Bears, Shockers Set to Open Crucial MVC Series Saturday at Hammons Field

Bears, Shockers Set to Open Crucial MVC Series Saturday at Hammons Field

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May 3, 2013

Missouri State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

Missouri State Bears (27-13, 11-4 MVC) vs. Wichita State Shockers (27-21, 11-4 MVC)
Saturday, May 4 - 12:30 p.m. (Game 1)
Sunday, May 5 (DH) - 11:05 a.m. (Game 2) and 2:30 p.m. (Game 3)
Location: Springfield, Mo.
Site: Hammons Field (8,000)
Series History: Wichita State leads 59-35 (MSU won last meeting)
Radio: KBFL 1060 AM (Art Hains, Terry Clayton)
TV: Mediacom MC-22 (Game 2) (Don West, Mike McClure)
Live Audio and Video: Bears All-Access
Twitter: @MSUBearBaseball
Tickets: (417) 836-7678
Promotions: BCFO Cancer Awareness Day (Saturday)

Leading Off
Thanks to a late burst of winter weather in the Ozarks, the Missouri State Bears will welcome the Wichita State Shockers to Hammons Field for an abbreviated two-day Missouri Valley Conference series that should play a critical role in deciding the outcome of the league's regular-season race. The Bears and Shockers will open the weekend with a single 12:30 p.m. contest Saturday (May 4), before concluding the series with a pair of nine-inning games Sunday (May 5) at 11 a.m.

With matching 11-4 Valley records, the Bears and Shockers sit just percentage points behind first-place Illinois State with two weekends to go in the regular season. Missouri State is coming off an MVC road series win in Evansville last weekend, followed by a 6-3 setback to No. 16 Arkansas in Fayetteville on Tuesday. Wichita State took two of three games against Southern Illinois in Carbondale last week, before splitting midweek games with Kansas and Kansas Wesleyan this week.

Up next, Missouri State will entertain Oral Roberts in a pair of non-conference games, Tuesday and Wednesday at Hammons Field. The Bears will then wrap up their home slate with a three-game set against Wright State next weekend (May 10-12).

Prime 9
?Wichita State leads the all-time series with MSU by a 59-35 margin, but the Bears won three of four games against the Shockers last year and have taken seven of their last eight home games against WSU dating back to 2007
?Missouri State pitchers posted two shutouts and a 1.03 team ERA in four outings vs. WSU in 2012
?The Bears rank second in the conference in hits (139), runs scored (86) and RBIs (79) in MVC play
?OF Tate Matheny leads all MVC freshmen in batting, slugging, runs scored, hits, home runs and total bases
?MSU hurlers have posted the 13th-best team strikeout-walk ratio (2.89) in all of Division I baseball to date
?Missouri State is 6-0 in conference play at Hammons Field this season and 12-3 at home overall in 2013
?RHP Nick Petree is 11-0 with a 0.94 ERA over 16 career outings at Hammons Field
?Freshmen make up two-thirds of the Bears' weekend rotation, with Jon Harris and Andy Cheray combining with fellow freshman Matt Hall to go 11-1 with a 2.42 ERA in 17 rookie starts this season
?OF Keenen Maddox and DH Koby Peebles rank first (16) and second (14), respectively, in RBIs in Valley play

Series History
Saturday's opener will mark the 95th meeting in the series, with Wichita State holding a commanding 59-35 edge. Last year, the Bears took three of four meetings from the Shockers, winning two games in Wichita during the regular season before ending WSU's season with a 7-0 victory at the MVC Championship at Hammons Field.

The Bears own a 21-18 edge over the Shockers in games played in Springfield, but just a 7-8 mark at Hammons Field. MSU has won seven of its last eight home contests against WSU, however.

About the Bears
Coming off a 40-22 campaign and their eighth NCAA Division I Regional appearance, Missouri State is once again on course to compete for the top spot in the Missouri Valley Conference with wins in 27 of its first 40 games this season. For the second straight year head coach Keith Guttin's Bears were tabbed as the MVC's preseason favorite by the league's coaches, thanks largely to the return of 17 letterwinners, including the bulk of a pitching staff that led the nation in team earned run average last spring.

Leading the way once again is junior hurler Nick Petree, who was named Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball last year after going 10-4 with a Division I-best 1.01 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 115.1 innings pitched. The right-hander is off to a 7-1 start with the second-best ERA in the MVC (1.52) through 10 starts to pace a staff that has recorded a 2.96 team ERA. Freshman right-hander Jon Harris has made a significant impact in his first collegiate season, claiming wins in each of his first eight starts while posting a 2.21 ERA. Sophomore NCBWA National Stopper of the Year candidate Tyler Burgess has been strong out of the bullpen for MSU, logging three wins and three saves thus far after earning Freshman All-America recognition in 2012.

In the field, the Bears return five regulars from last year's club, including senior catcher Luke Voit, a Johnny Bench Award candidate for the second consecutive season. Voit's seven steals lead MSU, while his .276 batting mark and 23 RBIs both rank fourth on the squad. Freshman outfielder Tate Matheny has been nothing short of outstanding in his first season of collegiate action, ranking among the Valley's top 10 in hitting (.360), slugging percentage (.500), runs scored (33), hits (62), home runs (4) and total bases (86). Senior shortstop Travis McComack has been hot at the plate lately, reaching base safely in 26 of his last 28 games while driving in the game-winning RBI in five contests this year. Senior DH Koby Peebles has been one of the Bears' most consistent contributors, registering 25 RBIs and 11 doubles so far. Senior outfielder Keenen Maddox has been the Bears' hottest hitter of late, batting .424 with 15 RBIs over MSU's last 14 games. Finally, sophomore infielder Eric Cheray ranks among the Valley's leaders in walks and paces the Bears with a .475 on-base percentage to go along with a .324 batting mark.

About the Shockers
Picked to finish second in the Valley by the league's coaches in their annual preseason poll, Wichita State finds itself in contention for the top spot in the MVC standings with just two conference series to play. Head coach Gene Stephenson, now in his 36th year at the helm, welcomed back 20 letterwinners from last year's club that went 35-25 and finished third in the MVC. This year, the Shockers feature a well-rounded attack that includes the top-scoring offense (271 runs) in the Valley, as well as a pitching staff that has posted the second-best team ERA (3.50) in the league to date.

Leading the WSU offense has been junior outfielder Garrett Bayliff (.360 BA), who paces an offense hitting .286 as a group, good for fourth overall in the Valley. Sophomores Tyler Baker (.329/4 HR/34 RBI) and Casey Gillaspie (.299 BA/7 HR/30 RBI) have been key performers for the Shockers as well, leading the club in runs batted-in and home runs, respectively. Additionally, junior outfielder Micah Green is hitting .301 on the year, including a .342 mark in conference play.

On the mound, WSU has relied on Friday starter Cale Elam, who has a team-best 5-2 record to go along with a 2.22 ERA. The junior right-hander's 1.71 MVC earned run average ranks third in the circuit, while his 55 strikeouts rank sixth overall among all Valley hurlers. Sophomore righty A.J. Ladwig is projected as the Shockers Saturday starter, bringing a 4-4 overall mark and a 4.95 ERA into the series. The WSU bullpen is led by junior right-hander Brandon Peterson, who has saved six games and logged a pair of wins to go along with a 1.50 ERA and a minuscule .185 batting average against. Junior lefty Aaron LaBrie has saved three games and his 1.14 ERA leads the team.

Reversal of Fortune
Since Wichita State walked away with victories in each of its first seven games against the Bears at Hammons Field from March 2004 through April 2007, MSU has enjoyed a decisive home-field advantage in its series with the Shockers. The Bears have taken seven of their last eight home meetings with WSU, to be exact, beginning with a 5-2 win in the 2007 MVC Championship. MSU swept Wichita State in a three-game set in 2009, then took two of three contests in 2011. Last year, Cody Schumacher ended the Shockers' season with a two-hit, complete-game shutout in an elimination game at the Valley Tournament.

MSU's offense has been key in its recent run of success against WSU at home. Over the eight-game stretch, the Bears have hit a collective .318 while out-scoring the Shockers by a 51-28 margin.

Sunflower Sentiments
This weekend's series with the Shockers will mark the Bears' first meetings with a team from the Sunflower State this season, much to the delight of the four Kansas natives on the MSU roster. Last year the Bears went a combined 6-1 against Wichita State, Kansas and Kansas State, with three Kansas natives playing key roles for the Maroon and White.

Most notably, Cody Schumacher earned two of the Bears' three wins over the Shockers, allowing just one earned run while striking out 16 hitters over 17.0 total innings in two starts against WSU. Fellow Kansan Eric Cheray led the Bears' offensive charge in those two victories, hitting .500 with a pair of RBIs and a run scored to help MSU out-score the Shockers by a 14-2 margin. Additionally, Leawood, Kan., product Dylan Becker logged a .333 batting average against WSU in 2012 and hit his first collegiate home run in MSU's 7-2 victory in Schumacher's first win over the Shockers on April 21. Freshman left-hander Andy Cheray (Overland Park) should get his first crack at a team from his home state in game two of Sunday's doubleheader, which he is scheduled to start opposite of WSU's Garrett Brummett.

Home Cookin'
Missouri State enters its final home conference series a perfect 6-0 at Hammons Field in MVC play this season, marking the second straight year MSU has won its first six Valley home games. Missouri State has not started 7-0 at home in conference play since 2001, and the Bears have never gone unbeaten at home vs. the Valley in a season. The Bears, who have posted three-game MVC sweeps of Indiana State and Bradley, are 12-3 at home overall this season, which is within striking distance of their best home mark at Hammons Field. MSU went 21-5 at home in 2008 to set the gold standard at Hammons, now in its 10th season as home of the Bears.

The Bears top two starting pitchers, Nick Petree and Jon Harris, have found the confines of Hammons Field particularly friendly throughout their respective careers. The duo is 7-0 with a combined 1.37 ERA in eight home starts in 2013. Furthermore, Petree is 11-0 with a microscopic 0.94 ERA over 114.1 innings spanning 16 career appearances at Hammons. Coupled with Harris's 4-0 home mark and 1.61 ERA at Hammons, the two right-handers have posted a perfect 15-0 home record, while giving up just 17 earned runs and striking out 146 hitters over 142.1 career innings, good for a combined 1.07 ERA.

At the plate, freshman Tate Matheny has been red-hot at home in his rookie year, with a .470 (31-for-66) Hammons batting mark in 15 outings. Keenen Maddox has also excelled on his home turf, logging a .322 career average, as well as nine of his 14 career home runs at Hammons Field.

Gordon Nearing Milestone
Senior reliever Grant Gordon enters the weekend with 199 career strikeouts, just one punch-out shy of becoming the 15th Missouri State pitcher to reach the 200-K plateau. The Salem, Mo., product would match Tim Clubb (2007-09) for the No. 14 spot on the Bears' career strikeouts list with his next one. Gordon is within four strikeouts of Jeff Gray (2001-04) in the 13th spot and just five short of Ken Watkins (1967-70) and John Hardin (1996-00) in the No. 12 position.

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