Jan. 22, 2014
Full MVC Release
ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The Missouri State softball team garnered 51 points and is picked to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2014 according to the preseason coaches poll released by the league office today (Jan. 22). The Bears are slotted behind league favorite UNI (100 points), Illinois State (83), Drake (82) and Southern Illinois (63). Sophomore Mary Stephens was voted to the preseason All-MVC team, the lone Bear on the squad.
"We are picked in the top half of the league," said head coach Holly Hesse. "I am happy with that given we finished above .500 in the league last season. Mary (Stephens) is a clutch hitter and it is exciting to have one of the best young hitters in the league. She adjusted well to Division I play in her first season and we hope a year of experience will lead to bigger and better things."
Stephens, the only underclassman on the league preseason team, was an All-MVC second team selection in 2013 after playing in 51 games as a freshman. She had 47 hits and 25 runs batted in, both figures were second on the team. She led the Bears with 19 base hits with runners in scoring position and topped the squad with four three-hit games and 13 multi-hit games overall. Stephens had a breakout tournament in her home state of Texas where she hit .412 with seven hits including a home run at the UTSA Classic from February 15-17, 2013. She enters 2014 with the longest active hitting streak for MSU, having hit safely in the final six games of 2013.
Missouri State returns 11 letterwinners and six starters from a 2013 team that finished 22-30 overall with a 13-12 record in MVC play. The Bears took eventual MVC Tournament runner-up Evansville to extra innings before a first round defeat ended the season. Second baseman Ashley Brentz and third baseman Heather Duckworth are back after All-MVC selections in 2013.
Missouri State returns to Atlanta, Ga., to begin the 2014 season on February 8 with a three-game series against the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. Last season, the Bears also opened the season in Atlanta at the Kennesaw State-Georgia Tech Invitational. The Bears' home opener at Killian Stadium will be Wednesday, March 12 against SIU Edwardsville at 5:00 p.m.