Bears Head to Terre Haute for Marquee MVC Series With Indiana State

Bears Head to Terre Haute for Marquee MVC Series With Indiana State

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May 16, 2012

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (35-17, 11-6 MVC) at Indiana State Sycamores (40-13, 13-5 MVC)
Dates/Times:
Thursday, May 17 (5:30 p.m.)
Friday, May 18 (5:30 p.m.)
Saturday, May 19 (12 p.m.)
Location: Terre Haute, Ind.
Site: Bob Warn Field (2,000)
Series History: Missouri State leads 56-36
TV: None
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
Live Audio and Video: SycamoreVision (subscription required)
Live Stats: MissouriStateBears.com

Leading Off
For the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Missouri State Bears (35-17, 11-6 MVC) enter the final weekend of the regular season with a shot at the Missouri Valley Conference title. The Bears will square off against the league-leading Indiana State Sycamores (40-13, 13-5 MVC) needing a three-game sweep at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute to bring home their fourth MVC regular-season championship.

Missouri State saw its half-game lead over the Sycamores evaporate last weekend after dropping the final two games of its three-game set against Evansville. The Sycamores, however, took advantage of the Bears' misfortune to build a game-and-a-half lead in the MVC standings with a three-game road sweep of Southern Illinois.

Prime 9
? The Bears are 56-36 all-time against the Sycamores and have won 12 of their last 14 vs. ISU in Terre Haute
? For the fourth time in five years, MSU enters its final regular-season series within two games of the top spot in the MVC standings
? MSU, which enters the series 1.5 games back of ISU, can finish anywhere from first to fifth in the league race
? Senior OF Spiker Helms has driven in 28 two-out runs out of his club-leading 39 RBIs this season
? Missouri State leads the nation in strikeouts per nine innings and junior RHP Pierce Johnson rates 12th among all Division I hurlers in the same category (11.18)
? MSU entered the week second in the nation in team ERA (2.56), led by sophomore RHP Nick Petree's 0.58 ERA and school-record 38.0 consecutive scoreless innings, both of which lead the Division I ranks in 2012
? Petree, who has not yielded an earned run since March 2, covering 72.2 IP over 11 appearances, is just 9 2/3 innings away from matching Todd Helton's Division I single-season record for consecutive scoreless innings
? Senior 2B Kevin Medrano has hit .419 over nine career games against ISU
? Medrano ranks second in school history with 293 career hits; he already ranks atop the Bears' career singles (227) and sacrifice hits (27) lists

Indiana State Series
The Bears hold a commanding 56-36 lead in the series with Indiana State after taking two of three meetings last season. The home team has had the better end of things in recent years, with the Bears and Sycamores alternating 2-1 series wins over the last two years. Prior to 2010, however, MSU posted 11 consecutive victories in Terre Haute.

Last year at Hammons Field, Nick Petree pitched the Bears to an opening-game, 14-4 win that was punctuated by Brock Chaffin's eighth-inning grand slam. Indiana State rallied from a four-run deficit to take game two, before the Bears rode 6 2/3 solid innings from Blake Barber to claim the rubber match.

About the Bears
Following a disappointing end to an otherwise memorable bounce-back 2011 season, Missouri State entered the new year as the preseason choice to capture the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title for the fourth time in the last 12 seasons under 30th-year head coach Keith Guttin. After a rough start to opening weekend in Lubbock, Texas, the Bears rebounded to win 20 of their next 24 games to post their best start to a season in a decade.

Leading the way for the Bears has been second baseman Kevin Medrano (.320, 22 RBI, 16 2B, 11 SB) who leads the club in hitting and ranks seventh in the MVC in total hits. The senior from Lee's Summit, Mo., has been hot at the plate lately after a sluggish start to move into second place on MSU's career hits list (293). Junior Keenen Maddox saw his career-best 11-game hit streak come to an end April 17, but still brings a .293 batting mark into Thursday's game. Serving as the Bears' primary DH, Maddox has hit .303 with a team-high four homers since March 30. Senior outfielder Spiker Helms (.294, 6 HR, 39 RBI) ranks among the MVC's top 10 performers in a number of different offensive categories, including a team-leading 20 doubles and a league-high 38 walks. Fellow senior Brock Chaffin (.298, HR, 36 RBI) has 16 multi-hit games and at least one RBI in 24 contests, while junior catcher Luke Voit (.287, 5 HR, 38 RBI) has five game-winning RBIs this season and 16 for his MSU career to rank ninth in school history. Senior third baseman Brent Seifert (.268, 5 HR, 39 RBI) shares the team lead in RBIs and has reached base safely in 45 of the Bears' 52 games.

The Bears' pitching staff has been the strength of the team through the first three months of the season, despite a series of key injuries. National pitcher of the Year candidate Nick Petree (10-2, 0.58), who went 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA to garner Freshman All-America honors last spring, has won 10 of his last 11 decisions and leads the nation in earned run average. The right-hander, who was tabbed for the College Baseball Hall of Fame's Pitcher of the Year Watch List in late April, brings a string of 72 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, as well as a school-record 38.0 straight scoreless frames into the weekend. Junior right-hander Pierce Johnson (2-6, 2.85) has been dominant over his first 11 starts of the season in spite of a lack of run support that has resulted in four one-run setbacks. After missing two starts in April due to a forearm strain, Johnson brings the nation's 12th-best strikeouts/nine innings mark into the weekend. Junior righty Cody Schumacher (7-1, 4.02) has been a dependable third starter in his first year as a Bear, helping his club claim wins in 12 of his 14 starts to date. Finally, the Bears' bullpen has been nearly as dominant as the rotation, fashioning a string of 18 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over nine outings (March 13-25), and a 0.53 ERA over a 17-game span (Feb. 29-March 25). Freshman lefty Tyler Burgess (4-0, 1.11, 11 saves) has been sensational in his MSU debut to lead the group, notching a victory or a save in each of his first seven appearances as a Bear without allowing an earned run.

About the Sycamores
The Sycamores enter the final weekend of the regular season on the cusp of history, needing just one win over the Bears to capture their first Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title. Third-year head coach Rick Heller welcomed back 21 letterwinners from last year's 29-28 squad that finished sixth in the Valley.

Picked fourth in this year's MVC preseason poll, the Sycamores have already topped the 40-win plateau relying on the No. 2 offense and the second-best team ERA in the conference. Junior catcher Jeremy Lucas leads the ISU attack with a .357 batting average, nine home runs and 51 runs batted-in. The MVC Player of the Year candidate leads the league in on-base percentage and runs scored, while ranking second in hitting, slugging, total hits and total bases. Freshman Landon Curry has sparked the ISU lineup as well, bringing a .326 batting mark and a team-high 15 stolen bases into the weekend. Additionally, Jon Hedges and Rob Ort have combined for 13 homers and 90 RBIs on the year to pace an offense that averages 6.7 runs per game.

Indiana State has been solid in the pitching department all year as well, relying on a deep staff that has registered a 3.03 ERA for the year. At the top of the rotation is right-hander Dakota Bacus (6-3, 2.09 ERA), who leads the MVC in innings pitched (99.0) and rates fourth in strikeouts (81). Left-hander Sean Manea (5-1, 3.09 ERA) is third overall in the Valley in strikeouts (96), while right-hander Ryan Torgerson leads the club and rates second in the league with eight victories. In the pen, Reggie Hochstedler and Chris Machado share the team lead with three saves apiece.

Stranglehold
Sophomore pitcher Nick Petree has turned in a one of the most-memorable mound stretches in Missouri State history this season, choking the life out of the opposition over the last two-and-a-half months to the tune of 72 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing a single earned run over 11 outings.

In extending is consecutive scoreless innings streak to 38.0 straight in last Friday's 2-0 win over Evansville, Petree not only eclipsed Ken Watkins's 43-year-old Missouri State record, but also moved within 9 2/3 frames of Todd Helton's NCAA Division I single-season record of 47.2 straight scoreless innings. Petree, who was tabbed by Collegiate Baseball as its National Player of the Week on May 7, lowered his Division I-leading ERA to 0.58 in extending the longest scoreless streak in Division I play this season.

Over the course of his earned run-less streak that dates back to March 2, Petree has posted nearly a 4-to-1 strikeout-walk ratio (82Ks/21 BB) and has been a part of seven of the Bears' single-season record nine shutouts on the year. He's given up just 40 hits over the 72.2-inning span, including only seven extra-base hits (all doubles). Petree has been at his best under pressure, holding the opposition to a mere .087 (8-for-92) batting average with runners on base.

Familiar Territory
Missouri State enters its final regular-season series in a pair of familiar spots. Not only have the Bears enjoyed an unprecedented string of success at Bob Warn Field over the last decade, they've also made a habit of playing meaningful games late in the conference season.

The Bears reeled off 11 consecutive road wins against Indiana State from 2002 until their last visit to Terre Haute in 2010, when they dropped two of three games to the Sycamores. Since joining the MVC in 1991, the Bears have gone 23-12 on ISU's home field.

Just one-and-a-half games behind the Sycamores for the top spot in the Valley standings, the Bears are within two games of the league leader entering the final weekend for the fourth time in five seasons (2011, 2009 and 2008). MSU and ISU met in Springfield with the conference crown on the line in 2009, and the Bears earned the title with a three-game sweep.

Where's the Fire?
Missouri State and Evansville needed a total of just five hours and 27 minutes to complete their three-game series last weekend. Games two and three took just 1:50 and 1:38, respectively, marking MSU's two shortest contests of the season. That's saying a lot, considering the Bears' average game time in 2012 is just 2:28, with only three contests extending beyond the three-hour mark, while 24 have been completed in 2:20 or less.

Tourney Time
Following the conclusion of the regular season this weekend, the State Farm MVC Baseball Championship will return to Hammons Field for the first time in five years next week. The tournament, which begins with four games Tuesday (May 22) and continues through Saturday's championship game, will determine the winner of the Valley's automatic NCAA Tournament bid. The Bears, who have won the tournament title on two previous occasions (1996 and 1997), are 34-37 in 20 previous trips to the MVC Tournament. MSU has five runner-up finishes (1995, 2002, 2006 and 2008) and has gone 2-4 all-time as the tournament's host.

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