hitters with a .300 or better average. Kay and junior Laura Canopy are tied atop the league with 44 RBI apiece. Junior pitcher Taylor Baxter started 28 games during the regular season and has a staff best 15-7 record with a 3.27 ERA. Sophomore Sophia Perez has seven saves, one shy of the league lead. The Redbirds edged the Bears in the opening game of the regular season series, leading to a 2-1 weekend. The Bears, however, hold an 8-6 record against ISU in the MVC Tournament.

Drake Bulldogs: Drake softball goes as junior Jordan Groenwold goes. She has pitched in 46 of the Bulldogs' 47 games through Sunday. Her 17-9 record account for more than half the DU wins. She also wields a potent bat as one of six Bulldogs hitting better than .300 on the year. Drake has two hitters, Nicole Randel and Hayley Nybo, with 39 RBI each, but junior Amy Pierce leads the team in hitting at .369. Earlier this season, the Bears played three "home" games at Ron Buel Field in Des Moines, taking two-of-three from Drake. Entering the tournament, the all-time series is deadlocked at 43-43-1 between MSU and DU.

Head Coach Holly Hesse won her 634th game at the helm of the softball Bears in a 8-2 win vs. UNI (March 16) to move into second in all-time wins by an MVC coach. With an overall record of 646-638-2, Hesse is trailing only current Illinois State coach Melinda Fischer (909 wins).

First baseman Stevie Pierce has muscled her way into the Missouri State records books with a phenomenal senior season. She hit her 10th home run of the season at Bradley on Saturday (May 4), tying single season record. It was also her 18th career long ball, tied for the fourth-most in program history, more than doubling her career total entering this season.

Pierce has also flashed the leather at first base. She holds a career .995 fielding percentage, fourth best in the program. She is also patient at the plate, drawing her 84th career walk on Sunday (May 5), only the third player ever to reach that plateau.

Senior shortstop Kirstin Cutter is a virtual lock to be penciled in at leadoff for the Bears. She has started all 51 games this season, the only Bear to do so, and has hit leadoff in 50 games. In her career, she has been the leadoff hitter in the Bears' starting lineup 120 times, the primary leadoff hitter in each of the last three seasons.

Last Tuesday (April 30), she started her 200th career game and has now played in 208 games, the seventh-most of any player in school history. She also had her 600th at-bat in Tuesday's game against Wichita State, just the third player to have as many at-bats as a Bear.

The Missouri State offense has put up some of the best number in team history. Through the regular season, MSU is hitting .286 as a team, third-best average all-time. The Bears have crossed the plate 225 times, the third-best run output. Paced by Pierce's 10 home runs, MSU has slammed 27 big flies on the year already, the fifth-most in a single season. Missouri State has racked up 380 hits, the fifth-best total in program history.

Missouri State senior Stevie Pierce was honored by the league as Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week on February 11. The accolade has been scarce for MSU players as the last MVC Player of the Week honor came in 2009 when Jessie Smith won the award on March 30.

She leads all Bears with 10 home runs, 35 runs batted in, 77 total bases and 21 walks. Her walk against Illinois State on April 6, moved her into third all-time with 79 career free bases. Pierce has already set career highs in home runs, RBI, runs scored (25), doubles (10), stolen bases (3) and total bases. She has a team-high 11 multi-RBI games and 16 of her runs batted in have come with two outs.

The Bears were picked to finish sixth in the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference coaches' preseason poll. Defending tournament champion Illinois State and Southern Illinois are favored with defending regular season champs, UNI, slotted third. Creighton and Drake were also selected ahead of the Bears.

Missouri State's leading walkers last season are back at it again in 2013. Senior Stevie Pierce tops the Bears with 21 walks this year and has racked up 84 career walks, third-most in program history. Juniors Heather Duckworth and Ashley Brentz are just behind Pierce with 17 free passes on the year.

Last season, Brentz and Pierce tied with 29 walks each, the fourth-best single season totals in school history.

The Bears have had plenty of pop in their bats to begin the season, smashing 27 home runs, tied for the fifth-best season total in school history. Senior Caitlin Chapin has hit four long balls this season, giving her 18 big flies for her career, tied-for fourth in program history.

Fellow senior Stevie Pierce has more than doubled up on Chapin by crushing 10 long balls this season, a new career high for a season. Junior Stacia Boeckstiegel joined the bomb squad with her first career two-homer game at Memphis (March 12). Memphis was also kind to Heather Duckworth and Lauren Eisenreich. Eisenreich popped a grand slam to rally the Bears in game two against the Tigers. Duckworth then tacked on her second homer of the year in the first inning of game one against UMKC (March 19).

Freshman Mary Stephens got in on the party, with a birthday bash, two-run shot against Boise State (Feb. 15) and fellow frosh Bethany Sullinger hit a home run for her first career hit against Toledo (Feb. 23). Rebecca McPherson also made a big impact with her first dinger of the season, a three-run homer against UTSA (Feb. 17), snapping a season-opening slump.

In conference play, Eisenreich popped a two-run shot at Indiana State (March 23) her fifth-straight home run with at least one runner on base. In the series finale at Drake on March 30, McPherson and Braxton Coil each blasted two-run bombs. Coil's dinger was the first of her career. Duckworth continued to build on her career high with her third long ball of the season at Illinois State (April 6).

The Missouri State offense got off to one of the best starts in school history. The Bears have crossed the plate 225 times already this season, the third-highest run output in school history.

Pierce tops the Bears with 35 runs batted in this year, more than any MSU player in all of 2012. She drove in at least one run in seven of the first eight games of the year.

Not to be outdone, Chapin had an RBI in each of the first six games of the season. It marks her career high for consecutive games with an RBI, besting a feat she attained from March 26 through April 2, 2010 of five consecutive games with an RBI.

Missouri State has 56 stolen bases this season, surpassing the total of 51 amassed in both 2012 and 2011. Senior Kirstin Cutter is 15-for-18 in steal attempts to lead the squad and seventh in the Valley.

The base running has been stellar for MSU as well. Twice on opening weekend, and again at Memphis (March 12), Bears' runners eluded the tag at the plate to score on bang-bang plays.

Some of the Missouri State players have chalked up career best performances this season.

There isn't much senior Stevie Pierce hasn't accomplished to date in her career. However, in the game at Chattanooga on February 24, she set career bests with three hits and three runs scored.

Shortstop Kirstin Cutter had a career high four hits against UNI in game two of the doubleheader (March 16). All told, she had five hits on the day and reached base in eight of her nine plate appearances in the twin bill.

Junior Heather Duckworth drove in four runs in gmae two at Illinois State on April 6. She became the second Bear with a four RBI game this season. Duckworth's other impressive plate performances include a three-hit outing against Iowa State (Feb. 16) and she scored three runs versus UTSA (Feb.17), both career-bests.

Fellow junior Stacia Boeckstiegel brought her A-game against ACC opponent Georgia Tech (Feb. 9). She pelted the left side of the field with her first multi-hit game, going 3-for-3 with two singles and a double, all to the left side. She continued to come up big at the plate with her first three-RBI game at Chattanooga on Feb. 24. Then at Memphis, Boeckstiegel jacked two home runs in game one and scored twice in each game of the twin bill, both career bests.

In the circle, sophomore pitcher Chelsea Jones fanned six Chanticleers in the season opener (Feb. 8), besting her five-strikeout performance from last season at EIU (March 22).

Ali Trickey crossed the plate twice against Kennesaw State on Friday, February 8. She had 11 runs scored in her freshman campaign, but the game at KSU was her first multi-run game.

Junior Kerri Cunningham had a break-out weekend at the UTSA Classic. She had a career-best two stolen bases against Boise State (Feb. 15). She also had her first career multi-RBI games, accomplishing the feat against Iowa State (Feb. 16) and UTSA (Feb. 17). Then on April 28, Cunningham scored three runs in the game two win over Creighton, the first three-run game of her career.

Rebecca McPherson's home run against UTSA (Feb. 17) not only ended a season-opening slump, but the three-run shot was a career best RBI performance. McPherson then had a career high two runs score at Memphis (March 12).

Some MSU hitters got their first base knocks over the opening weekend. Junior Ciara Flau had a big first game of the season, picking up two hits against Kennesaw State (Feb. 8), the first base hits of her career. One of her hits was a bases loaded single that drove in her first run.

Sophomore Ali Trickey also singled against Kennesaw State on opening day. She scored twice in that game as well, a career high.

It didn't take long for freshman Mary Stephens to get comfortable with collegiate softball. She laced a two-run single down the third base line in her first game against Coastal Carolina on Friday, February 8. She followed that up with her first two-hit performance against the Chanticleers on Saturday, February 9, including a double, her first extra-base hit. Then for Stephens' encore, she blasted her first career home run, a two-run shot, against Boise State on February 15.

Freshman Bethany Sullinger didn't take long to make an impact either. In her first career start against Toledo (Feb. 23), she laid down a perfect squeeze bunt for an RBI. In her next at-bat, she blasted a two-run home run the first of career hit.

Fellow freshman Braxton Coil became the second Bear this season to begin her career with an extra-base hit. Coil roped a double to right-center at SIU Edwardsville (March 13) for her first MSU base knock.

Head coach Holly Hesse has commitments from six players to join the 2014 squad. Joining the Bears for the 2013-14 academic year are Allie Alvstad (Tulsa, Okla.), Elena Gambill (Broken Arrow, Okla.), Madison Jones (Overland Park, Kan.), Olivia Roark (Ottumwa, Iowa), Sheridon Sprague (Ballwin, Mo.) and Erin Struemph (Meta, Mo.).



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