Softball Ready to Defend Title at MVC Tournament
Third baseman Heather Duckworth was an all-tournament selection last year
Third baseman Heather Duckworth was an all-tournament selection last year

May 8, 2012

MVC Tournament NotesGet Acrobat Reader

The Missouri State softball team (24-25, 12-14) looks to defend its title in the 2012 State Farm MVC Tournament hosted by Southern Illinois. The Bears embark for Carbondale, Ill., for a first round meeting with the Bradley Braves (21-29, 11-15), who MSU knocked out in the first round of last year's tournament.

Last weekend, the Bears out-scored the league-leading offense of Creighton, 18-16, while taking the series, 2-1. MSU scored a season-high 13 runs in game two on Saturday as Lauren Eisenreich blasted two home runs. In game one, Natalie Rose won her fifth-straight 1-0 decision.

In the season series between the Bears and Braves, BU prevailed taking two-of-three at Killian Stadium in early April. Chelsea Jones threw a complete game six-hitter in the Bears lone victory of the series.

Offensively, Stacia Boeckstiegel and Ashley Brentz recorded hits in each game of the series against Bradley. Brentz banged out six hits off of Braves pitching while scoring a pair of runs and driving in another.

Bradley enters the tournament having won two-of-three at home against SIU last weekend. Madeline Lynch-Crumrine is the all-around leader for the Braves, hitting .300 at the plate and having a 2.68 ERA in the circle.

- Senior Natalie Rose enters the MVC Tournament ninth in the nation in fewest walks allowed per game (0.99). She has 25 appearances this season without issuing a walk.

- Rose's last five victories have been 1-0 complete game shutout wins.

- Sunday marked Rose's 153rd appearance as a Bear, the most in school history.

- Lauren Eisenreich set career bests with two home runs, three runs scored and five RBI in game two at Creighton on Saturday.

- Senior Raeven Replogle has 15 sacrifice bunts this season, second-most in the Valley.

- Sophomore Heather Duckworth has a team-leading 11 doubles this season. That total is tied for sixth in the league.

- Second baseman Ashley Brentz drew five walks over the weekend, givng her 28 free passes this season, the fifth highest single season total in school history.

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Live Stats: Live stats will be provided by the host school, SIU, for all games of the MVC Tournament. Fans can follow along by clicking the Live Stats link on the softball schedule page at

Bradley Braves: The Braves are the #7-seed in this year's tournament and will once against match up against the Bears in the first round. During the regular season, Bradley won two-of-three from MSU at Killian Stadium in early April. Alyson Clemente clubbed two home runs in the series-opening 6-1 BU win over the Bears. On the season, Madeline Lynch-Crumrine leads both the Braves offense and pitching staff. Her .300 batting average is the highest on the team and she holds a team-leading 2.68 ERA.

Drake Bulldogs: The Drake Bulldogs took the final two games of the series at home against the Bears by identical 4-2 scores. Reigning Valley Pitcher of the Week Rebekah Schmidt recorded a win and a save over MSU in the series. Jaimie Duffek, Amy Pierce and Lindsey Vande Wall each hit safely in all three games against the Bears. On the season, freshman Hayley Nybo is the lone Bulldog hitting better than .300 with a .333 average. In the circle, Jordan Gronewold led the league in innings pitched (228.1), appearances (48) and starts (46).

Senior pitcher Natalie Rose struck out Southeast Missouri State's Taylor Cowan to end the fourth inning on Sunday, March 4 for strikeout number 500 of her career. Then on March 24, she struck out Amy Gaertner of Evansville for career strikeout number 546 to take over sole possession of third on the all-time Missouri State list in the category, passing Terri Whitmarsh. Rose struck out Wichita State's Layne Greenlee on April 18 for her 600th career punchout. Rose leads all active Valley pitchers with 650 strikeouts. Illinois State's Jordan Birch is the only other MVC pitcher with more than 600 strikeouts (617).

Head Coach Holly Hesse won her 600th game at the helm of the softball Bears in her 24th season at MSU in a season-opening 7-2 win against Sam Houston State (February 17). With an overall record of 623-608-2, Hesse entered the season tied for 40th on the all-time victories list among active coaches.

Pitcher Natalie Rose had her streak of consecutive innings without issuing a walk snapped at 31.2 when she issued a free pass in the fourth inning of the February 26 game vs. Western Illinois. The last walk Rose had issued came in the second inning of the State Farm MVC Tournament Championship game versus Drake on May 14, 2011.

Rose has allowed just 31 bases on balls this season, the fewest walks per game ratio (0.99) in the Valley and enters the MVC Tournament ninth in the nation in fewest walks per seven innings. She has appeared in 25 games in which she hasn't allowed a walk. Rose has had four different spans of at least three-straight games without a walk and had a season-high eight outing stretch from March 24 through April 3 without a base on balls.

Missouri State has three hitters with 21 or more walks this season. Only SIU has as many hitters with as many walks. Ashley Brentz leads the Bears with 28 free passes, with Stevie Pierce and Lauren Eisenreich having 27 and 21 bases on balls, respectively. Pierce had three consecutive multi-walk games from March 31 through April 3, the only player in the past four seasons to accomplish the feat. SHe also had a team season-high four walks in the second game at Creighton on May 5. Brentz's total of 28 is the fifth highest single season number in school history.

The Missouri State offense has had a few offensive outbursts this season. On Thursday, March 22 at Eastern Illinois, the Bears tied a season-high with 11 hits and scored five runs in the sixth inning, the highest single inning total of the season. Then on Saturday, March 24 at Evansville, Missouri State continued to sizzle with a six-run fourth inning that led to an 11-run outing, the highest run total since a 14-10 win at Evansville in 2010.

The final weekend of the season also saw an offensive explosion. The Bears put up five runs in the first inning and five more in the seventh in a 13-11 come-from-behind win at Creighton. Aside from racking up 11 hits in the game, Missouri State hitters amassed 11 walks, the most since drawing 13 free passes against Bradley on May 9, 2004.

After launching the second-highest MSU single season total of eight home run in 2010, junior Caitlin Chapin has found her power stroke again in 2012. On Saturday, March 24, Chapin blasted a home run in each game of the doubleheader at Evansville to give her a team-leading four dingers this season. She is the only Bear with more than one four-bagger this year. Her 14 career homers is just two shy of fifth in school history.

Omaha was also a great source of power for the Bears. After a 1-0 win in the first game, MSU slammed a pair of home runs in each of the last two games of the series. Lauren Eisenreich blasted a pair of home runs on May 5, the first two-homer game by a Bear since Jessie Smith hit a pair of dingers on February 27, 2009, vs. Valparaiso.

Several returning Missouri State players have had career days this season.

Sophomore Ashley Brentz had her first career four-hit game on opening day (February 17) against Sam Houston State and stole her first base. It was the first four-hit performance by a Bear since another second baseman, Christa Gammon, had four hits in game one of a doubleheader against UNI on May 8, 2010. On March 24, Brentz scored three times in MSU's 11-2 six inning win at Evansville. The three runs scored was a career-best for the second baseman.

At the Blues City Classic in Memphis, Tenn., Brentz and Kirstin Cutter each recorded their first multi-RBI games of their careers. Both feats occurred on Saturday (February 25) as Cutter drove in both runs in the Bears' 2-1 win over Miami (OH). In the nightcap, Brentz drove in two of the four runs in MSU's 4-1 win over SEMO.

On Sunday, February 19, senior Raeven Replogle had a career-best three-RBI game against South Dakota State. Junior Caitlin Chapin had two stolen bases and sophomore Heather Duckworth scored two runs, both career highs.

Duckworth had another career day at UMKC on April 3. She drove in three runs in a 4-2 Bears' win. Two of the RBI came in the top of the seventh inning, plating the winning run. She followed that up with another three RBI game against Bradley on April 6.

Junior Lauren Eisenreich had a stellar day at Creighton on May 5. In the second game of the doubleheader, she registered her first career multi-homer game with two blasts. She also scored three runs and drove in five, both career highs. Her two-homer game was the first since Jessie Smith in 2009 and her five-RBI game, the first since Smith had five in 2008.

The Bears played 11 games against teams from power conferences or 2011 NCAA Tournament participants, going 4-7. MSU had victories over Memphis, Iowa State, Illinois State and Kansas. The Bears have played Big 12 foes well, suffering tough losses to then-No. 13 Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas and Tulsa, in extra innings. The 11 games against feisty foes from the Big 12, SEC or a 2011 NCAA Tournament team were against Memphis (1), Missouri (1), Iowa State, (2), Illinois State (3), Kansas (2), Tulsa (1), and Arkansas (1). The first seven games at Killian Stadium were against Big 12 opponents or 2011 NCAA Tournament participants.

Head Coach Holly Hesse has employed 43 different batting orders this season in 49 games. In the 38 games with a unique batting order, MSU is 19-19.

The Bears began the season as road warriors with three-straight tournaments and the first 12 games being played away from Killian Stadium. Missouri State went 8-4 in the season-opening road swing.

The Bears were picked to finish fourth in the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference coaches' preseason poll. Defending regular season champion Illinois State is favored with UNI and Southern Illinois sandwiched between ISU and the Bears.

After sweeping through the MVC Tournament in 2011, the Bears will be tasked with repeating that feat in Carbondale, Ill., as SIU will host the 2012 Championship. Missouri State earned its sixth title last season, tied for the most by any school. Hesse has 45 of the Bears' 67 wins in the MVC Tournament, both totals are the best in the Valley.

Right-hander Natalie Rose added another chapter to her breakthrough junior season May 7, 2011, tossing the 13th no-hitter in Missouri State history as part of a sparkling final weekend of the regular season in which she helped blank Evansville twice while giving up just one earned run on six hits over 17.0 innings to lead the Bears to a three-game sweep. Rose notched the first no-no by a Bears pitcher since 2007 to open MSU's key series with UE.

For the year, Rose ranked ninth nationally in saves (5), 12th in walks per seven innings (1.08) and 35th in strikeouts (258).

Missouri State has made a habit of saving some of its best performances for the Valley Tournament, having racked up more MVC Tournament victories (67) than any other league club. Illinois State (52) is a distant second in that category, and the Bears matched Creighton for the most tourney titles over the 28-year history of the event by claiming their sixth crown in 2011. Furthermore, head coach Holly Hesse moved past Illinois State's Melinda Fischer for the most tournament victories (45) with the Bears' title-game victory last year. Hesse's career total is higher than the number of total team wins in the championship for every other Valley club except Illinois State.

Behind the pitching of Natalie Rose and some timely hitting, the Bears swept through the field at the 2011 State Farm MVC Championship, becoming just the second host school to win the league's postseason tournament in the 28-year history of the event. Rose became the fifth Bear to be named tournament MVP after posting shutouts against Bradley and UNI (May 12) on the opening day of the meet and accounting for all four MSU wins while posting a 1.50 ERA. Three other Bears garnered all-tournament recognition, including Ashley Knehans, who batted .417 to lead the Bears, and Tyler Porter whose six hits and five runs scored were the top marks in the tournament. Third-baseman Heather Duckworth also earned all-tourney recognition after coming up with several clutch hits while playing an error-free third base in the tournament.

While pitching was the name of the game early in the tournament, the Bears' offense came alive in MSU's semifinal win over Illinois State (May 13) and their championship game victory against Drake (May 14). In the title game, MSU got an early two-run homer from Stevie Pierce, then put the game away with a four-run sixth inning. Pierce registered a near-perfect day at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and four RBIs to key the Bears' sixth MVC Tournament championship with a 7-4 victory.

Head coach Holly Hesse has commitments from four players to join the 2013 squad. Joining the Bears for the 2012-13 academic year are Braxton Coil (Edmond, Okla.), Mary Stephens (Sachse, Texas), Bethany Sullinger (Kansas City, Mo.) and Sarah "Jessie" Van Es (Russellville, Ark.).

Coil was a four-year starter behind the dish for head coach Rick Nordyke at Edmond North High. She batted .477 with a team record 62 RBI in her senior season en route to Conference Player of the Year and all-state accolades. A four-time all-city and all-conference selection, she advanced her team to the 6A regional championship for a third-straight season her senior campaign. As a junior, Coil hit .387 with 48 RBI. Her Oklahoma Force summer team advanced to its third-straight USA/ASA National Championship Tournament in 2011 after winning the ASA State Title each of her seasons on the team.

Stephens has started her first three years at Wylie High for head coach Heather Damron. Her junior season, she set her school's record with 19 home runs, while batting .570 and driving in 74 runs. She was named Offensive Player of the Year, 4A District MVP and first-team all-state in her third season at WHS. A DFW Player of the Week, she was among the leaders in doubles, triples, home runs and RBI in the 4A district. Stephens earned academic all-district honors her sophomore and junior years. She was named to the all-district second team as a sophomore after batting.375. As a freshman, she was named District 8-5A Newcomer of the Year after hitting .346 and adding 16 RBI.

Sullinger was the starting shortstop all four years for head coach Stuart Sullinger at Park Hill High. A first-team all-state, all-region, all-conference and all-district honoree as a senior, she set the school record for batting average, slugging percentage, RBI and triples. She also earned the school's silver slugger award for the second-straight season and was named MVP of the team. As a junior, Sullinger set the school record for home runs in leading her team to a second-place finish in districts. She was an all-region, all-conference and all-district first team selection in her junior year. In 2009, she was named to the first-team all-conference and all-district squads while guiding her squad to a second-place finish in districts. As a freshman, she was named all-district first team and all-conference second team while earning the school's golden glove award for the first time. Sullinger also plays basketball at Park Hill.

Van Es has been a standout pitcher for Pottsville High her first three seasons. As a junior, she hurled an 18 strikeout perfect game, two no-hitters and three one-hitters while averaging 13 strikeouts for the season. She was named to the all-state and all-conference teams in leading her team to the semifinals of the state tournament. She can also hit, earning the 2011 Outstanding Hitter Award and was named the top junior by the conference coaches. As a sophomore, she earned all-conference accolades after taking the most RBI's award for the second-straight season. She won the golden glove award after leading her team to the state semifinals. In 2009, she earned all-conference honors and took home the silver bat award. Van Es also plays basketball at Pottsville High.



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