Monday, March 01, 2010 | Baseball
MVC Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week (Mar. 1)

Last week in Missouri Valley Conference baseball action, league teams combined for a 13-12 record in non-conference action.  Wichita State opened its season with a perfect 3-0 record in the South Alabama Coca-Cola Classic in Mobile, Ala.  The Shockers scored double-digit runs in all three games, downing North Florida (14-4), Eastern Michigan (11-1) and South Alabama (15-10).  Wichita State is ranked No. 24 in the latest (Mar. 1) Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll, and are also receiving votes (37) in today's USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll.  

Illinois State also notched an unscathed 3-0 slate this weekend, picking up wins over St. Bonaventure (21-3), Duquesne (16-15 in 11 innings) and Western Michigan (7-3) in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla.

Evansville and Missouri State both picked up their first wins of the season, as the Purple Aces split a four-game series at Mercer, while the Bears snagged the final contest in a three-game series with Texas-Arlington. 

Southern Illinois tallied two wins in an offensive-powered three-game series at Jacksonville State, downing the Gamecocks 17-16 on Friday and 18-15 on Sunday. 

Indiana Sate out-hit Texas-San Antonio in each of its four games last weekend (ISU led 43-41 in hits for the series), but could only pick up one victory, a 10-9 win on Sunday.

Creighton split a pair of games at the Stephen F. Austin Invitational in Nacogdoches, Texas, falling to Northwestern State (8-7), before rebounding to take out host Stephen F. Austin (9-8 in 10 innings).

Bradley opened its 2010 season last weekend at the Service Academy Spring Classic in Millington, Tenn., falling in matchups with Pittsburgh, Toledo and Memphis.

Valley teams are in action six days this week, including matchups with two ranked teams.  The Purple Aces will take on No. 11/13 Louisville in a Wednesday mid-week matchup, while Illinois State will battle No. 30 Vanderbilt in the Music City Classic in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday.

Two other matchups on tap this week will feature Valley schools battling teams "Receiving Votes" in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll (Mar. 1).  Southern Illinois will host Middle Tennessee State (4 points) in a two-game series on Tuesday and Wednesday, while Wichita State welcomes Florida Gulf Coast (3 points) in a three-game series this weekend.

This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Preston Springer of Wichita State and Grant Gordon of Missouri State.
        
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Preston Springer, Jr., DH, Wichita State
Wichita State junior Preston Springer led the Shockers to the South Alabama Tournament title with a 3-0 record and earned tournament MVP honors in his Shocker debut.  The junior college transfer went 9-for-14 (.643) in the tourney with nine runs, two doubles, two home runs, six RBI, three walks, no strikeouts and a 1.214 slugging percentage.  In his first game as a Shocker against North Florida, he went 4-for-6 with three runs, two RBI, a double and a home run.  Against Eastern Michigan, he went 3-for-5 with three runs, two RBI and a double and against South Alabama in the championship game, he went 2-for-3 with three runs, two RBI, a home run and three walks.

MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Grant Gordon, Fr., RHP, Missouri State
Missouri State freshman Grant Gordon threw seven innings of scoreless relief Friday and struck out eight batters for his part in an NCAA-record 43 strikeouts pitched by MSU and UT Arlington over 14 innings. Gordon entered the scoreless game in the seventh inning and scattered five hits and two walks among his eight strikeouts before leaving the game after the 13th with the score still tied at 0-0. The rookie also recorded two assists, including spearing a sharp comebacker with runners on second and third to end the eighth inning. 

Noteworthy - In addition to the league's player and newcomer of the week selections, several conference players had notable performances, and they include:  

  • Clay Cuno (CU) - Cuno made the most of his three hits on the weekend, hitting two home runs on Saturday against Northwestern State (La.) and tying the game in the ninth inning on Sunday at Stephen F. Austin. Cuno's solo home run in the bottom of the eighth gave the Bluejays a one-run lead in Saturday's game. He followed that with a two-run single in the ninth inning to send SFA game to extra innings on Sunday. Cuno finished the weekend 3-for-6 with two runs, two home runs and four RBI.

  • Greg Wallace (UE) - Wallace paced the Purple Aces' offense this week to the tune of a .421 batting average and a 1.053 slugging percentage, as he went 8-for-19 with three doubles, three home runs, seven RBI and six runs scored in UE's four-game weekend series at Mercer.  Wallace had one of the best doubleheader performances in UE baseball history, as he launched three home runs in Saturday's doubleheader, while going 5-for-9 with four runs scored and four RBI in the two games.  He opened the doubleheader by launching home runs in his first two plate appearances in UE's 9-6 victory, and opened the nightcap with a solo home run as well.  For the week, Wallace hit safely, recorded at least one extra-base hit, scored at least one run, and drove in at least one run in each of UE's four games against Mercer.

  • Kevin Tokarski (ILS) - Tokarski continued his triumphant return to the Illinois State lineup after missing the 2009 season while recovering from wrist surgery. The redshirt sophomore from Downers Grove, Ill., led Illinois State with a .714 batting average and .818 on-base percentage as Illinois State exploded for 37 runs on 37 hits over two games at the RussMatt Invitational. Tokarski scored three of Illinois State's 21 runs against St. Bonaventure and stole a base, but saved his best performance for when his team needed it most. In Sunday's game against Duquesne, Tokarski went 4-for-5, including a two-RBI double in the eighth inning to help the Redbirds erase a three-run deficit and send the game to extra-innings. He reached six times in the game against the Dukes and drove in four runs. Tokarski has recorded a hit in every game this season for the Redbirds, including three games with three or more hits, and has an extra-base hit in every contest. 

  • Tyler Graham (INS) - Graham led Indiana State in nearly all offensive categories over a four-game weekend series with UTSA. The senior from Strafford, Ontario, led the Sycamores at the plate with eight hits, a pair of doubles, three RBI, 10 total bases, a .500 batting average and a .625 slugging percentage. In the Sycamores' win on Sunday, Graham went 3-5 at the plate with an RBI and a run scored.

  • Chris Serritella (SIU) - Serritella had seven hits, scored seven runs, had nine RBIs, three doubles and three home runs in the series at Jacksonville State. Serritella tied the SIU school record by hitting three doubles in an 18-15 victory on Sunday. He also hit two home runs in the series final, scored four runs and had six RBIs, which is more than any Saluki had in any game in the entire 2009 season. He did not strikeout once in his 15 at-bats during the week and drew three walks, all in the series opener on Friday, Feb. 26. Serritella hit his first homer of the season in the first game of the series, which was a two-run shot in the first inning.

  • Jack VanLeur (CU) - VanLeur turned in a fine performance on Saturday against Northwestern State (La.), going 3.1 innings, allowing his first hit of the season in facing just one over the minimum. VanLeur has not allowed a run in the Bluejays first two weekends.

  • Tom Heithoff (UE) - Heithoff recorded a win and a save in UE's two victories this past weekend at Mercer, while tossing 5.2 scoreless innings out of the Purple Aces' bullpen.  Heithoff earned his first save of the year and secured UE's first victory of 2010 on Saturday, by tossing 2.0 scoreless innings of one-hit relief in the Purple Aces' 9-6 victory.  Heithoff worked around a two-out double in the ninth inning to record the save, as it was the only base-runner he allowed on the afternoon.  He then earned the victory on Sunday afternoon in UE's 6-1 11-inning victory by tossing 3.2 scoreless innings of one-hit relief.  Heithoff worked out of an eighth-inning jam, as he made the move from first base to the mound with a runner on second and only one out in a 1-1 game by retiring two of the three men he faced in the inning.  He then did not allow another base-runner following an eighth-inning walk until the 11th inning, when he worked around a lead-off double to preserve UE's five-run cushion.  He allowed just three base-runners in the two games, while holding Mercer to a .111 opponents batting average.

  • Corey Maines (ILS) - Maines retired the first 14 batters he faced and took a perfect game into the fifth inning in Illinois State's 21-3 win over St. Bonaventure Sunday at the RussMatt Invitational. The junior from Houston, Texas, struck out eight batters and surrendered just one hit in 6.2 innings while earning the win. Illinois State has now won both of Maines' starts during the 2010 season. 

  • Jordan Cooper (WSU) - Cooper earned a win in his first outing of the season on Saturday against Eastern Michigan.  He pitched six innings and allowed just one run on three hits and struck out six without walking anyone.  He retired 13 in a row at one point and allowed just four baserunners in his six innings.

Missouri Valley Conference Upcoming Schedule:

Tuesday, March 2
Indiana at Indiana State, 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee at Southern Illinois, 2:00 PM
North Dakota at Wichita State, 3:00 PM

Wednesday, March 3
Evansville at Louisville, 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee at Southern Illinois 2:00 PM
North Dakota at Wichita State 3:00 PM

Friday, March 5
^Illinois State vs. Indiana 12:00 PM
!Creighton vs. Northern Colorado 1:00 PM
Tennessee-Martin at Indiana State 2:00 PM
Purdue at Southern Illinois 2:00 PM  
Florida Gulf Coast at Wichita State 3:00 PM
North Dakota State at Missouri State 3:00 PM
Evansville at Samford 6:00 PM
!Creighton at Sam Houston State 6:30 PM 

Saturday, March 6
Tennessee-Martin at Indiana State 12:00 PM
North Dakota State at Missouri State (DH) 12:00 PM
Bradley at Tennessee Tech (DH) 1:00 PM
Evansville at Samford 1:00 PM
!Creighton vs. Northern Colorado 2:00 PM 
Purdue at Southern Illinois 2:00 PM
Florida Gulf Coast at Wichita State 2:00 PM
^Illinois State at Vanderbilt 4:00 PM

Sunday, March 7
^Illinois State vs. Kent State 12:00 PM
Florida Gulf Coast at Wichita State 12:00 PM
Tennessee-Martin at Indiana State 12:00 PM   
Purdue at Southern Illinois 1:00 PM  
Bradley at Tennessee Tech 1:00 PM 
North Dakota State at Missouri State 1:00 PM 
Evansville at Samford 1:00 PM   
!Creighton at Sam Houston State 1:00 PM 

^Music City Classic (Nashville, Tenn.)
!Hillcrest Invitational (Huntsville, Texas)