April 3, 2015
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The Missouri State softball team (17-17, 5-4) seeks its third-straight conference series win as MSU hosts Evansville (7-27, 1-8) in a three-game set at Killian Stadium this weekend. The series has shifted to the traditional Saturday-Sunday 12:00 p.m. start due to rain that forced the games to be postponed from an original Friday start. The Bears have won seven of the last nine meetings in Springfield against the Aces dating back to 2007.
Freshman Chelsea Thomas belted her ninth home run of the season on Tuesday against SEMO. She is just the fourth MSU player to hit nine long balls in a season and is one round tripper short of tying the single season school record. She drove in two of the four runs in a 4-0 Bears' win over the Redhawks.
Senior Chelsea Jones fired her second complete game shutout of the year on Tuesday. She struck out four en route to her team-high ninth victory of the season. In the process, Jones lowered her earned run average to 2.87, second lowest among MVC pitchers.
Redshirt sophomore Mary Stephens has shifted to the leadoff spot in the lineup and has prospered. Since taking on the new role, Stephens has added 67 points to her batting average and now leads the team with a .344 average. On Sunday at Indiana State, she went 4-for-4 with a career high four runs batted in. It was her third game in the month of March with at least four hits.
Missouri State turned three double plays on Tuesday agaisnt SEMO to run its season total to a league-most 20 on the year. Entering the week, MSU was 14th in the country with a 0.53 double plays per game average.
-Freshman Chelsea Thomas is one home run shy of tying the single season school record after hitting her ninth long ball of the season on Tuesday against SEMO.
- Mary Stephens is the only MSU hitter in recorded history since 1988 to have five hits in one game. She accomplished the feat twice in the span of 10 days going 5-for-5 against UMKC on March 11 and again at Bradley on March 21.
- Stephens is among the top-10 in the league with 19 walks drawn (4th) and a .452 on-base percentage (7th).
- Senior Rebecca McPherson became the third different MSU player to hit two home runs in a game this season with two blasts against UMKC on March 11 (Kaitlin Beason, Feb. 6 vs. ULM; Chelsea Thomas, Feb. 14 vs. EMU).
- Missouri State pitchers Chelsea Jones and Erin Struemph both rank in the top-6 in the MVC in ERA. Jones' 2.87 ERA is second while Struemph's 3.36 ranks sixth.
- Struemph leads the Valley with five saves and ranks fourth in the nation in the category.
- At least one MSU player has had multiple hits in 28 of the 34 games this season. Freshman Erika Velasquez Zimmer leads the team with nine multi-hit games.
- The Bears have turned a league-best 20 double plays this season.
- MSU has won seven of the last nine home games against Evansville.
IN THE OTHER DUGOUT
Evansville Purple Aces: The Aces are off to a dismal 7-27 start under first-year skipper Mat Mundell. Junior Amanda Blankenship has shouldered much of the workload for UE in the circle with 13 complete games in 23 starts. She leads the staff with five wins and a 5.91 ERA. Preseason All-MVC outfielder Chandra Parr is one of five Aces with a batting average over .300 and is one of three UE hitters with at least five home runs. MSU leads the all-time series 37-24 and the Bears are 17-8 at home against Evansville.
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.
Some 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 Remaining Broadcast Schedule
Saturday, April 4 vs. Evansville (G1) [KBFL]
Saturday, April 11 vs. Loyola (G1) [KBFL]
Wednesday, April 22 vs. Wichita State [KBFL]
Saturday, April 25 vs. UNI (G1) [KBFL] [MC22]
EXTENDING HER LEGACY
Head Coach Holly Hesse is second in all-time wins by an MVC coach with 691. 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 (950 wins).
GOT EACH OTHERS BACKS
All four Missouri State pitchers have recorded a save this season. The staff of Chelsea Jones, Jessie Van Es, Erin Struemph and Kaitlin Beason have combined for a league-high nine saves. Struemph's five saves lead the league and rank fourth in the nation this season. It is the most saves by a Missouri State team in program history surpassing previous high of seven set in 2005 and 2006.
FRESH TAKE AT HISTORY
Freshman third baseman Chelsea Thomas hit her team-best ninth home run of the season on March 31 versus SEMO. She is just the fourth Bear with nine home runs in a season. The other three (Stevie Pierce, 2013; Samantha Fleeman, 2006; Ashley Meredith, 2004) are all tied for the single season record with 10 long balls.
Mary Stephens has turned in two separate 5-for-5 displays at the plate this season. No other player in the previous 27 seasons had a five-hit game. Stephens first accomplished the feat in game two against UMKC on March 11. Ten days later, she turned in another dazzling 5-for-5 outing at Bradley on march 21. In the 3-2 win over the Braves, Stephens hit a solo home runs, drove in another run with a single and doubled for what would become the winning run.
WILD WALK-OFF WEDNESDAY
Game two of Missouri State's home-opening doubleheader against UMKC on March 11 saw the Bears put up some eye-popping figures. MSU pounded out 19 hits in the 15-14 victory. The only other time since 1988 that the Bears had 19 hits in a game also came against UMKC on April 22, 1993.
Senior Rebecca McPherson performed the late game heroics with a three-run walk-off home run with a full count and two outs in the bottom of the seventh to cap a six-run inning. It was McPherson's second home run of the game, the third different Missouri State hitter with two long balls in the same game. Her four RBI in the game were a season-high for a Bear hitter.
Mary Stephens put her name in the history books as well. She became the only player since 1988 to record five hits in a game with her 5-for-5 performance.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
Patience at the plate by MSU hitters is paying dividends this year. Led by Stephens' 19 walks, Missouri State has drawn a league-best 114 bases on ball already this season, well above the 78 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 (.397) and Stephens (.452) 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.
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.
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.
Senior Rebecca McPherson tagged two long balls on March 11 against UMKC. She second dinger of the game was a three-run walk-off in a six-run seventh inning.
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.
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.).