Baseball Weekly Notebook (May 3)
Monday, May 03, 2010

In a week full of record setting, rare occurrences and a number of outstanding performances, the Valley standings are still up for grabs as we head into the final month of the season.  Last week's contests featured two complete games, three 10+ strikeout efforts and five multi-home run performances, and was highlighted by Wichita State's outstanding week.  The Shockers took down two Big 12 opponents, in Kansas and Oklahoma State, before handing league-leading Illinois State is first series setback in MVC action.

Mother, May I?
Heading into the final month of the season, in a battle of the Valley's top two teams, Wichita State handed league-leading Illinois State its first series setback, taking the first and third games after being run-ruled by the Redbirds in the second contest on Saturday.  The Shockers (10-5 MVC) closed the gap and now sit just a half-game behind Illinois State (9-3 MVC) in the league standings.

Creighton tallied its first series sweep in MVC action, over visiting Evansville, evening its record at 9-9 in league play.  The Purple Aces (5-7 MVC) will look to rebound as they host Indiana State this weekend. 

Indiana State won its series over Missouri State in Terre Haute for the first time since 2002, winning the first two games of the series.  Before the Sycamores win over the Bears on Friday, Missouri State had won 10 straight games in Terre Haute.  Indiana State sits at 8-6 in league play, while Missouri State enters this week at 4-8 in MVC action.

Southern Illinois and Bradley took a leave of absence from conference play, tallying a collective record of 7-2 last week.  The Salukis extended their winning streak to five-straight games, taking a midweek contest over Eastern Illinos, before sweeping SIU Edwardsville in a three-game weekend series.  The Braves fell early in the week to both Illinois and Northern Illinois, but rebounded to win three consecutive contests, two over Calumet College and one against Saint Xavier.

Record Setters
Last Saturday, the Braves set single-game records for runs (31), runs batted in (31) and homeruns (8) in game one of a double-header against Calumet College.  Seven Braves had at least two hits and eight Braves finished with at least two RBI's.  Sophomore Rob Elliott was a perfect 4-for-4 with two homeruns, four RBI's and three runs scored in the seven-inning contest.

What About Bob?
Not to be outdone, freshman outfielder Bob Schuch went 2-for-3 with two homeruns, including a grand slam, and seven RBI's in the first game of Saturday's double-header versus Calumet.  Schuch hit his first career homerun (grand slam) as a pinch hitter in the fifth and followed with a three-run bomb in the sixth.  His seven RBI's currently ranks second on Bradley's all-time single-game individual records list.  Ed Bland still holds Bradley's single-game RBI record with nine in 1928.

#250 Awaits
Head coach Ed Servais is one victory shy of 250 at Creighton, owning a 249-141 record at Creighton.  He enters the weekend with 110 career wins in MVC play.  The only other coach with more league wins in their first seven seasons in the MVC is former Evansville coach Jim Brownlee, who recorded 111 in his first seven campaigns.

Closing In
Junior outfielder Greg Wallace is quickly closing in on joining UE's elite 200-hit club, as Wallace will enter this week's action just eight hits shy of 200 in his Purple Aces' career.  The 200-hit club features just 21 members in UE's long baseball history, which stretches back to 1924.  The last man to join the 200-hit club was former all-MVC outfielder Jim Viscomi, who collected 207 hits from 2006 through last season.

Never Been Done Before
Illinois State used a season-high five home runs, including three from third baseman Ryan Court, to post its first ever run-rule victory over Wichita State, 18-8, Saturday at Duffy Bass Field. The Redbirds' previous largest margin of victory was six runs in a 14-8 win over the Shockers in 1995.  The win also marked the first time Illinois State has posted wins against Wichita State in back-to-back seasons since 1994-95. 

Triple Threat
Illinois State junior Ryan Court became the first Redbird to hit three home runs in a game since 2003 when he sent three offerings over the fence in last Saturday's win over Wichita State.  Scott Bialobreski left the yard three times for Illinois State against Eastern Illinois April 1, 2003. Court was also the first opposing player to hit three home runs against Wichita State since Kansas State's David Hendrix accomplished the feat April 12, 1996.  With four home runs last week, Court moved into a tie for second amongst Redbirds with six home runs on the season.

Tokarski Sets Steals Mark
With two steals in Saturday's win over Wichita State, Kevin Tokarski ran past Mike Prior (55) for Illinois State's career stolen base record and sits at 56 steals in his second full season as a Redbird.  The redshirt sophomore from Downers Grove, Ill., set Illinois State's single season mark with 32 steals as a freshman in 2008 before missing all but four games last year.  Tokarski's 23 steals this season tie him for second with Blake Tekotte on the single season ISU charts, behind his own record. Tokarski's .579 on-base percentage is tied for the top-mark in the country and his .459 batting average is the second-highest in the nation.

Serious Series Victory
Before ISU's win over Missouri State on Friday, the Bears had won 10 straight games in Terre Haute.  The series victory over MSU was the first for the Sycamores at home since taking three out of four games against the Bears in 2002.

Five-Plus, Again
The Salukis have won five-straight games and six of their last seven.  This is SIU's second winning streak of five-plus games this year.  The Dawgs did not win more than four-straight games in 2009, but had at least two winnings streaks of five or more games from 2005-08.

Grand Slamma Jamma
Wichita State had a grand slam against Kansas on April 27 and against Oklahoma State on April 28 courtesy of Johnny Coy and Preston Springer.  It was the first time since 2002 that WSU had a grand slam in back-to-back games.  The Shockers last did it against Howard on April 26-27, 2002 courtesy of Randy Walter and Don Rogers.

Cooper Not Phased by 'Birds
Jordan Cooper threw eight shutout innings at Illinois State on Friday to increase his scoreless inning streak against the Redbirds to 23.  In his career, Cooper has not allowed a run against Illinois State in three career appearances and has allowed just 12 singles while striking out 29.

More on the Slam
Johnny Coy hit his second grand slam of the season against Kansas on April 27.  He is the first Shocker to have two grand slams in a season since Nick Blasi in 2004.  Wichita State has five grand slams on the season after having just one in 2009.

Streaky Business
Two Missouri Valley Conference players are currently riding impressive hitting streaks.  Missouri State sophomore Kevin Medrano holds a league-best 24-game hit streak, while Southern Illinois sophomore Chris Serritella has hit safely in 15 consecutive games - the longest streak by a Saluki in two years.

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 16-5 in Terre Haute and are 13-8 in true road games. 

Six teams (Bradley, 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 (6-8).

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)
Creighton 4 (A28-present)
Missouri State 4 (A2-A7)

Non-Con. Never Below .500
The Missouri Valley Conference boasts a 123-99 (.554) in non-conference action (through games of Sunday, May 2).  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 three (Big 12, Big Sky and Sun Belt). 

Against the 2009 NCAA Field
The Valley has won 16 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 four victories, against Kansas, Washington State and Oklahoma State, twice.

This week, Valley schools have a chance to pick up four more wins against a 2009 NCAA Tournament team, as Wichita State hosts Oral Roberts in a mid-week matchup, while Southern Illinois travels to Middle Tennessee State for a three-game series this weekend.

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.

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.

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 1,712-593-3.

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 (299).

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 Wichita State's Preston Springer and Jordan Cooper. 
        
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Preston Springer, Jr., DH, Wichita State
Springer led the Shockers to a 4-1 week including a road series win at first-place Illinois State and midweek wins over Kansas and Oklahoma State.  In the five games, he went 13-for-23 (.565) with nine runs, five doubles, three home runs and 15 RBI.  Against KU on Tuesday, he went 3-for-4 with three runs, five RBI, a home run and a hit by pitch.  On Wednesday against OSU, he went 3-for-6 with two runs, five RBI, a double and his first career grand slam.  In the opening game at Illinois State, he went 3-for-5 with two runs, two RBI, two doubles and a home run.  In game two, he went 2-for-4 with three RBI and two doubles and in the third game he went 2-for-4 with a run and a walk.  He finished the week with multiple hits in all five games and an RBI in four of the five games.  This week's honor marks Springers' second MVC Player of the Week accolade this season.  For his outstanding efforts, he was also named a "Louisville Slugger" National Player of the Week by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. 

MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Jordan Cooper, So., RHP, Wichita State

Cooper led the Shockers to an opening game victory at first-place Illinois State on Friday.  He pitched eight shutout innings and allowed just four singles while tying a career-high with 10 strikeouts.  He retired the first 11 batters of the game and escaped a bases loaded jam in the seventh with a third-to-first pickoff move and again in the eighth with a flyout.  He struck out at least one batter in every inning but one and had multiple strikeouts in three different innings.  With the eight shutout innings, he increased his scoreless inning streak against the Redbirds to 23 and has allowed just 12 singles to ILS in three career appearances with 29 strikeouts.  With the win he improved to 6-2 on the year and lowered his ERA to 1.96.  Cooper becomes the first Valley pitcher to earn two MVC Pitcher of the Week awards this season.

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

  • Mike McMillan (BU) - McMillan was 8-for-14 (.571) with five runs and four RBI's in four games last week. The redshirt-senior hit his first career triple and finished 2-for-4 at Northern Illinois Wednesday. He was 2-for-2 with a homerun, three RBI's and two runs in a 31-4 win against Calumet College Saturday, and capped the week with three hits (one double), three runs and one RBI as the Braves topped St. Xavier 15-2 Sunday. McMillan improved his batting average by 30 points this week (.370) and currently owns a career-high seven-game hitting streak.

  • Carson Vitale (CU) - Vitale had a fine week, batting .500 (9-for-18) with 11 RBI. The senior posted impressive .583 on-base and .944 slugging (1.527 OPS) percentages over Creighton's six-game stretch this week. His numbers were helped by a 5-for-5, two home run, eight RBI performance on Wednesday against Big Ten foe Iowa. Vitale also gunned down league stolen base leader Eric Stamets (third in the country as of last Monday) on Sunday to bring his caught stealing percentage up to 29 percent.

  • Cody Fick (UE) - Fick hit a team-best .417 with a double and a home run in UE's three-game series at Creighton this past weekend.  Fick went 2-for-4 with a double and his league-leading 13th home run of the season on Saturday against the Bluejays, before pounding out a game-high three hits on Sunday afternoon at the C.U. Sports Complex.  Overall, Fick went 5-for-12 in the series against Creighton, while scoring two runs, knocking in another, and going a perfect 1-for-1 in the stolen base department.

  • Ryan Court (ILS) - Court entered the week batting a near-season-low .250 but turned in his best week of the season with a 9-for-18 performance at the plate and six extra-base hits to raise his season mark to .278. Court hit four home runs in four games last week, including three in Saturday's win over Wichita State. Court became the first Redbird to hit three home runs in a game since 2003, and the first opposing player to hit three home runs against the Shockers since 1996, when his third shot cleared the fence and ended the 18-8 run-rule victory in walk-off fashion. Defensively, Court led the Redbirds with 12 assists and recorded three putouts at the hot corner.

  • Robby Ort (INS) - Ort continued the strong start to his rookie campaign during this past week, going 5-15 at the plate with a pair of home runs. Ort hit a home run in two consecutive at-bats over two games, crushing a three-run shot in the ninth inning against Indiana on Wednesday and assisting ISU to a three-run first inning against Missouri State on Friday with a two-run home run in the opening frame. The freshman from Newburgh, Ind., also led the Sycamores with seven RBIs, 11 total bases, six walks and a pair of stolen bases during the week.

  • Chris Serritella (SIU) - Serritella hit .474 in four games last week where he had nine hits to extend his hitting streak to a 15 games. He hit one double and one home run during the week and he drove in seven runs, pushing his RBI total up to 51 on the year. In Sunday's 8-5 victory over SIUE, Serritella went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. The home run that he belted last week was at Eastern Illinois on Wednesday and it was a three-run shot in the eighth that cut the Panther lead down to one run. Serritella had two hits in that midweek game.

  • Patrick Cooper (BU) - Cooper evened his record at 3-3 on the season with 8.0 scoreless innings in Bradley's 15-2 victory over St. Xavier Sunday night. The junior right-hander surrendered just two hits, recorded a season-high eight strikeouts and retired 11 straight batters to start the game. Cooper also added 0.2 scoreless innings at Northern Illinois Wednesday.

  • Jonas Dufek (CU) - Dufek posted his third consecutive quality start; his fifth of the season on Friday against Evansville. He threw a season-high 8.0 innings, allowing just two earned runs on five hits, while striking out eight en route to his league-leading seventh win. Dufek also threw 1.1 perfect innings of relief on Tuesday against Air Force, striking out one. Dufek lowered his season ERA to below 4.00 (3.93), and is now 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA and 32 strikeouts in Valley play.

  • JD Learnard (ILS) - Learnard nearly turned in his second-consecutive quality start but was lifted with the potential tying run on second with one out in the sixth inning of Sunday's series finale with Wichita State. The Redbirds got what they needed from Learnard in his first Missouri Valley Conference start as the freshman scattered two hits over 5.1 scoreless innings, but the bullpen couldn't hold off the Shockers in a 5-1 loss. Learnard pitched an inning of relief in Illinois State's mid-week win over Illinois Wesleyan and held opposing batters to a .143 average in the two outings. In his last three appearances, Learnard is 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA and has allowed just six hits in 14 innings.

  • Jacob Petricka (INS) - Petricka tossed the first complete game for the Indiana State pitching staff on Friday, allowing just one run over nine innings against the Bears. Petricka scattered six hits during the game while striking out 11 MSU batters, his second highest total this season, in his first complete game of his Indiana State career. The MVC leader in strikeouts with 81 this season carries a 7-4 overall record and a 3.58 ERA over 75.1 innings on the mound. Petricka has been even better in MVC play, currently sitting at 4-1 in conference play with a microscopic 1.70 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 37.0 innings and a .220 opponent's batting average.

  • Aaron Meade (MSU) - Meade limited the Missouri Valley Conference's top offense to three hits and no earned runs over eight innings Sunday to earn the win at Indiana State. Meade retired the first nine batters he faced in a lineup that entered the game batting .321, and faced one batter over the minimum through seven frames. The Sycamores were only able to score in the eighth when the Bears committed an error with two outs to allow two unearned runs to score. Meade walked two and struck out one.

  • Randy Hoelscher (SIU) - Hoelscher lasted a career-high 8.1 innings in his start against SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday where he won his third-straight decision. He had a four-hitter entering the ninth inning and only allowed two runs on the day. Hoelscher retired 19-of-21 batters from the end of the second inning through the end of the eighth and one of those batters got on base by an error. He had three strikeouts and only walked one of the 34 batters he faced. The lefty has now only walked two of the 133 batters he's faced in his last five starts. Hoelscher nearly became the first Saluki in two seasons to throw a complete game.

Missouri Valley Conference Upcoming Schedule:

Tuesday, May 4
Oakland City at Evansville, 6 PM
Missouri State at Missouri, 6 PM
Southern Illinois at Illinois, 6 PM
Oral Roberts at Wichita State, 7 PM

Friday, May 7
*Wichita State at Creighton, 12 PM
*Indiana State at Evansville, 6 PM
*Illinois State at Missouri State, 6:30 PM
Southern Illinois at Middle Tennessee State, 6 PM

Saturday, May 8
*Wichita State at Creighton, 12 PM
*Illinois State at Missouri State, 2 PM
*Indiana State at Evansville, 2 PM
SIU Edwardsville at Bradley (DH), 11 AM
Southern Illinois at Middle Tennessee State, 4 PM

Sunday, May 9
*Wichita State at Creighton, 12 PM
*Illinois State at Missouri State, 1 PM
*Indiana State at Evansville, 1 PM
SIU Edwardsville at Bradley (DH), 1 PM
Southern Illinois at Middle Tennessee State, 1 PM

*MVC Game