Baseball Weekly Notebook (Apr. 26)
Monday, April 26, 2010

Clash of the Titans
After taking a week off from Valley action, the league's top two teams in Illinois State and Wichita State will square off at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Ill., this weekend.  The Redbirds are seven games over .500 in Valley play for the first-time ever with their league-leading 8-1 record, and are winners of six in a row after sweeping Creighton and Southern Illinois.  It's the best conference start for the Redbirds since going 7-1 to begin the 1984 season. Wichita State enters the weekend at 8-4, having won three of its first four conference series.

Evansville took both games in Sunday's doubleheader with Bradley to win the series over the Braves, 2-1.  The Purple Aces sit at 5-4 in MVC play, while Bradley enters this week at 5-10 in conference play.

Indiana State and Southern Illinois split a pair of games before having the final contest cancelled due to inclement weather.  The Sycamores sit three games back from league-leading Illinois State at 6-5 in MVC play, while the Salukis enter this week's action at 6-8 in the Valley.

Missouri State won its first league series of the season, winning both games in Sunday's doubleheader over visiting Creighton.  The Bears are now 3-6 in MVC action, while the Jays enter this week at 6-9. 

Six is a Serious Number
In game two of Sunday's double-header at Evansville, Bradley senior first baseman Mike McMillan became the first Brave to have six hits in a game since Scott Melvin accomplished the feat in 1994.  McMillan finished a perfect 6-for-6 with two runs and two RBI's.  He belted a two-run homer in his first at-bat and followed with three singles, a double and one more single in the ninth.  With Sunday's offensive outburst, McMillan raised his batting average 45 points and is now hitting .340.

Bombs Away
Bradley sophomore designated hitter Brad Kimball belted two homeruns in game two of Sunday's double-header at Evansville.  The last time a Brave hit two homers in a game was May 25, 2007 when Paul Rice went deep twice at Missouri State.  Kimball set new game-highs in homeruns (2), runs (3) and RBI's (3) and tied game-highs in at-bats (5) and hits (2).

That's Fick-tastic
Junior infielder Cody Fick tied UE's single-game home run record on Sunday afternoon, as he launched three home runs in UE's 15-5 victory in game one of a doubleheader with Bradley.  Fick hit home runs in three of his first four at-bats on Sunday, as he took over the MVC lead for home runs with 12 on the season.  All-time, Fick is the fifth Purple Ace to hit three home runs in a game, joining former UE players Keith Auville (1986), Kevin Krizan (1991), Bobby Hodges (1998) and Erik Lis (2004) as the only men to accomplish the feat in UE history.

Streaky Business
Two Missouri Valley Conference players are currently riding impressive hitting streaks.  Indiana State senior outfielder Ryan Strausborger holds a league-best 22-game hit streak, while Missouri State sophomore Kevin Medrano became the seventh player in Missouri State history to notch a 20-game hitting streak when he homered in the first inning of the second game Sunday against Creighton.  He matches Dant'e Brinkley's 20-game streak in 2003 for the sixth longest hitting streak at MSU. 

Strausborger and Medrano will square off this weekend when the Bears travel to Terre Haute, Ind., to take on the Sycamores.

Back-to-Back Jimmy Jack Seasons
Senior catcher Tyler Bullock needs to hit one more home run to become the seventh Saluki in school history to hit 10 or more homers in back-to-back seasons. Bullock ranks third in home runs in the MVC this year.

Best Show in Town
The Wichita State vs. Kansas State game on Tue., April 20 drew a crowd of 7,217 to Eck Stadium.  That figure was the 10th largest crowd in Shocker history and the largest regular-season crowd ever.

At Home AND On the Road
Indiana State is the only MVC team to boast a winning record both at home and on the road so far this season.  The Sycamores are 13-4 in Terre Haute and are 12-8 in true road games. 

Five teams (Evansville, Illinois State, Missouri State, Southern Illinois and Wichita State) have winning records on their home fields (and below .500 records on the road), while Creighton is the lone team to boast a better winning percentage on the road (13-6) than at home (2-6).

More Than What You Paid For
So far this season, Missouri Valley Conference teams are 10-5 in non-conference extra-inning games.  Four teams have winning records - Creighton (3-0), Indiana State (2-0), Southern Illinois (1-0) and Evansville (3-1) and Creighton (3-2) - while Illinois State has a .500 record in non-MVC extra-inning games (Illinois State is 1-1).  Only Bradley (0-2) and Missouri State (0-1) have yet to win an extra-inning game outside of league play, while Wichita State has yet to go extra innings with any non-conference opponents.

Two or Less
In 204 non-conference games, 81 games (.397) have been decided by two or fewer runs.  MVC teams are 27-28 (.491) in contests decided by one run and are an even .500 (13-13) in games decided by two runs.  Three Valley schools have above .500 records in games decided by two or fewer runs - Southern Illinois (8-3), Indiana State (7-6) and Creighton (5-4).  The other four MVC schools have been on the other end of close games - Wichita State (2-3), Missouri State (5-7), Evansville (5-8) and Bradley (5-8) - winning fewer than half of games decided by two runs or less.

Top-10 Team Statistics
Two Missouri Valley Conference teams rank in the nation's top-10 in three different categories (through April 18 games).

Creighton is fourth in sacrifice bunts with 43 and fifth in fielding percentage (0.979), while Indiana State is seventh in sacrifice hits with 28.

Season Streaks
Below is a list of the longest winning streaks of 2010:

2010 Longest Winning Streaks
Evansville 6, (A13-A20)
Indiana Sate 6 (M16-M23)
Southern Illinois 6 (M28-A6)
Wichita State 6 (A3-A10)
Illinois State 5 (M19-M27)
Bradley 4 (A9-A14)
Missouri State 4 (A2-A7)
Creighton 3, twice (F28-M5 and M10-M13)

Non-Con. Never Below .500
The Missouri Valley Conference boasts a 110-94 (.539) in non-conference action (through games of Sunday, Apr. 25).  Below are the best non-league results, dating back to 1981, as well as the number of post-season bids registered each season:

Year Non-Conf. +/- Post-Season Teams
1987 - 186-67 (.734) +119 2 NCAA (INS, WSU)
1985 - 196-80 (.708) +116 1 NCAA (CU, SIU, WSU)
1990 - 180-76 (.703) +104 3 NCAA (WSU)
1988 - 165-77 (.679) +88 1 NCAA (WSU)
1983 - 187-89 (.776) +98 2 NCAA (INS, WSU)
1986 - 168-84 (.663) +84 2 NCAA (INS, SIU)
1991 - 195-101 (.658) +94 2 NCAA (CU, WSU)
1998 - 154-82 (.651) +72 1 NCAA (WSU)
1999 - 163-88 (.649) +75 3 NCAA (CU, MSU, WSU)
1989 - 182-99 (.647) +83 2 NCAA (INS, WSU)
1982 - 201-110 (.646) +91 1 NCAA (WSU)
1995 - 157-86 (.645) +71 3 NCAA (INS, MSU, WSU)
2005 - 199-112 (.640) +87 2 NCAA (CU, WSU)
1984 - 141-81 (.634) +60 1 NCAA (INS)
1992 - 182-110 (.622) +72 2 NCAA (CU, WSU)
1981 - 190-117 (.619) +73 2 NCAA (SIU, WSU)
2007 - 183-116 (.612) +67 2 NCAA CU, WSU)
1993 - 177-121 (.594) +56 1 NCAA (WSU)
1996 - 141-105 (.573) +36 2 NCAA (MSU, WSU)
2002 - 134-100 (.572) +34 2 NCAA (MSU, WSU)
2006 - 173-130 (.571) +43 2 NCAA (UE, WSU)
1997 - 148-111 (.571) +37 2 NCAA (MSU, WSU)
2000 - 137-105 (.566) +32 3 NCAA (CU, UE, WSU)
1994 - 166-128 (.565) +38 2 NCAA (ILS, WSU)
2008 - 161-126 (.561) +31 1 NCAA (WSU)
2001 - 130-111 (.539) +19 1 NCAA (UNI)
2003 - 134-115 (.538) +19 2 NCAA (MSU, WSU)
2009 - 145-125 (.537) +20 1 NCAA (WSU)
2004 - 124-118 (.512) +6 1 NCAA (WSU)

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 Sun Belt). 

Against the 2009 NCAA Field
The Valley has won 14 games against 2009 NCAA Tournament teams, as all 14 wins have come from four teams - Bradley, Creighton, Missouri State and Wichita State. 

The Braves have five wins against the 2009 NCAA field - two versus Army and three against Tennessee Tech.  The Bears have tallied four wins versus 2009 Tournament teams - three against Oral Roberts and one versus Oklahoma State - while the Bluejays have three wins against last year's tournament field, including one each against Kansas State, Minnesota and Sam Houston State.  The Shockers have the final two victories, against Washington State and Oklahoma State

This week, Valley schools have a chance to pick up three more wins against a 2009 NCAA Tournament team, as Wichita State hosts Kansas and Oklahoma State in mid-week matchups, while Missouri State travels to No. 8 Arkansas on Wednesday.

It's About Time
Indiana State's series win against Creighton (Apr. 2-4) was their first series win over the Jays in Omaha since 1992.  In their previous three trips to face CU, the Sycamores had come back with ten losses and no wins.

Fireworks on Display
Missouri State's power display versus Oral Roberts on April 4 represented something not done at Missouri State since 2004.  The Bears bombed six home runs and tallied 41 total bases, identical to the numbers put up in a 2004 win at Saint Louis. Both numbers were Hammons Field records for MSU.

Now That's a Lot of Wins
Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson won his 1,700th career game on Sunday, April 4 at Evansville.  He becomes just the second coach in Division I baseball history to reach that milestone, joining Augie Garrido of Texas.  Stephenson's career record now stands at 1,708-592-3.

Saluki Skipper for 200, Please
Southern Illinois head coach Dan Callahan picked up his 200th career Missouri Valley Conference victory in a 3-1 win over Bradley on Saturday, April 3.  He became the fifth coach in league history to reach the milestone and is just one of three active coaches with 200 Valley wins, joining Wichita State's Gene Stephenson (543) and Missouri State's Keith Guttin (298).

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).

Tight Races                                                
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.    

Back-to-Back
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 14 consecutive regular-season championships from 1987-2000.

Deja' Vu
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 adopted 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.

This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Greg Wallace of Evansville and Jacob Petricka of Indiana State.
        
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Greg Wallace, Jr., OF, Evansville
Reigning MVC Player of the Week Greg Wallace continued his torrid month of April this week for the Purple Aces, as Wallace hit an even .500 (9-for-18) this week in four games for the Purple Aces, with seven of his nine hits going for extra-bases, including launching three home runs while driving in a team-best 14 RBI.  Wallace had multiple extra-base hits in three of his four contests this week, including posting his second multi-home run game of the year in Sunday's 15-5 victory over Bradley.  He also had multi-hit and multi-RBI efforts in all four games, as he has now produced a multi-hit game and a multi-RBI game in each of the last six contests for the Purple Aces.  Wallace opened his week by knocking two doubles and driving in three runs in UE's 8-2 victory over crosstown rival and Division II national power Southern Indiana (#16 nationally) on Tuesday night.  He then went 7-for-13 in UE's three game series with Bradley, including launching a home run and knocking a double in Friday night's series opener, before going 5-for-9 with two home runs, a triple, and nine RBI in Sunday's doubleheader sweep of the Braves.  He hit home runs in back-to-back at-bats in Sunday's 15-5 victory in the opener, before tying a career-high with six RBI in game two's 15-13 victory.  He hit for a combined cycle in the two games of the doubleheader.  For the week, Wallace went 9-for-18 at the plate with three doubles, a triple, three home runs, six runs scored, and 14 RBI, while posting a 1.278 slugging percentage and a .524 on-base percentage.

MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Clay Murphy, Fr., RHP, Missouri State
Missouri State freshman right-hander Clay Murphy went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in nine innings and two relief appearances last week. He allowed five hits for a .172 average and struck out eight. Wednesday against SIU Edwardsville, Murphy entered the game with the Bears trailing 3-0 in the fourth inning and proceeded to allow only two baserunners in 4.1 innings to earn the win in MSU's 5-3 comeback victory. Sunday against Creighton, the freshman entered the game in the fifth inning with MSU trailing by two runs and shut the Bluejays down, yielding four singles and fanning five over the final 4.2 innings for the win. CU managed one walk and an unearned run off Murphy on Sunday as the Bears won 6-5. 

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

  • Trever Adams (CU) - Adams led all Jays over their four games this week with a .500 average on 7-for-14 hitting. Adams posted three multi-hit games, marking his eighth game of three or more hits and 18th overall multi-hit game in 2010. He ended the week with three runs scored, four RBI, a double and a stolen base.
  • Matt Mirabal (ILS) - Mirabal connected on the second home run of his career in the fourth inning of Tuesday's contest at Illinois, the second of back-to-back home runs by the Redbirds. The Illinois State backstop was 3-for-4 at the plate against the Fighting Illini as the Redbirds swept their in-state rival from the Big Ten in a home-and-home series for the first time since 1995. Mirabal drew a pinch-hit walk in the ninth inning of Wednesday's loss to Northwestern, and scored the game's only run. The sophomore from Chicago, Ill., is second on the team with a .387 batting average and leads the team with nine sacrifices.
  • Ryan Strausborger (INS) - Strausborger continues to lead the offensive attack for the Indiana State baseball team, tallying a hit in each game, en route to going 9-19 this past week with six runs scored. Strausborger also stole a base in each game, pushing his season total to 31. On the season, Strausborger is second on the Sycamores with a .375 batting average, but he has turned it on in MVC play, hitting at a .460 clip.
  • Kevin Medrano (MSU) - Medrano extended his hitting streak to 20 games with five multi-hit outings on the week, batting .500 with two doubles, two triples, a home run, eight runs scored and a .950 slugging percentage. He also drove in a run, stole a base, drew a walk for a .524 on-base percentage and struck out just once in 20 at bats. Tuesday at Saint Louis, Medrano scored three times and went 2-for-4, and also went 2-for-4 with a run scored in Wednesday's win versus SIUE. He had two hits Friday versus Creighton, and hit for the cycle over the span of Sunday's doubleheader, hitting a double and a triple with two runs in the first game before hitting a homer and a single in the second game with two more runs scored. MSU went 4-1 for the week.
  • Cody Lassley (WSU) - Lassley led the Shockers to three wins last week including a series victory over San Jose State.  He went 7-for-18 (.389) with two doubles, a home run, six RBI and two stolen bases.  He went 2-for-4 with two RBI, a double and a home run against No. 16 Kansas State on Tuesday.  On Wednesday against Bethany, he went 1-for-3 with two RBI.  On Friday against San Jose State, he went 1-for-4 with an RBI and on Saturday against the Spartans, he went 3-for-4 with an RBI.
  • Jonas Dufek (CU) - Dufek earned Creighton's lone win of the weekend, throwing seven strong innings at Missouri State to get his sixth win of the season. Dufek went 7.0 innings, allowing just one earned run on six hits while striking out five.  He maneuvered through those frames on just 84 pitches; the second fewest for any Creighton pitcher throwing seven or more innings this year. The win also marked the first time a Creighton right handed starter has won six games in a season since Eric Wordekemper in 2005.
  • Zach Taylor (UE) - Taylor tossed 6.0 shutout innings, allowing just five base hits while striking out six men against just one walk.  Taylor tossed 2.0 shutout innings of one-hit relief on Tuesday night against crosstown Division II power Southern Indiana, striking out two.  He then tossed back-to-back 2.0 inning outings against Bradley this weekend, allowing two hits in both outings.  He struck out three of the eight men he face on Friday night while keeping the Bradley offense at bay, before coming back on Sunday to toss 2.0 innings in the first game of the doubleheader, while not allowing a man to advance past first base.  For the week, Taylor held the opposition to a .238 batting average in his 6.0 innings on the mound.
  • JD Learnard (ILS) - Learnard turned in the best start of his career and longest outing of any Redbird starter in Tuesday's win over Illinois. Learnard went 7.2 innings and limited the Illini to just three base runners through the first seven frames. The Fairmount, Ill., native nearly worked around a pair of leadoff walks in the eighth before surrendering the first run. The freshman limited Illinois to a .130 batting average after he allowed just three hits in the game. Learnard's performance helped Illinois State sweep their in-state rival from the Big Ten in a home-and-home series for the first time since 1995.
  • Jacob Petricka (INS) - Petricka turned in yet another strong performance on Friday for Indiana State, striking out nine SIU batters over six innings while allowing just one walk. Petricka has been nearly unhittable in his four MVC starts this season, turning in a 1.93 ERA and a 3-1 record over 28 innings. The junior hurler has struck out 29 batters over those 28 innings, while allowing just eight runs (six earned) and nine walks.
  • Nathan Forer (SIU) - Forer only gave up four hits and two runs in his six innings of work against Indiana State on Sunday, April 25. He left the game with a 8-2 lead. The senior right-handed pitcher has not yielded more than two earned runs in any of his six starts this season. He has allowed just 34 hits in his 42.2 innings of work and has held limited opposing hitters to a .218 batting average against him.
  • Logan Hoch (WSU) - Hoch made three appearances for the Shockers last week, all in relief and earned a save in the opener against San Jose State on Friday.  For the week, he pitched six shutout innings with seven strikeouts.  On Tuesday against No. 16 Kansas State, he pitched 2.2 shutout innings with three strikeouts.  On Friday against the Spartans, he pitched two shutout innings with three strikeouts to earn the save and in game three against SJSU on Sunday, he pitched 1.1 shutout innings with one strikeout.

Missouri Valley Conference Upcoming Schedule:

Tuesday, April 27
Air Force at Creighton, 1 PM
SIU Edwardsville at Indiana State, 5 PM
Illinois State vs. Illinois Wesleyan, 6 PM
Bradley at Illinois, 6:05 PM
Kansas at Wichita State, 7 PM

Wednesday, April 28
Indiana State at Indiana, 2:05 PM
Southern Illinois at Eastern Illinois, 3 PM
Bradley at Northern Illinois, 3:30 PM
Iowa at Creighton, 6:30 PM
Missouri State at No. 8 Arkansas, 6:35 PM
Oklahoma State at Wichita State, 7 PM

Friday, April 30
*Missouri State at Indiana State, 5:30 PM
*Wichita State at Illinois State, 6 PM
*Evansville at Creighton, 6:30 PM
SIU Edwarsville at Southern Illinois, 3 PM

Saturday, May 1
*Missouri State at Indiana State, 1 PM
*Evansville at Creighton, 2 PM
*Wichita State at Illinois State, 2 PM
Calumet at Bradley (DH), 12 PM
SIU Edwarsville at Southern Illinois, 2 PM

Sunday, May 2
*Missouri State at Indiana State, 12 PM
*Evansville at Creighton, 1 PM
*Wichita State at Illinois State, 1 PM
SIU Edwarsville at Southern Illinois, 1 PM
Saint Xavier at Bradley, 6 PM 

*MVC Game