Last week in Missouri Valley Conference baseball action, league teams combined for an 18-13 record in non-conference action, including five teams taking the series from their opponent. Bradley completed a three-game sweep of the defending Ohio Valley Conference champion, Tennessee Tech, while Wichita State went 4-1 against North Dakota and Florida Gulf Coast. Missouri State took three of four games at home against North Dakota State, while Indiana State produced a 2-1 performance against Tennessee-Martin in Terre Haute. Southern Illinois won two contests in a three-game series with Purdue.
Wichita State has moved up three spots to No. 21 in the latest (Mar. 8) Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll, and are also receiving votes (41) in today's USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll.
Valley teams are in action six days this week, including matchups with two ranked teams. The Redbirds will take on No. 8/9 Florida in Tuesday and Wednesday mid-week matchups, while Evansville will battle No. 22/24 Kentucky in Lexington on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Christian Overstreet and Mike Kickham of Missouri State.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Christian Overstreet, Sr., OF, Missouri State
Christian Overstreet was a nearly impossible out for North Dakota State on the weekend, hitting .727 (8-for-11), slugging 1.455 and reaching base safely 14 times in 17 trips to the plate in the four-game series. The senior hit two homers, two doubles, drove in six runs and scored seven times. He also drew five walks, was hit by a pitch, stole a base and recorded an outfield assist to keep a run from scoring at the plate. Friday, Overstreet went 2-for-2 and reached safely five times while scoring once. In the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, he doubled and scored a run before reaching base another four times in the second game of the twinbill. He was 2-for-2 with a homer, two walks and three runs scored in that contest. In Sunday's series finale, Overstreet went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, two runs scored, a walk and a key three-run homer in the eighth that turned a 3-2 game into a comfortable 6-2 lead for the Bears.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Mike Kickham, So., LHP, Missouri State
Sophomore lefty Mike Kickham tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out 10 Saturday against North Dakota State for his second win of the season. Kickham held the Bison to one hit through five frames and recorded seven strikeouts in his final three innings of work, striking out the side in the fifth and fanning two each in the sixth and seventh. The southpaw yielded five hits and two walks.
Noteworthy - In addition to the league's player and newcomer of the week selections, several conference players had notable performances, and they include:
Brian Martin (B) - Martin had an outstanding weekend as the Braves completed a three-game sweep of 2009 Ohio Valley Champion Tennessee Tech. In game one Saturday, Martin went 3-for-6 with three RBI's, including a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to give Bradley the 12-10 victory. He followed Saturday's performance with three more hits and one RBI Sunday as the Braves took both games of a double-header. Martin finished the series with a .429 average (6-for-14) and led Bradley with five runs, 10 total bases and a .714 slugging percentage. He was also a perfect 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts.
Robbie Knight (CU) - Knight extended several impressive individual streaks this weekend, while continuing his hot start at the plate. He went 7-for-16 (.438) with seven runs, four RBI and three doubles in four games at the Bearkat Invitational, hosted by Sam Houston State. Knight has hit safely in all eight games, posting multiple hits in six. After Sunday's game Knight extended these streaks: -Games started (103); Games played (149); Games reached base (17) *has reached base safely in 50 of last 51 games.
Cody Fick (UE) - Fick hit .353 with a .706 slugging percentage this week for the Purple Aces, as he launched a pair of home runs and drove in six runs to help power the UE offense. Fick went 6-for-17 in four games this week at nationally-ranked Louisville and Samford, with two home runs and a team-best six RBI. Fick hit the first home run of the year off of Louisville pitching on Wednesday, with a two-run inside-the-park home run, as he went 2-for-5 with 3 RBI against the nationally-ranked Cardinals. Fick then capped his week with a 3-for-5 effort in UE's 8-4 victory at Samford, he has launched a key two-run home run in the seventh inning to help the Purple Aces pull away from the Bulldogs. He also scored twice and drove in three runs in Sunday's win.
Anthony Ruffolo (ILS) - Ruffolo tied for the team lead with five hits and reached base in all four games last week. Ruffolo started the week slow by going 0-for-4 in a win against Western Michigan, but posted two hits in each game against Indiana and Vanderbilt, before closing the Music City Classic with a pair of walks and another hit against Kent State. Ruffolo was named to the 2010 Music City Classic All-Tournament Team.
Ryan Strausborger (INS) - After two weekend series on the road, Strausborger enjoyed the return to Terre Haute for baseball in 2010, going 7-15 over the weekend with a home run and three RBI. The Indiana State leadoff man recorded at least two hits in each game against UT-Martin and did not let where he was playing on the field affect him either, as the senior utility man led ISU with seven defensive assists and no errors while playing second base, shortstop and center field for ISU over the three-game set. The Osceola, Ind., native's home run on Sunday was the first of the season for Indiana State.
Nick Johnson (SIU) - Johnson had 10 hits in 19 at-bats (.526 batting average) for the Salukis over the weekend with four RBIs and a .737 slugging percentage. Johnson scored six runs during the week and crossed home at least once in 4-of-5 games. He hit his first career home run in the first game of the weekend series against Purdue and drove in three runs in the second game, helping SIU come back from an 8-0 deficit to win 13-12. Johnson had two or more hits in 4-of-5 games over the week, has hit safely in each of the past eight games and has a hit in all nine games he's played in to start his career.
Cody Lassley (WSU) - Lassley led the Shockers to a 4-1 week including a series victory over Florida Gulf Coast. He played in four games and went 10-for-14 (.714) with eight runs, one double, one triple, two home runs, four RBI, two walks and two stolen bases. He also called every pitch for the Shocker pitching staff which compiled a 2.20 ERA for the week. In the first game against North Dakota, he went 3-for-3 with a home run and five runs scored. In game one of the FGCU series, he went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a double with both of his hits coming off of preseason All-American Chris Sale. In game two against the Eagles, he went 3-for-4 with an RBI, a triple and a home run and in game three he went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI. He has hit safely in all six games he has played in this season and is now hitting .708 (17-for-24).
Jack VanLeur (CU) - VanLeur made two appearances this weekend, pitching 6.0 innings of blemish-free relief. The southpaw hurled 1.1 innings on Friday against Sam Houston State, and followed that with a career-long 4.2 frame outing on Sunday against the same Bearkat squad, combining for three strikeouts. VanLeur has yet to allow a run, earned or unearned, a walk, a hit batsman or wild pitch in four appearances this season.
Kenny Long (ILS) - Long earned 2010 Music City Class All-Tournament Team honors with a brilliant performance in Illinois State's tournament finale against Kent State. After the Golden Flashes scored seven runs in the fifth inning, Long entered the game with two outs and ended the nightmare with a strikeout, the first of 13 consecutive batters long would retire in 4.1 innings of perfect relief. Long appeared in two games over the weekend with six strikeouts in 5.2 total innings pitched. The redshirt-sophomore was tagged with the loss against Indiana. On the season, Long has a 0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings of relief while tying for the team lead with four appearances. Opponents have managed just four hits off of Long, a .103 opponent batting average.
Jacob Petricka (INS) - Petricka turned in his finest performance of the season, and maybe of his Sycamore career, on Saturday afternoon against the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks. The junior right-hander tallied a career-high 12 strikeouts without walking a batter over seven innings on Saturday, including striking out the side two separate times. The Faribault, Minn., native scattered eight UT-Martin hits, with only one going for extra bases.
Jimmy Cornell (SIU) - After the Salukis had given up 10-plus runs in seven consecutive games, senior Jimmy Cornell came in to settle the SIU pitching staff by throwing a two-run game in a 6-2 Southern Illinois victory over Purdue on Sunday, March 7. Only one of his runs allowed was earned and he is just the second Saluki starter to last five innings in a game this year. Cornell became the first Saluki starter to pick up a win this season and he led SIU to its first back-to-back victories of the season.
TJ McGreevy (WSU) - McGreevy helped the Shockers to a 4-1 week including a series victory over Florida Gulf Coast. He made two appearances in relief and earned two saves. He pitched five innings and allowed just five hits, two unearned runs and no walks while striking out five. On Wednesday against North Dakota, he pitched a career-long four innings with four strikeouts in the Shockers 5-2 win. On Saturday against Florida Gulf Coast, he came into the game in the ninth inning of a 5-3 game with a runner on first and nobody out. He induced a double play and then struck out the next batter to earn his second save of the week and his third of the season.
Missouri Valley Conference Upcoming Schedule:
Tuesday, March 9
Eastern Illinois at Indiana State, 2:00 PM
Evansville at Kentucky, 3:00 PM
Missouri State at SEMO, 3:00 PM
Illinois State at Florida, 6:30 PM
Central Arkansas at Wichita State, 7:00 PM
Wednesday, March 10
Central Arkansas at Wichita State, 3:00 PM
Creighton at UT-Arlington, 3:00 PM
Evansville at Kentucky, 3:00 PM
Missouri State at SEMO, 3:00 PM
Illinois State at Florida, 6:30 PM
Southern Illinois at San Jose State, 7:00 PM
Thursday, March 11
%Southern Illinois at Santa Clara, 8:00 PM
#Bradley at Notre Dame, TBA
Friday, March 12
&Creighton vs. South Dakota State, 1:00 PM
+Indiana State at Dayton, 2:00 PM
Missouri State at Southern Mississippi, 6:30 PM
Illinois State at James Madison, 7:00 PM
%Southern Illinois vs. UC Davis, 8:00 PM
Wichita State at Long Beach State, 8:30 PM
Saturday, March 13
+Indiana State vs. Wright State, 1:00 PM
Missouri State at Southern Mississippi, 3:00 PM
&Creighton at Minnesota, 6:35 PM
%Southern Illinois vs. San Jose State, 8:00 PM
#Bradley vs. TBA
Sunday, March 14
+Indiana State vs. Oakland, 9:00 AM
&Creighton vs. Harvard, 11:00 AM
Illinois State at James Madison, 11:00 AM
Missouri State at Southern Mississippi, 1:00 PM
%Southern Illinois at Santa Clara, 3:00 PM
Wichita State at Long Beach State, 3:00 PM
#Irish Baseball Classic (San Antonio, Texas)
%Santa Clara County Cup Classic (Santa Clara, Calif.)
&Metrodome Tournament (Minneapolis, Minn.)
+Dayton Classic (Dayton, Ohio)