Jan. 29, 2014
2014 MVC Preseason Baseball Poll | MVC Preseason Baseball Release (PDF) | Guttin Discusses MVC Preseason Poll (Video)
ST. LOUIS - With one of the most experience rosters in the Missouri Valley Conference returning in 2014, the Missouri State Bears have been chosen by the league's head coaches for the second spot in the Valley's annual preseason baseball poll, which was announced Wednesday. Additionally, MSU sophomores Tate Matheny and Jon Harris were selected by the Valley coaches for the preseason all-conference squad following impressive rookie campaigns in 2013.
The Bears of head coach Keith Guttin tallied 55 points in the poll, trailing league favorite Wichita State by just one point in the balloting. The Shockers, who finished second in the conference race last year before claiming the MVC Tournament crown, claimed six of the eight first-place votes, while the Bears garnered the remaining two.
Defending regular-season champ Illinois State (46 points) earned the No. 3 spot, while league newcomer Dallas Baptist (44 points) was tabbed for the fourth position. Southern Illinois (28 points) earned the fifth position in the poll, followed by Evansville (25 points), Indiana State (23 points) and Bradley (11 points).
The league's eight clubs will meet at the MVC Championship, May 20-24, at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute, Ind., for the right to represent the Valley in the 2014 NCAA Championship.
The Bears, who will welcome back 21 letterwinners from last year's squad that secured the program's third-consecutive 30-win season, begin the 2014 campaign with a three-game series against the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark., beginning with a 3 p.m. contest Feb. 14.
Leading the way will be MSU's two preseason All-MVC picks, who became the 29th and 30th All-Americans in the five-decade history of the program last spring. Harris became the third Missouri State pitcher in the last three seasons to earn a spot on Collegiate Baseball's Freshman All-America team after posting one of the best starts by a Missouri State pitcher in recent memory. The right-hander notched wins in each of his first eight starts as a Bear before finishing with an 8-2 overall mark and a 3.87 earned run average. Harris shared the team lead for victories with First-Team All-American Nick Petree, finishing second in the MVC for the season after going 4-0 in league play.
Matheny led Missouri State with a .336 batting averge for the year, ranking among the Valley's top 10 in hits (77), home runs (4), total bases (105) and multi-hit efforts (24) while starting all 54 games for the Bears in centerfield. The St. Louis native's average of 1.426 hits per contest is the third-highest on record for any MSU freshman, trailing only all-time hits leader Matt Gardner (1.491) and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard (1.456). Matheny, a 2013 Second-Team All-MVC pick and the conference's Freshman of the Year, recorded at least one hit in 45 of his 54 games as a Bear en route to earning Freshman All-America recognition from both Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America.
Additionally, previous All-MVC honorees Tyler Burgess, Eric Cheray and Cody Schumacher also return for the Bears, who open the home portion of their schedule Feb. 28 against Purdue.
Season tickets for the 2014 campaign are on sale now through the MSU Athletics Box Office at JQH Arena, online through MissouriStateBears.com, or by calling Duane Miller at (417) 836-8899. Individuals who either place their order for a new ticket package or renew an existing plan by Feb. 1 will receive an equal number of complementary tickets to the Bears' annual First Pitch Night, which will feature St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on Feb. 8 at the Bill Rowe Training Center.