Bears Look to Maintain Momentum in MVC Series at Illinois State

Bears Look to Maintain Momentum in MVC Series at Illinois State

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April 23, 2015

Missouri State Game NotesGet Acrobat Reader

Games 38-40 | No. 23 Missouri State Bears (28-9, 7-2 MVC) at Illinois State Redbirds (20-18, 5-7 MVC)
Series Information Friday, April 24 | 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 25 | 3 p.m.
Sunday, April 26 | 1 p.m.

Location
Duffy Bass Field(1,500) | Normal, Ill.
Radio KBFL-AM 1060 (Art Hains)
Online
Live Video | Live Audio Stream width=
MissouriStateBears.com
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All-Time Series
MSU leads 52-38
Up Next
Missouri State returns to Hammons Field to take on Missouri Tuesday (April 28) in a 6:35 p.m. game
Prime 9
  • Missouri State brings a 52-38 overall edge against Illinois State into this weekend's series, including a 23-20 mark vs. the Redbirds in Normal
  • Exactly half of the Bears' 28 victories have been come-from-behind wins this season; MSU erased a four-run deficit in Tuesday's 9-8 win at No. 30 Missouri, marking its largest comeback victory in four years
  • The Bears have owned the sixth inning this season, hitting a collective .371, while homering six times and out-scoring the opposition 48-14; three different players, led by Jake Burger's .500 (11-for-22) effort, with at least 19 at-bats in the sixth are hitting better than .474 in the inning this year
  • MSU enters the series with the nation's longest road win streak of 10 straight victories after Tuesday's win at Mizzou; the Bears' 12-3 season road mark is tied for the sixth-best in the country
  • Missouri State enters the weekend with the No. 9 RPI in all of Division I baseball; MSU also remained in the No. 15 position in Baseball America's College Top 25 and at No. 17 spot in D1Baseball.com's poll this week, and rose to 18th in Collegiate Baseball's poll, the 19th position in USA Today's coaches poll and the No. 23 spot in the NCBWA's poll
  • Just one team in the 53-year history of Missouri State baseball has started a season with more wins in its first 37 games than the current Bears squad; only MSU's 1980 club turned in a better start, going 29-8 in its first 37 contests before finishing 32-13 with an NCAA Division II Regional appearance to its credit
  • 'Missouri State's weekend rotation features two of the top strikeout artists in the country, with Matt Hall leading the Valley and ranking second in all of Division I baseball with 90 K's, and Jon Harris close behind with 71 K's, good for third in the conference and 29th nationally
  • Bryan Young was named to the NCBWA's Stopper of the Year Award midseason watch list Tuesday, while Joey Hawkins was selected by the College Baseball Hall of Fame for its Brooks Wallace Award watch list Thursday
  • Tate Matheny needs 10 hits to become the 23rd Bear to reach the 200-hit mark for his career
Leading Off

Ranked as high as No. 15 in this week's polls, the Missouri State Bears return to Missouri Valley Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against the Illinois State Redbirds at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Ill. The two teams will open the series with a 4:30 p.m. game Friday (April 24), before squaring off again Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).

The Bears (28-9, 7-2 MVC) will be looking to solidify their position atop the MVC standings and extend the nation's longest road win streak after claiming a come-from-behind 9-8 win over No. 30 Missouri Tuesday (April 21) evening in Columbia. MSU is unbeaten in its last 10 road games dating back to March 15. The Redbirds are coming off a pair of midweek home wins against Illinois Weslyan and Webster after dropping two of three Valley tilts vs. Southern Illinois last weekend.

Up next, the Bears return to Hammons Field for the return matchup against Mizzou Tuesday (April 28) evening at 6:35 p.m. MSU will also host Wichita State in a three-game Valley series as part of a four-game home stand next weekend.


Series History

Missouri State brings a 52-38 overall advantage against Illinois State into this weekend's series, including a 23-20 edge vs. the Redbirds in Normal. MSU has struggled at Duffy Bass Field since 2007, however, winning just four times in 13 meetings. ISU has taken two of three regular-season meetings in each of the last two years, claiming the final two games of the series last spring at Hammons Field after the Bears posted a 4-2 win in the opener behind 5 1/3 innings of relief from Jon Harris, Friday's projected starter.

Bears Scoring in Bunches

Through just 37 games in 2015, the Bears have posted more `big innings' than in the previous two seasons combined. MSU has scored at least five times in an inning on 11 occasions after last year's squad accomplished the feat just five times over its 57-game schedule and the 2013 team did so only four times in 54 games.

History in the Ma-K-ing

With two of the Valley's top strikeout artists anchoring their weekend rotation, the Bears have racked up K's at a record pace so far this spring. MSU's current total of 326 strikeouts (or 8.81 per game) is ahead of the pace established by the 2012 Bears' staff that shattered the school record with 537 K's in 62 games (8.66 per game). The MVC's strikeout leader--Matt Hall--ranks second in all of Division I baseball with 90 K's through just 71.0 innings and needs just seven more to crack the top 10 for single-season strikeouts at Missouri State. His strikeout-per 9.0 innings pitched rate (11.41) compares favorably with some of the all-time greats to put on the Maroon and White, trailing only Grant Gordon (11.89) and Mike Whitley (11.72) on the Bears' single-season chart.

Fellow junior Jon Harris is not far behind, ranking fifth on the same list with a 10.83 K/9.0 IP rate this season. Harris currently ranks third in the Valley with 71 punchouts in just 59.0 innings, and both the Bears' team strikeout total and K/9.0 IP rate lead the Valley. Both have shots at reaching the 200-strikeout plateau for their MSU careers this weekend, with Hall needing six and Harris just two short of the mark.

Comeback Kids

Missouri State's balanced attack has ensured that no lead is safe for the opposition this season, as the Bears have posted 14 come-from-behind victories, or exactly half of their overall win total. MSU, which recorded just 20 combined wins after trailing in a game over the last two seasons, logged its biggest comeback in four years Tuesday, erasing a 7-3 deficit to defeat No. 30 Missouri. The Bears' last win after trailing by at least four runs came on April 17, 2011, when they rallied from a 4-0 hole to knock off Southern Illinois, 5-4.

Hawkins Named to Brooks Wallace Award Watch List

Senior shortstop Joey Hawkins became the fourth Bear to be named to a national award watch list Thursday with his selection to the College Baseball Hall of Fame's Brooks Wallace Award watch list, recognizing the Whitby, Ontario native as one of college baseball's top shortstops.

Hawkins, who has made 133 consecutive starts on the MSU infield over the last three seasons, has been one of the Bears' top performers both in the field and at the plate this season. The Bears' third-leading hitter with a .298 average, two homers and 21 RBIs, he has committed just three errors in 165 defensive chances for a .982 fielding percentage this season. Hawkins recorded the 50th sacrifice bunt of his career April 17 against UT Martin, surpassing the Missouri Valley Conference all-time record previously held by Creighton's Vince Pietro. The NCAA's active leader in career SACs, he leads the Valley--and the nation--with 19 sacrifices this season, equaling his Missouri State single-season record with a pair of SACs in Tuesday's win at Missouri.

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