March 5, 2015
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After an almost two week hiatus from games, the Missouri State softball team (8-7) returns to action on Saturday at the Courtyard Marriott Tournament in Norman, Okla., facing arguably the toughest tests of the season. The Bears will face Samford (14-5) and host #5/6 Oklahoma (14-3) on both Saturday and Sunday to begin a stretch of 11 games in eight days. Following this weekend's tournament in Norman, MSU will have an eight-game home stand starting on Tuesday with the home opener against Central Arkansas.
Freshman Chelsea Thomas had been on an offensive power barrage since her first start of the season on February 7. Her first career hit was a home run against UAPB and she has not slowed down since. Thomas enters this week tied for the league lead with six home runs and is tops in the MVC with a .784 slugging percentage. She has been consistent with her power stroke, hitting two home runs during each of the Bears' first three weekends. She was awarded for her contributions by earning two MVC Newcomer of the Week honors already.
Thomas leads MSU with 13 runs batted in this season. Her total is fourth in the MVC and is more than double any other Bear this season.
Senior Chelsea Jones has put together an all-around soild season for the Bears. In the circle, she has four of MSU's eight wins and is second in the league with a 2.26 ERA, trailing only teammate Erin Struemph (2.16). In her last outing, she tossed 8.0 innings in a win over Iowa, the longest outing by a Bear since Jones pitched 9.0 against UNI on March 16, 2013. Jones has also been a solid contributer on offense. Her six RBI are tied for second on the team.
Struemph has been lights out in the circle for MSU again this season. Her 2.16 ERA in the best in the Valley and she leads all pitchers with four saves. In 11 appearances this year, Struemph has allowed runs against in just three and has recorded at least one strikeout in all 11. She is one of two pitchers in the conference with more strikeouts (35) than hits allowed (30) and the only hurler with fewer earned runs against than appearances.
Mary Stephens became the second MSU hitter this season to draw three walks in a game. She earned three bases on balls against Iowa on Feb. 22 and her season total of 12 is one shy of the league lead.
- Freshman Chelsea Thomas is tied for the conference lead with six home runs and leads overall in home runs per game.
- Thomas' .784 slugging percentage is the best in the MVC.
- Thomas has blasted two home runs in each of the first three weekends of play this year.
- Missouri State pitchers Erin Struemph (2.16) and Chelsea Jones (2.26) are 1-2 in the MVC in ERA this season.
- Struemph leads the Valley with four saves. No other league pitcher has more than one.
- Mary Stephens had a career-high three walks against Iowa to give her 12 on the year. She leads the MVC in walks per game this season.
- On Feb. 22, Stephens became the second Bear this season to draw three walks in a game (Rebecca McPherson, Feb. 13 vs. EMU). Last year, no MSU player walked three times in a game.
- At least one MSU player has had multiple hits in 13 of the 15 games this season.
- Oklahoma will be the second 2014 Women's College World Series participant the Bears will face in as many weeks of competition.
BEARS SOFTBALL IS ON THE AIR
The Missouri State softball team will see all of its home games live streamed through Bears All-Access, a subscription based video service available on MissouriStateBears.com.
Seven MSU home games will air on KBFL (1060 AM) and can be heard online via RadioSpringfield.com. Additionally, two home games will be televised on MC22, a local and regional cable channel.
2015 Broadcast Schedule
Thursday, March 12 vs. Arkansas [KBFL]
Saturday, March 14 vs. Drake (G1) [KBFL]
Wednesday, March 18 vs. Missouri [MC22]
Friday, April 3 vs. Evansville (DH) [KBFL]
Saturday, April 11 vs. Loyola (G1) [KBFL]
Wednesday, April 22 vs. Wichita State [KBFL]
Saturday, April 25 vs. UNI (G1) [KBFL]
Sunday, April 26 vs. UNI [MC22]
EXTENDING HER LEGACY
Head Coach Holly Hesse is second in all-time wins by an MVC coach with 682. With a 7-1 victory over South Dakota State on February 15, 2014, Hesse earned milestone win 650. She trails only current Illinois State coach Melinda Fischer (942 wins).
IN THE OTHER DUGOUT
Samford Bulldogs: The Bulldogs stumbled a bit at last weekend's Auburn Tournament, but overall have had a very respectable season. Hitters have led the way with a team average of .338. Junior Megan Dowdy is batting a team-best .435 and she is one of five Samford hitters with double-digit RBI this year. The pitching staff has a collective 4.40 earned run average and they have walked almost as many batters as they have struck out. Missouri State has won all three previous meetings, the last was a 4-1 Bears' win on Feb. 18, 2001.
#5/6 Oklahoma Sooners: The Sooners enter this weekend riding a streak of three-straight shutouts including a no-hitter against IPFW last weekend. Junior Kelsey Stevens, who threw the no-hitter, is 5-0 on the year and she has held opponents to a .188 average. As a staff, the Sooners have a 2.50 ERA. Senior Lauren Chamberlain paces the OU offense with a .463 average, seven home runs and 24 RBI. Oklahoma is hitting .360 as a team and have posted 139 runs through 17 games. The Sooners lead the all-time series 15-9, but MSU has won three of the last eight meetings in Norman.
NEWCOMER DE JA VU
Missouri State freshman third baseman Chelsea Thomas began her career with consecutive stellar weekends at the Louisiana Tech Invitation, the Texas A&M Aggie Classic and the Ragin' Cajuns Invitational. She hit two home runs over each weekend and led the Bears in runs batted in at two of the tournaments. For her solid performances, Thomas was named MVC Newcomer of the Week two-consecutive weeks to begin the year.
On Saturday, Feb. 14, Thomas became the second MSU freshman this season to hit two home runs in a game (Kaitlin Beason, Feb. 6 vs. ULM). In the win over Eastern Michigan, Thomas drove in three runs, the second time in 2015 that she had three RBI in a game. No other Bears has driven in three runs in a game yet this season.
TWO FROSH, TWO HOME RUN GAMES
Freshmen Kaitlin Beason and Chelsea Thomas made immediate power impacts to the Bears' lineup. Both hit home runs for their first career hits. Beason hit two home runs against ULM (Feb. 6), her first career hits. Thomas hit her first long ball the next day against UAPB.
Then on Feb. 14, Thomas had her own two home run game. She hit home runs in her first and third at-bats in a 3-for-3 game against Eastern Michigan. It was her second three-RBI game of the season.
Five MSU freshmen made immediate impacts in the Bears' lineup with their first career hits. Beason and Thomas each slammed home runs on opening weekend for their first career hits.
Erika Velasquez Zimmer had a bunt single against Abilene Christian (Feb. 6) and promptly stole second base. On the next play, she scored on a base hit. Hailee Vigneaux notched two hits in her first career start against UAPB (Feb. 7) and scored a run.
Catcher Molly Fields broke through against Iowa on Feb. 21. Her first career hit was a bases-loaded walk-off single in the eighth inning against the Hawkeyes.
Senior Rebecca McPherson hit safely in each of the five games at the Louisiana Tech Invitational to begin the season. After hitting safely in each of her final three games of 2014, she had extended her hitting streak to eight games.
Redshirt sophomore Mary Stephens hit safely in the first three games of 2015 to extend her hitting streak to 11 games. It was the longest hitting streak by a Bear since Jessie Smith had a 12-game streak to end 2008 and begin 2009. Stephens' hitting streak spanned three seasons after she was limited to two games - she hit safely in both - in 2014.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
Patience at the plate by MSU hitters is paying dividends this year. Led by Stephens' 12 walks, Missouri State has drawn 54 bases on ball already this season, nearly twice the amount given up by the Bears' pitching staff. Stephens and McPherson have each drawn three walks in a game this year, a feat that was not accomplished by any MSU hitter in 2014. Not coincidently, both McPherson (.479) and Stephens (.451) are tops on the team in on-base percentage.
An example of how valuable the free pass has been this season is the Bears' game at #22/23 Texas A&M on Feb. 15. MSU dropped a close 2-1 decision, but all three runs scored in the game reached base via walk.
BUSY TIMES AHEAD
Missouri State kicks off its busiest time of the season this weekend. After the cancellation of the Rally for Allie Leukemia Awareness Tournament last weekend, a portion of the rescheduled games include a doubleheader next Wednesday versus UMKC. The addition of those two games means the Bears will play 11 games over the span of eight days beginning with day one of the Courtyard Marriott Tournament in Norman. The busy Spring Break week will conclude with a three-game MVC-opening series against Drake on March 14-15. That weekend is being dubbed "Rally for Allie Weekend".
The eight-game home stand from March 10 through March 18 is the first of two lengthy home stands for MSU. The other is also an eight-game stand running March 31 through April 12.
Missouri State was selected seventh in the MVC preseason poll released on January 21. After finishing eighth in the league last season, the Bears aspirations are moving up more than one place in the final league standings this season.
Sophomore pitcher Erin Struemph was named to the preseason all-conference team. It was the second-consecutive season that an MSU sophomore was named to the preseason honor roll (Mary Stephens, 2014).
WAITING IN THE WINGS
Head coach Holly Hesse has commitments from five players to join the 2016 squad. Joining the Bears for the 2015-16 academic year are Darian Frost (Lee's Summit, Mo.), Morgan Greenlee (Snohomish, Wash.), Hannah Heinrichs (Broken Arrow, Okla.), Kyana Mason (Independence, Mo.) and Kara Powelson (Rosendale, Mo.).