Baseball Weekly Notebook (Feb. 28)
Monday, February 28, 2011

Missouri Valley Conference baseball teams turned up the heat in the second week of the 2011 season, combining for a 20-8 (.714) record last week.  Three teams - Creighton (5-0), Missouri State (3-0) and Wichita State (4-0) - went undefeated last week, while another four teams - Bradley (2-1), Evansville (2-1), Illinois State (2-1) and Indiana State (2-1) - registered just one loss last week.  Southern Illinois fell in a three-game series at defending national champion and No. 7 South Carolina.  

Wichita State moved up four spots to No. 19 in this week's Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Top 30 poll, following the Shockers four wins last weekend to improve to 7-0 on the season.

Creighton (7-1) is off to its best start since 1999, when the Bluejays started 15-1.  The Jays have come from behind to win four games this season, including back to back three-run deficits, for the first time since 2000.  The Jays also overcame a 6-0 setback in Sunday’s 8-7, 11 inning win over New Mexico, giving the Jays their first four-game sweep since the 2008 season.

The Redbirds scored 30 runs over the weekend, outscoring their opponents 30-to-16 at the Austin Peay Classi. Illinois State was also credited with 27 RBI, while its opponents were limited to 16 RBI. ISU also collected 14 extra-base hits, including nine doubles and five home runs, and the Redbirds successfully stole eight bases in eight attempts.

Missouri State posted its highest run total since May of 2009 in a 17-3 victory over Dallas Baptist at the UTA Invitational in Arlington, Texas.

The Shockers defeated Oral Roberts on Tuesday and earned the first win in Tulsa since 1994.  It snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Golden Eagles in Tulsa.

This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Chris Murphy of Southern Illinois and Charlie Lowell of Wichita State.

Johnny Coy, So., 1B, Wichita State
Coy led the Shockers to a 4-0 week including the first road win at Oral Roberts since 1994 and a three-game sweep of North Dakota.  He went 6-for-15 (.400) with four runs, three doubles, eight RBI, two walks and a stolen base.  He had at least one hit and one RBI in each of the four games.  On Tuesday at ORU, he had a double, a run and an RBI.  In game one against UND, he went 1-for-4 with two runs, an RBI and a double.  In game two, he went 3-for-5 with two RBI and in game three, he went 1-for-1 with a run, a double and four RBI.

Reese McGraw, Jr., RHP, Creighton
McGraw has come onto the Creighton pitching staff this season and made an immediate impact.  In the five wins this last week, McGraw made four appearances, finishing the week with two wins and a team high two saves.  He has a 0.00 ERA in his performances, pitching nearly perfect on the mound.  In 7.0 innings pitched, McGraw gave up four hits and struck out five, while walking three and allowing opposing batters just a .174 batting average.  McGraw has not allowed a run in any of his appearances thus far on the season and has proven himself as the lead candidate for Creighton’s closer spot.

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

Derek Sprout (BU) - Sprout helped the Braves to a series win at Arkansas-Little Rock by batting .571 with three runs scored and two runs batted in.  He also walked twice for a .667 on-base percentage and he dropped down a sacrifice bunt in another plate appearance.

Alex Staehely (CU) - Staehely has hit a team leading .455 from the plate with 10 hits, four doubles and two triples.  The sophomore second baseman has a slugging percentage of .818 and an on base percentage of .435 over the last week.  Staehely knocked in the winning run of the 4-3, 10-inning win over Kansas on Tuesday, ripping a triple down the line in the tenth.  He also drove in the first run in the 4-3 Friday win over New Mexico on his third double of the season and scored the first run after a triple in the 4-3 Saturday win.  Staehely has a .971 fielding percentage on the season, making just one error on 24 attempts in the last week.  Staehely currently leads the team in batting average (.382), slugging percentage (.647), runs scored (8), hits (13), RBI (7), doubles (5), triples (2), total bases (22) and stolen bases (4).

Greg Wallace (UE) - Wallace kept his streak at the plate alive, hitting in 13 straight games, carried over from the 2010 season. Wallace batted .455 on the weekend and leads the team with a .478 average through six games. The senior boasted a .909 slugging percentage in the three-game series, belting his 20th career homerun as well as two doubles. Wallace scored three runs and batted in two, including the game-winning run in Evansville’s game two, 4-1, victory. In centerfield, the British Columbia native had a perfect fielding percentage, making 13 putouts and an assist.

Matt Mirabal (ILS) - Mirabal drove in the winning run in a come-from-behind victory over Milwaukee, Sunday, at the Austin Peay Classic in Clarksville, Tenn. With the game tied, 8-8, in the top of the eleventh inning, Mirabal hit a two-RBI double, scoring Kevin Tokarski and Matt Mirabal. The Redbirds went on to win 13-8. Mirabal went 3-for-6 with three RBI and two runs scored in the winning effort. The Chicago native also singled in a run and scored a run in the ninth inning, as ISU scored four runs with two outs in the ninth to surmount an 8-4 deficit, forcing extra innings. During the three-game stretch, Mirabal went 6-for-12, with four runs scored and two doubles. He also amassed a .667 slugging percentage and a .467 on-base percentage. Mirabal currently ranks second on the team in RBI, with eight.

Kyle Burnam (INS) - Burnam hit .467 (7-15) during ISU’s weekend series with Tennessee Martin, totaling a pair of doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored. Both of Burnam’s doubles came in the opening game of the series, as the ISU junior went 4-6 at the plate in game one, tallying three of his four RBIs for the weekend.

Jordan Sivertsen (SIU) - Sivertsen led Southern Illinois last week with a .400 batting average, as he was 6-for-15 at the plate and three of his six hits went for extra bases. In the weekend series at No. 7 South Carolina, Sivertsen continued his early season tear with four hits, including a double and his first home run of the season. Sivertsen has four doubles in seven games this year, which is only one less than he had in all of 2010 (116 at-bats). He is the only Saluki this year that has hit safely in all seven games and is current seven-game hitting streak is one off the longest streak in his career, which came during his freshman season.

Joe Bircher (BU) - Bircher tossed 7.0 scoreless innings in Friday’s series-opener at Arkansas-Little Rock, leading the Braves to a 4-0 victory.  The 6-foot-4 lefty struck out seven, while allowing just three singles and one walk, and he retired the final eight Trojans he faced.  As he prepares for Friday’s game at Tennessee, Bircher is working on a streak of 10.1 consecutive scoreless innings at the top of the Bradley rotation.

Cody Fick (UE) - Fick took a leave from his normal third base position and made the first pitching start of his Division I career and his first appearance on the mound since 2009.  He allowed A-State just five scattered hits and no earned runs in five innings of work, while striking out three and walking only one to earn the win. At the plate, Fick also piloted the Aces, singling home the first run in the opening frame. In the third inning, Fick batted in another run, stole a base and motored home for what would become the winning run as the Aces won 3-2. Fick hit .385 over the course of the weekend with three RBI, two runs scored, and five hits, including two doubles.

Kenny Long (ILS) - Long earned the win against Milwaukee, Sunday, at the Austin Peay Classic in Clarksville, Tenn. Long pitched 3.2 innings, striking out six, while allowing just two runs on five hits. After Illinois State tied the game in the top of the ninth inning, Long pitched two shutout innings, allowing the Redbirds to win in the eleventh. The Fox River Grove, Ill., native currently leads the team with a 2.45 ERA and 14 strikeouts.

Colin Rea (INS) - Rea turned in the best pitching performance to this point in the season for the Sycamores, tossing eight innings on the mound while allowing just four hits, three runs (all earned and in the first inning), striking out 10 batters and walking just one on 99 pitches from the center of the diamond. After allowing the three first-inning runs, Rea settled in an allowed just two base runners over his final seven innings on the mound as the Sycamores picked up the 11-3 win over the Skyhawks.

Blake Barbrer (MSU) - Barber pitched 8.1 shutout innings Sunday against South Dakota State to propel the Bears to a 2-0 victory. The senior scattered five singles, walked none and did not allow a runner into scoring position until two outs in the eighth inning. Barber faced four batters above the minimum, faced the minimum three batters in five separate innings and never faced more than five batters in one frame. Barber struck out two in his longest career outing while SDSU batted .172 against him for the game.

Cody Forsythe (SIU) - Forsythe threw SIU’s first complete game since May 3, 2009. He lasted all eight innings in a 4-0 loss at No. 7 South Carolina. The sophomore scattered seven hits to the defending national champions and struck out a career-high six batters. Forsythe only walked one of the 34 batters he faced on the day. Through two starts this year, Forsythe has a 2.40 ERA, given up just nine hits in 15 innings pitched and has 11 strikeouts against two walks. Opposing batters are hitting .170 off him.

Charlie Lowell (WSU) - Lowell earned the win on Friday against North Dakota.  He pitched five hitless and shutout innings and allowed just one walk and tied a career-high with nine strikeouts.  The only two baserunners he allowed in his five innings was a walk and a hit batter.  He struck out at least one batter in every inning and struck out two in four of the five innings.  With his five shutout innings, he has now thrown 21.1 straight innings without allowing an earned run.