Off and Running
No. 30 Wichita State was the lone Missouri Valley Conference team to open league action unscathed, finishing off the three-game sweep of visiting Bradley last weekend.
Creighton, Evansville and Illinois State also were series winners in MVC opening play, as the Bluejays, Purple Aces and Redbirds all went 2-1 last weekend.
Indiana State, Missouri State and Southern Illinois opened conference play 1-2, while Bradley is still looking for its first MVC victory.
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 nine leagues in non-conference play (Atlantic-10, Colonial, Great West, Mid-American, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southland, SWAC and Summit) and at least a .500 mark against another two (Big Sky and Horizon).
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 five more wins against 2009 NCAA Tournament teams, as Wichita State travels to Kansas State and Missouri State heads to Kansas State in mid-week matchups. The Bears will also play in a three-game series with Oral Roberts this weekend.
On a Roll
With the sweep of Bradley, the Shockers have now won six conference games in a row dating back to last season. It is the longest streak since the Shockers won eight-straight from May 5, 2007-March 23, 2008. With the three wins over Bradley, the Shockers have now won 27-straight against the Braves in Wichita dating back to 1996.
Close, But No Cigar
Missouri State has played in 10 games this season decided in the ninth inning, coming out on the short end eight times. The Bears have suffered four walk-off losses and have sent the winning run to the plate in the ninth another four times. MSU also has two wins this season when the opponent brought the winning run up in the ninth. If those outcomes were reversed, the Bears would be 14-9 and sitting atop the MVC standings at 3-0.
And the Home of the Brave
After playing 18 road games to start the 2010 season, Bradley will host Northern Illinois in its home opener Wednesday, March 31 at O'Brien Field at 4 p.m.
However, the Braves will hit the road again this weekend for MVC action, as Bradley travels to Carbondale, Ill., for a three-game series with Southern Illinois. Following this weekend's games, the Braves will be the only team to have not hosted a league game this season.
This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Luke Voit of Missouri State and Kenny Long of Illinois State.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Luke Voit, Fr., C/1B, Missouri State
Luke Voit hit .550 in five games last week, leading MSU with 13 RBIs, five extra-base hits, seven runs scored, 11 hits, and a .625 on-base percentage while slugging 1.000 with 20 total bases. The freshman collected a hit in each contest, logging four mutli-RBI games and three multi-hit efforts while starting at first base, catcher and designated hitter. On Tuesday, he went 4-for-5 with five RBIs and four runs scored against Central Arkansas, reaching base five times and with a homer, double, two singles and a walk. He went 1-for-3 with a first-inning RBI double versus UCA the next day, and then opened MSU's Valley series with Evansville with a 3-for-3, two RBI, two run performance against the Aces. Voit slugged a three-run homer in the first inning of Saturday's game, and finished the series with two hits and two RBIs in Sunday's finale.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Kenny Long, So., LHP, Illinois State
Long recorded the first, second and third saves of his career in three consecutive games for Illinois State last week. The redshirt sophomore from Sleepy Hollow, Ill., closed out three Redbird wins, including two to open Missouri Valley Conference play, without allowing a run. Long struck out eight batters and allowed just two hits in 5.1 innings of relief. Long worked Illinois State out of a mess in the eighth inning against Purdue (March 24) and worked a scoreless ninth to notch his first career save. In Illinois State's conference opener at Indiana State (March 26), Long struck out five in three scoreless innings of relief to earn his second save, and then made a ninth-inning rally stick for the Redbirds less than 24 hours later with two more strikeouts while earning his third save. Long, who has appeared in 10 games for the Redbirds, lowered his staff-leading ERA to 1.29 and opponent batting average to .147. Long has 25 strikeouts and just seven walks in 21 innings pitched.
Noteworthy - In addition to the league's player and newcomer of the week selections, several conference players had notable performances, and they include:
T.J. Roemmich (CU) - Roemmich recorded multiple hits in three of four Bluejay games this week, as he finished the week with a .412 average (7-for-17). He started the week with a two-hit evening at Kansas, in which he homered, doubled and drove in two runs. Roemmich went 5-for-13 (.385) over the SIU series this weekend, adding a double and two RBIs. His two-out single in the ninth inning of game three sent the game into extra innings, before the Jays fell in the 11th. Six of Roemmich's last 11 hits have also gone for extra bases.
Greg Wallace (UE) - Wallace once again paced the UE offense this week with three more multi-hit games, as he hit a team-best .421 (8-for-19) with two triples, four runs scored, and five RBI. Wallace had three-straight multi-hit games against nationally-ranked Louisville and Missouri State to begin the week, before seeing his 10-game hit streak and eight-game multi-hit streak snapped on Sunday. Wallace went 3-for-5 with a two-run triple and a run scored on Tuesday against nationally-ranked Louisville. He then opened Valley play by going 2-for-5 with a run scored on Friday night against Missouri State, and going 3-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBI in UE's 6-4 victory over the Bears at Hammons Field. For the week, Wallace went 8-for-19 at the plate.
Matt Mirabal (ILS) - Mirabal drove in a career-best five runs in the first game of a doubleheader with Indiana State Saturday, including two in the ninth to give Illinois State a 8-7 win and clinch the series. Mirabal collected seven RBI on the week while batting .444. He led Illinois State with eight hits and swiped two bases. The sophomore catcher from Chicago, Ill., collected a hit in all four of Illinois State's games and had three multiple hit games. He was also a key contributor defensively for the Redbirds, catching all four games while throwing out three attempted base stealers on the week. He's been the main reason for Illinois State's improved control of opposing runners by catching five of the last 10, after the team combined to allow all but one of the first 42 runners to steal safely. Mirabal is second on the team with a .393 batting average.
Ryan Strausborger (INS) - Strausborger was all over the base paths for Indiana State this past week, going 9-19 at the plate with a pair of doubles, one triple, three RBI and four stolen bases. The senior outfielder leads ISU 10 doubles, six triples and 11 stolen bases on the season, to go along with a .355 batting average and 16 RBI.
Chris Serritella (SIU) - Serritella hit .450 in five games last week, helping SIU to a 3-2 record. He drove in nine runs off his nine hits, scored six runs and hit two home runs to extend his MVC-leading total to nine on the year, which is three more than any other player in the league. In SIU's 20-3 win at UT Martin, March 23, Serritella was 3-for-4 with a home run, four runs scored and five RBIs. He hit his second home run of the week in the conference opener against Creighton, March 26, which was a solo, 400-plus foot bomb in the first inning of the game. Serritella helped SIU win game two of Saturday's doubleheader versus the Jays by driving in two runs off of two hits.
Brandon Koenigstein (CU) - Koenigstein was nearly flawless on the week, as he threw eight innings of earned run-free ball this week. The sophomore threw a perfect inning at Kansas Tuesday, before twirling a masterpiece in his start at SIU on Saturday. He threw seven innings, allowing just one unearned run on a measly 75 pitches. He walked just one, without a strikeout to pick up his third win of the season, lowering his ERA to 2.56. Koenigstein is 8-0 on his career, and the Jays are 5-0 when he pitches five or more innings in a game.
Corey Davisson (UE) - Davisson was an invaluable member of the UE pitching staff this week, as he appeared in all four games against nationally-ranked Louisville and Missouri State, while going 1-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA and holding teams to a .071 batting average out of the UE bullpen. Davisson began his week by retiring Louisville Freshman All-American Ryan Wright and All-Region selection Adam Duvall with two men on and one out in the eighth inning of a tie game against the nationally-ranked Cardinals. Davisson actually left the mound in line for the victory against Louisville, before the Cardinals rallied for two runs in the ninth inning to post the 8-7 victory. Davisson then tossed two scoreless innings, while striking out three in the series opener at Missouri State, before working out of jams on both Saturday and Sunday to help the Purple Aces' earn the series victory. On Saturday, Davisson earned the victory by tossing 1.1 scoreless innings of relief, while working out of a sixth-inning jam with a runner in scoring position and two out in a one-run contest. He then worked out of a bases-loaded situation on Sunday with only one out in the eighth inning to help preserve UE's 3-2 victory over the Bears. For the week, Davisson tossed 4.2 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief for UE to run his scoreless-innings streak to 14.0 on the year. Davisson has now pitched in five-straight games for UE, and has pitched in 10 of UE's last 12 games overall, while not allowing a run to score.
Jason Van Skike (INS) - Van Skike remained perfect on the season, picking up a victory on Saturday over Illinois State to move to 3-0 in 2010. The junior right-handed pitcher tossed 6.1 innings against the Redbirds while scattering six hits and striking out six batters.
Mike Kickham (MSU) - Kickham made two starts on the week, throwing 13 innings and fanning eight against 12 baserunners, a .234 opponent average and 3.46 ERA. Tuesday versus Central Arkansas, Kickham struck out six and walked none in four innings, leaving with a 6-2 leading to earn the win. Then on Sunday versus Evansville, the southpaw fired a complete game on 105 pitches, facing five batters over the minimum and issuing no walks until the last hitter he faced. He scattered seven hits and struck out a pair.
Andrew Bever (SIU) - Bever picked up his first career victory in his first career start on March 23 at UT Martin. He threw a masterful six innings where he only gave up three hits and one run. The Skybirds did not get a hit off of Bever until the fifth inning, as the junior right-handed pitcher helped the Salukis to the 20-3 victory, which is its largest win since April 15, 1998. Bever's third inning was as good as it gets on any level, as he only threw three pitches to retire the side. The three hits he allowed are the fewest by a Saluki starter this year and what was equally impressive with his outing was how he cooled off the UT Martin team that hit 15 homers and scored 53 runs in its three previous games.
Jordan Cooper (WSU) - Cooper led the Shockers to an opening day win in Missouri Valley Conference play on Friday. He pitched his first complete game of the year and allowed just one run on five hits, while walking one and striking out four. He allowed more than one baserunner in an inning just once and in that inning with runners at first and third, he threw out the runner at the plate on an attempted steal of home for the third out. He retired the first eight batters of the game and allowed just one hit through the first five innings. He threw just 110 pitches in his nine innings of work and improved to 3-0 on the year. He was just one strike away from a shutout, but gave up a home run with two outs in the ninth inning.
Missouri Valley Conference Upcoming Schedule:
Tuesday, March 30
Chicago State at Indiana State, 2 PM
Tennessee-Martin at Southern Illinois, 3 PM
Illinois at Illinois State, 4:30 PM
No. 30 Wichita State at No. 20 Kansas State, 6:30 PM
Wednesday, March 31
Northern Illinois at Bradley, 4 PM
Missouri State at Kansas, 6 PM
Friday, April 2
*Bradley at Southern Illinois, 1 PM
*No. 30 Wichita State at Evansville, 6 PM
*Indiana State at Creighton, 6 PM
Illinois State at Lipscomb, 6 PM
Missouri State at Oral Roberts, 7 PM
Saturday, April 3
Illinois State at Lipscomb (DH), 12 PM
Missouri State at Oral Roberts, 2 PM
*Bradley at Southern Illinois, 2 PM
*No. 30 Wichita State at Evansville, 2 PM
*Indiana State at Creighton, 6 PM
Sunday, April 4
Oral Roberts at Missouri State, 1 PM
*No. 30 Wichita State at Evansville, 1 PM
*Indiana State at Creighton, 1 PM
*Bradley at Southern Illinois, 1 PM