And They're Off
Beginning on Friday, Mar. 25, all eight Missouri Valley Conference teams will get their first taste of league play with Creighton traveling to Southern Illinois, Illinois State playing at Indiana State, Evansville visiting Missouri State and Bradley heading to Wichita State. Each of the weekend match-ups are scheduled for a three-game series.
Quick Starts Crucial
If your team has plans on sitting atop the MVC standings heading into the league's postseason tournament, you might want to get off to a good start as every team that has won the MVC regular season has won at least 16 games since 2005, the first year of a 24-game conference schedule.
In fact, only twice since 2005 has a team with a MVC winning percentage as low as .750 won the regular season title (2005, CU, 17-7; 2006, UE, 16-8).
Since the start of the 24-game conference schedule in 2005 (three-game series), the top two places in the regular-season standings have been separated by just one game in every year except one - in 2009 when first-place Missouri State had a two-game lead over second-place Indiana State heading into the State Farm MVC Baseball Tournament.
Missouri State is looking to become just the second Valley school to win back-to-back regular-season titles, as Wichita State is the only league school to have ever accomplished this feat. The Shockers won back-to-back titles in 2007-2008, were winners of 10 consecutive regular-season championships from 1991-2000 and also won three straight titles from 1987-89.
Wichita State has been the league's most dominant team since the inception of a conference schedule in 1984. Since then, the Shockers have place in the top three of the regular season standings in 25 of the 26 seasons - the only season Wichita State did not finish in the top three was in 1984, the year the league first adoped a conference schedule.
Missouri State has placed in the league's top three in 13 of 19 seasons, including 11 of the last 14 seasons.
Creighton has also finished in the top three 13 times - in the Bluejays' 26 seasons of league play.
Against the Field
The MVC holds a winning record against eight leagues in non-conference play (Atlantic-10, Colonial, Great West, Mid-American, Ohio Valley, Patriot, SWAC and Summit) and at least a .500 mark against another four (Big 12, Big Sky, Horizon and Southland).
Against the 2009 NCAA Field
The Valley has won nine games against 2009 NCAA Tournament teams, as all nine wins have come from three teams - Bradley, Creighton and Wichita State.
The Braves have five wins against the 2009 NCAA field - two versus Army and three against Tennessee Tech. The Bluejays have tallied three wins versus 2009 Tournament teams - one each against Kansas State, Minnesota and Sam Houston State - while the Shockers have the final victory against Washington State.
This week, Valley schools have a chance to pick up several more wins against 2009 NCAA Tournament teams, as Evansville hosts Louisville, Creighton travels to Kansas and Wichita State welcomes Oral Roberts in mid-week matchups.
This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Greg Wallace of Evansville and Jordan Cooper of Wichita State.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Greg Wallace, Jr., OF, Evansville
Junior outfielder Greg Wallace led Evansville to a 4-1 week on the diamond by hitting a blistering .560 (14-for-25) with seven extra-base hits, 10 runs scored, and 10 RBI in UE's five games against Austin Peay, Saint Louis, and SIU Edwardsville. Wallace collected multi-hit games and scored runs in all five games for the Purple Aces. He opened his week with a career-best 5-for-6 performance at Austin Peay in which he launched a home run, knocked three doubles, scored four runs, and drove in five more in UE's 15-11 victory over the Governors. Wallace then went 2-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI to help account for four of UE's seven runs at Saint Louis, before going 7-for-14 in a three-game weekend series against SIU Edwardsville. Wallace had a key two-out triple and scored the game-winning run in the 10th inning of Friday night's 3-2 UE victory over SIUE. He also had two hits, two runs scored, and two RBI in Saturday's 9-2 victory over SIUE in game one of a doubleheader, before capping his weekend with a 3-for-5 performance in the nightcap vs. the Cougars. For the week, Wallace knocked four doubles, two triples, and a home run among his seven hits, as he slugged 1.000 in the five games. He also scored 10 runs, drove in 10 runs, went a perfect 2-for-2 in the stolen base department and did not commit an error in 15 chances in the field defensively.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Jordan Cooper, So., RHP, Wichita State
Jordan Cooper led the Shockers to a victory over Washington State on Friday. He pitched 7.2 shutout innings while walking no one and striking out a season-high nine. He had at least one strikeout in six of the eight innings and had multiple strikeouts in three innings. After giving up back-to-back singles to start off the game, he settled down and retired the next eight batters. He retired another eight-straight later in the game. With the performance, he lowered his team-leading ERA to 1.29.
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 (BU) - Martin went 9-for-19 (.474), including two triples, and raised his average back above the .400 mark in five games at the Central Florida Invitational last week. He was 2-for-4 with one run scored, one RBI and one steal against Indiana Tuesday and went a combined 5-for-7 with two runs scored as the Braves swept a double-header from Army Friday. On Saturday, the Bradley leadoff hitter capped his week by going 2-for-4 and driving in a run against Dartmouth. Martin has hit safely in 14-of-15 games this season and boasts a .403 batting average.
T.J. Roemmich (CU) - Roemmich recorded the second, multi-home run game of his career with two home runs at UIC on Friday. The senior went deep in two consecutive at-bats in the contest, also teaming with Trever Adams to go back-to-back in the fifth inning. Roemmich also went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI in Tuesday's win over #25 Kansas State. On the week, Roemmich finished 4-for-9 (.444) with a double, the two home runs and five RBI. Roemmich's slugging percentage was a gaudy 1.222, with an OPS of 1.722 on the week.
Anthony Ruffolo (ILS) - Ruffolo's grand slam in the third inning of Sunday's contest with Central Michigan propelled Illinois State to a 10-6 win at Duffy Bass Field and a 2-1 series win over the Chippewas. It was Ruffolo's second hit of the inning, after starting an eight-run surge by the Redbirds with a double. All four of Ruffolo's hits on the weekend went for extra bases as the senior from Wheaton, Ill., knocked two doubles and two home runs. Ruffolo drew a team-best four walks in the series while posting a .615 on-base percentage. He reached at least two times in every game for ISU, including four times Sunday after going 3-for-4 with a walk. He leads the Redbirds and Missouri Valley Conference with 17 walks and is tied for fifth in the Valley with four home runs.
Luke Fieser (INS) - Fieser carried the Sycamore offense this past week, going 10-20 at the plate with ten RBI over five games. The senior's best game of the week came on the road on Tuesday, when Fieser went 3-4 at the dish with four runs scored and five RBI. Four out of Fieser's five RBI came on one swing, when the Sycamore third baseman hit a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning against Saint Louis, leading the way for the Sycamores to hit four consecutive ninth inning home runs. The Woodinville, Wash., native also led ISU in total bases (15), slugging percentage (.750), on-base percentage (.522) and stolen bases (3) this past week.
Chris Serritella (SIU) - Serritella hit .588 over the week where he had at least two hits in all four Saluki games. He hit two home runs to extend his league-leading homer total to seven on the year. Serritella finished the week with 10 hits in 17 at-bats, had a 1.059 slugging percentage, a .611 on-base percentage and he hit his first triple of the season. The sophomore helped SIU snap a four-game losing streak on Friday by going 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs to defeat Northern Illinois, 19-4. His second homer of the week came in the second game of the doubleheader on Saturday. Serritella scored a team-high six runs last week.
Jacob Booden (BU) - Booden improved to 3-0 this season after pitching 6.0 innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 victory over Army at the Cantral Florida Invitational last Friday. The sophomore scattered four hits, struck out five, walked one and did not allow a run until the top of the seventh. Booden leads the Braves in ERA (0.86), wins (3), innings pitched (21.0) and strikeouts (18). Opposing batters are hitting a mere .197 against the 6-foot-8 right-hander.
Jake Naumann (UE) - Naumann tossed six scoreless innings of three-hit relief on Saturday against SIU Edwardsville to earn his first career victory as a Purple Ace in UE's 9-3 victory over the Cougars. Called up in relief in just the second inning, Naumann allowed a double on the first pitch he threw and then allowed just two singles the rest of the way in tossing six shut-out innings of relief work. He allowed just one base runner on the afternoon to advance past second base, and that came via an error in the field, and he retired 10 of the last 11 men he faced overall. Of his 18 outs recorded, 13 came on the infield, while also registering a strikeout. In the outing, Naumann held SIUE to just a .136 batting average in 22 at-bats.
Ryan Copeland (ILS) - Copeland shrugged off early season struggles and turned in his best performance yet with seven strong innings in the second game of a doubleheader against Central Michigan Friday. The senior left-handed pitcher scattered four hits and didn't allow a walk while earning his first win of the season. Copeland was tagged for two runs but struck out three batters and limited the Chippewas to a .143 batting average. He didn't allow an extra-base hit and kept Central Michigan's best hitter, Billy Anderson, without a hit.
Tyler Browning (INS) - Browning did his part this past week to secure the closer spot in the bullpen for Indiana State, picking up a pair of saves in games decided by one run. Browning tossed 3.2 innings this past week without allowing a hit while striking out a team-leading six batters. Both of Browning's saves came during ISU's doubleheader on Friday, as the freshman faced the minimum six batters during the two innings, striking out five of the six batters he faced.
Daniel Etienne (SIU) - Etienne pitched effectively in two relief appearances for the Salukis and picked up the win in his second outing to help SIU snap a four-game losing streak. Etienne threw four innings of relief in the 19-4 win over Northern Illinois on Friday. There he only gave up three hits in his four innings of work and just one run. He also pitched two scoreless innings at Murray State on Wednesday, where he gave up just one hit.
Missouri Valley Conference Upcoming Schedule:
Tuesday, March 23
Austin Peay at Indiana State, 2:00 PM
No. 10 Louisville at Evansville, 3:00 PM
Southern Illinois at Tennessee-Martin, 4:00 PM
Creighton at Kansas, 6:00 PM
Central Arkansas at Missouri State, 6:30 PM
No. 30 Wichita State at Oral Roberts, 7:00 PM
Wednesday, March 24
Eastern Illinois at Southern Illinois, 3:00 PM
Central Arkansas at Missouri State, 3:00 PM
Illinois State at Purdue, 3:00 PM
No. 30 Wichita State at Oral Roberts, 3:30 PM
Friday, March 26
*Creighton at Southern Illinois, 3:00 PM
*Illinois State at Indiana State, 3:00 PM
*Evansville at Missouri State, 6:30 PM
*Bradley at No. 30 Wichita State, 7:00 PM
Saturday, March 27
*Bradley at No. 30 Wichita State, 2:00 PM
*Creighton at Southern Illinois, 2:00 PM
*Evansville at Missouri State, 2:00 PM
*Illinois State at Indiana State, 2:00 PM
Sunday, March 28
*Bradley at No. 30 Wichita State 1:00 PM
*Creighton at Southern Illinois 1:00 PM
*Evansville at Missouri State 1:00 PM
*Illinois State at Indiana State 1:00 PM