Baseball Weekly Notebook (May 10)
Monday, May 10, 2010

The Final Stretch
With just two weekends remaining in the regular season schedule, Illinois State and Wichita State have separated themselves at the head of the pack in the league standings.

The Redbirds (12-3 MVC) snapped a 13-game road losing streak at Missouri State last weekend, earning the series sweep over the Bears for the first time since 1992.  

The Shockers (13-5 MVC) remain just a half-game behind Illinois State following their series sweep at Creighton.  It was the first time Wichita State had swept the Bluejays in Omaha since 1998.  

Evansville (7-8 MVC) won its third league series of the season last weekend with two victories over visiting Indiana State (9-8 MVC).  The Purple Aces sit five games behind first-place Illinois State, while the Sycamores are four games behind the Redbirds.  

Bradley and Southern Illinois took a leave of absence from conference play for the second straight week.  The Braves split a pair of doubleheader home-and-home series with SIU Edwardsville, with each team winning both games on their home field.  The Salukis had their six-game winning streak snapped by Middle Tennessee State, falling in all three games to the Blue Raiders.

If Today Was Your Last Day
If the State Farm MVC Baseball Tournament started today, seeding would be as follows:

Games
Team
Remaining Opponent(s)
1. ILS (12-3) 6 BU, @UE
2. WSU (13-5) 3 MSU
3. INS (9-8) 3 @BU
4. UE (7-8) 6 @SIU, ILS
5. CU (9-12) --- ---
6. SIU (6-8) 6 UE, @MSU
7. BU (5-10) 6 @ILS, INS
8. MSU (4-11) 6 @WSU, SIU

Best/Worst Case Scenarios
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, the best and worst case scenarios for each team's league record are as follows: 

Current Best-Case Worst-Case
Record
Scenario Scenario
1. ILS (12-3) 18-3 12-9
2. WSU (13-5) 16-5 13-8
3. INS (9-8) 12-8 9-11
4. UE (7-8) 13-8 7-14
5. CU (9-12) 9-12 ---
6. SIU (6-8) 12-8 6-14
7. BU (5-10) 11-10 5-16
8. MSU (4-11) 10-11 4-17

Watch the Tournament
Every game of this year’s State Farm MVC Tournament will be available on the air.  MVC Live, the conference’s online streaming production, will carry the first 14 games of the tournament and Fox Sports Midwest will televise the tournament final on Saturday, May 29 at 1:30 p.m.  Fans can sign up for the free stream by visiting www.mvc-sports.com and clicking on the banner at the top of the page or by clicking “subscribe” underneath the video player.

Three In RPI's Top-100
According to the latest RPI update from WarrenNolan.com (May 10), for the first time this season, three Missouri Valley Conference teams are in the RPI's top-100.  Wichita State leads the way at No. 63, while league-leading Illinois State sits at No. 91 and Evansville is No. 98.

#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 five 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.

That Didn't Take Long
Despite playing eight fewer games so far, including nine fewer MVC contests, Evansville has already equaled its overall and Valley victory totals of a year ago.  With 26 victories, UE has surpassed last year's overall win total of 25, while the Purple Aces have already equaled their MVC victory total of seven, with two weeks left in the conference regular-season.

It's Been a While
With two home runs this week, UE junior infielder Cody Fick moved his league-leading home run total to 15.  It marks the highest single-season home run total at Evansville in over a decade, as the last Purple Ace to launch 15 or more home runs in a single-season was Brian McMillan during the course of the 1997 season.  Overall, Fick's home run total ranks as the fifth-best in UE single-season history.

40 Time?
UE freshman shortstop Eric Stamets has a chance to accomplish something this season which has not been done in the Missouri Valley Conference since 1996, as he enters this week's action on the verge of surpassing the 40 stolen base mark for a single-season.  Stamets will enter this week's action having swiped a school-record 38 bases this year.  No Valley player has surpassed the 40-steal mark since Wichita State's Randy Young stole 68 bases during the 1996 season.

Eyeing Another Record ... or Five
Illinois State sophomore Kevin Tokarski has already left his mark on the Illinois State record books, running for the most steals in a season (32 in 2008) and most career steals (57).  He’s not done yet, however, and he’s using his bat in addition to his speed.  With a pair of doubles in Sunday’s game against Missouri State, Tokarski has 22 doubles on the season, one away from tying former teammate Kevin Dubler for the single season doubles mark (23) set in 2008.  Tokarski also currently owns Illinois State’s top batting average (.469) and on-base percentage (.583) – two of the top overall marks in the country.  With seven regular season games to play, Tokarski is five walks, six runs, and 10 hits, from moving into the top-three in all those categories.

Singles Mixer
Indiana State junior Jacob Petricka has not allowed many extra base hits in MVC play this season.  Of the 32 hits that opponents have recorded just five (four doubles and one home run) have been for extra bases.

Kickham Fans 14
Bears' sophomore Mike Kickham put together the 11th game of 14 or more strikeouts in school history Friday against Illinois State.  Of Kickham’s 17 outs recorded, 14 came via strikeout, including 11 in a row after a line drive out opened the game.  Kickham joins some elite company with his feat, as the four most recent Bears to fan at least 14 hitters in a game were Buddy Baumann in 2009 (seventh round draft pick), Ross Detwiler in 2007 (sixth overall pick in draft), Brett Sinkbeil in 2006 (19th overall pick in draft) and John Rheinecker in 2001 (pitched two seasons for Texas Rangers).

Running Wild
Missouri State stole eight bases Saturday to come within two of the school record.  The Bears had seven steals through three innings while five different players swiped at least one bag.  Aaron Conway stole three bases, Missouri State’s first player to do so since 2006. The eight steals was the most for the Bears since setting the school record at 10 against Evangel in 1986.

10 Scoreless Appearances
Senior pitcher Logan Hoch has not given up a run in his last 10 appearances.  He becomes the first Shocker to have 10 or more straight scoreless outings since Damon Sublett had 26-straight from Feb. 24, 2005 - March 28, 2006.

Streaky Business
Two Missouri Valley Conference players are currently riding impressive hitting streaks.  Missouri State sophomore Kevin Medrano holds a league-best 28-game hit streak, while Southern Illinois sophomore Chris Serritella has hit safely in 19 consecutive games – the longest streak by a Saluki in two years. 

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

2010 Longest Winning Streaks
Evansville 6, (A13-A20)
Indiana State 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-M2)
Missouri State 4 (A2-A7)

Non-Con. Never Below .500
The Missouri Valley Conference boasts a 127-106 (.545) in non-conference action (through games of Sunday, May 9).  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 the Big Sky. 

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.

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 1,715-594-3.

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 (548) 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 Illinois State's Kevin Tokarski and Kenny Long. 
        
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Kevin Tokarski, So., 2B, Illinois State
Tokarski continues to make the extraordinary look ordinary as he raised his league-leading batting average to .469 with an 8-for-14 performance last weekend against Missouri State. The sophomore from Downers Grove, Ill., proved to be a tough out from game one on, batting 4-for-5 in the series opener with three runs scored to help Illinois State snap a 13-game road losing streak to the Bears. Tokarski also hit his sixth home run of the season in the series opener and clubbed two more extra base hits – both doubles – in Sunday’s finale. The two doubles moved Tokarski within one of tying Illinois State’s single-season doubles record of 23. Tokarski had at least two hits in each game and drew two walks for a .625 on-base percentage, raising his on-base percentage to a nation’s-best .583. Tokarski drove in four runs and scored seven – including three in two different games. With a hit in all three games Tokarski has a team-best 11 game hitting streak, and has reached base safely in 38-of-39 games played this season. 

MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK 
Kenny Long, So., LHP, Illinois State
Long closed all three games for Illinois State last weekend as the Redbirds swept Missouri State on the road for the first time since 1992. The sophomore from Fox River Grove, Ill., struck out eight batters in 3.2 innings and notched two saves – his fourth and fifth in Valley contests. Long surrendered just two hits during the weekend for a .154 opponent batting average. He helped the Redbirds snap a 13-game road losing streak to the Bears by getting the final two outs with runners on the corners and to preserve a 7-5 win Friday night. On Saturday, Long struck out five in two innings and worked around a pair of singles in the ninth for his league-leading fifth save in conference play.  Long closed Illinois State’s third Missouri Valley Conference series sweep with two more strikeouts, as he retired the side in order in Sunday’s finale.

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

  • Nate Smith (UE) - Nate Smith helped lead Evansville to a 3-1 week on the diamond this week, as he hit an even .500, with five of his seven base hits going for extra-bases, including launching a pair of home runs in UE’s weekend series victory over Indiana State.  Smith began his week by hitting two doubles and a triple in UE’s 10-3 victory over Oakland City University.  He then hit just the second home run of the year off of Indiana State ace Jacob Petricka on Friday night, as he launched a solo home run to dead center field in his first at-bat against Petricka to power UE’s 3-2 victory.  He also launched another home run on Saturday, as he went 3-for-4 against Joe Rodriguez and the Sycamores.  For the week, Smith went 7-for-14 at the plate with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, four RBI and four runs scored in four starts in the UE outfielder, while posting a 1.214 slugging percentage and a .611 on-base percentage.  He also handled all nine defensive chances in the outfield without an error.
  • Luke Fieser (INS) - Fieser led Indiana State at the plate over the weekend at Evansville, picking up four hits and three RBIs. Fieser currently sits in second place in both categories for the Sycamores this season, with 62 hits and 37 RBI. The senior third baseman also had a perfect weekend in the field, leading the team with nine assists from the hot corner without committing an error.
  • Bret Bascue (WSU) - Bret Bascue led the Shockers to a 3-1 week including a series sweep at Creighton over the weekend.  In the four games, he went 6-for-10 with two runs, one double, one triple, one home run and six RBI.  On Friday at CU, he went 2-for-2 with a double and three RBI.  On Saturday, he went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a home run and on Sunday, he went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a triple.  For the year, he is now batting .471.
  • Patrick Cooper (BU) - Cooper earned the complete-game victory in Saturday’s 3-2 win against SIU Edwardsville to cap off the doubleheader sweep at O’Brien Field.  He allowed two runs, one earned, in his 7-inning gem, surrendering three hits while striking out six against no walks.  After Cooper allowed a 2-out, RBI double in the third inning, the next SIUE hitter reached on a throwing error on a routine ground ball.  Cooper bounced back by retiring the next 10 hitters before another Bradley error ended the streak to open the seventh.  He again responded by getting two more ground outs, one a double play, to shut the door on the Cougars.  Cooper was forced to face more than three hitters in only the third inning.  In addition to his six strikeouts, Cooper induced 10 groundouts.
  • Kyle Lloyd (UE) - Called upon in long relief in two games this week, freshman RHP Kyle Lloyd went 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 innings of relief, scattering two runs on six hits, while striking out 10 men.  Lloyd first worked on Tuesday night, as he earned the victory in UE’s 10-3 victory over Oakland City.  Summoned from the UE bullpen with the Purple Aces trailing 2-1, Lloyd tossed tossed 6.0 innings of three-hit, one run relief to earn the victory, while striking out eight.  Lloyd retired the final nine men he faced, including striking out the side in the ninth inning to complete the victory.  Lloyd was then pressed into action early against Indiana State on Saturday, taking over in the fourth inning with UE trailing 4-0.  Lloyd yielded a run in his first inning of work, but then did not allow another batter to advance past first base, as he held the Sycamores to just the lone run on three hits in 4.1 innings of work while keeping UE in the contest.  For the week, Lloyd allowed just four singles, a double, and a triple in 10.1 innings of work, while holding Oakland City and Indiana State to just a .171 team batting average.  He also struck out 10 men against two walks.
  • Jacob Petricka (INS) - Petricka picked up his first no-decision during MVC play this weekend, the Sycamore hurler still turned in another strong performance against the Purple Aces. Petricka allowed just three hits over six innings on Friday night while striking out six UE batters. Friday’s no-decision kept his record at 4-1 in MVC games while lowering his ERA down to 1.67 over six starts.
  • Jordan Cooper (WSU) - Cooper earned his seventh win of the season on Friday at Creighton.  He pitched seven shutout innings and allowed seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts.  He allowed multiple baserunners in three of the seven innings but escaped trouble every time.  In the fourth inning, he gave up a leadoff triple and then walked the next batter, but picked the runner off of first with a third-to-first move for the first out.  He then threw out the runner at third at the plate on a safety squeeze attempt for the second out and got a flyout to end the inning with no runs being scored.  With the win, he improved to 7-2 on the year and lowered his ERA to 1.79.

 

Missouri Valley Conference Upcoming Schedule:

Tuesday, May 11
Austin Peay at Evansville, 6 PM
Indiana State at SIU Edwardsville, 6 PM

Wednesday, May 12

Creighton at North Dakota State (DH), 3 PM


Eastern Illinois at Illinois State, 6 PM

 

Friday, May 14
*Evansville at Southern Illinois, 3 PM
*Bradley at Illinois State, 6 PM
*Missouri State at Wichita State, 7 PM
Indiana State at Eastern Illinois, 3 PM
Seattle at Creighton, 7 PM

Saturday, May 15
*Bradley at Illinois State, 2 PM
*Evansville at Southern Illinois, 2 PM
*Missouri State at Wichita State, 2 PM
Indiana State vs. SIU Edwardsville, 12 PM
Seattle at Creighton, 2 PM

Sunday, May 16
*Bradley at Illinois State, 1 PM
*Evansville at Southern Illinois, 1 PM
*Missouri State at Wichita State, 1 PM
Seattle at Creighton, 12 PM

*MVC Game