Baseball Weekly Notebook (Mar. 21)
Monday, March 21, 2011

The Missouri Valley Conference has shown marked improvement in non-conference action from a season ago, as the league has already tallied three victories over top-25 opponents (two in 2010), has an above .500 record against 13 conferences (nine in 2010) and has registered 12 wins over 2010 NCAA opponents.  Against the six BCS conferences, the Valley holds a winning record over three (Big 12, Big East and Pac-10) and an even .500 record against another two (ACC and Big Ten), after not reaching .500 status against any of the power six conferences a season ago.   

Wichita State checks in at No. 24 in this week's Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Top 30 poll, while both the Shockers and Creighton are receiving votes in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll.

The MVC holds a winning record against 13 leagues in non-conference play (Atlantic-10, Big 12, Big East, Great West, Horizon, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mountain West, Ohio Valley, Pac-10, Southland, SWAC and Summit) and at least a .500 mark against another three (ACC, Big Ten and Sun Belt). 

The Valley has won 12 games against 2010 NCAA Tournament teams, as all nine wins have come from four teams – Creighton, Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Wichita State. 

The Bluejays have five wins against the 2010 NCAA field – all four versus New Mexico.  Illinois State and Wichita State have each tallied three wins versus 2010 Tournament teams – as the Redbirds have beaten UW-Milwaukee twice and Miami (FL) once, while the Shockers have two wins versus Arizona and one over Oral Roberts.  Southern Illinois notched the final two wins over 2010 NCAA Tournament participants, including wins over Grambling State and Oral Roberts.

This week, Valley schools have a chance to pick up seven more wins against 2010 NCAA Tournament teams, as Missouri State faces Oral Roberts in a three-game series, while Wichita State travels to Oregon for a four-game set.

The MVC holds a 3-5 record against top-25 teams so far this season, with all three wins belonging to Wichita State (two wins over No. 11 Arizona and one win at No. 24 Tulane).  The Valley was a combined 2-11 against top-25 teams last season. 

Against the six BCS conferences, the Valley holds a winning record over three (Big 12, Big East and Pac-10) and an even .500 record against another two (ACC and Big Ten). 

This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Tyler McNeely of Illinois State and Jonas Dufek of Creighton.

Tyler McNeely, Sr., OF, Illinois State
Tyler McNeely led the Redbird offense last week, hitting .571 (8-for-14) and slugging .929. McNeely amassed five RBI and scored four runs, as the senior from Normal, Ill., helped ISU to a home-opening victory over SIU Edwardsville and a 2-1 series win against Austin Peay. McNeely had a team-best three extra-base hits, including two doubles and one home run during the four-game stretch. He also established a team-high .588 on-base percentage, accumulated 13 total bases, and recorded seven putouts without an error in left field. In ISU’s series opener against the Governors, McNeely led ISU with a 4-for-4 effort, including four RBI, and three runs scored. McNeely was also the Redbirds’ offensive leader in ISU’s rubber game victory against Austin Peay, going 3-for-5 with one run scored. McNeely now leads the Redbirds with a .375 overall batting average, a .750 slugging percentage and a .538 on-base percentage. The senior left-fielder also has a team-best five home runs and 42 total bases, plus six doubles (tied for second-most), 21 hits (tied for second-most) and 18 RBI (second-most).

Jonas Dufek, Sr., RHP, Creighton
The right hander from Omaha threw the first complete game for the Jays this season, defeating Valparaiso 1-0 in Edwardsville on Saturday.  Dufek threw a career high 13 strikeouts in the nine inning appearance on the mound, giving up just two hits and walking just one in the 29 batters he faced on the day.  Dufek now has a team and MVC best 40 strikeouts on the season while just giving up 10 walks and owns a 1.62 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched.

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

Brad Kimball (BU) -
Kimball hit .700 (7-for-10) with three doubles in four games last week.  Kimball hit safely in all four games he played last week, including a pinch-hit double Monday versus Bucknell and a walk-off single in the ninth inning of Thursday’s 6-5 win versus North Dakota State after entering the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.  In his two starts, Kimball was 2-for-3 with a double and run scored Wednesday versus Jacksonville State and 3-for-4 with a double, a walk and a run scored in Saturday’s 8-5 win against Butler.

Chance Ross (CU) - Ross led the team last week with five hits, including going three-for-four at Air Force, driving in two runs with a double and his first home run as a Bluejay.  Ross has played flawless at the hot corner, making no errors in 15 chances last week, with nine assists and six put outs.  He has also raised his batting average nearly a hundred points since the SDSU series, where he with nine hits in the three game series (last weekend).

Cody Fick (UE) - Fick led Evansville with a .364 batting average and piloted the Aces to a 2-1 series win over visiting Michigan State at the plate, in the field, and on the mound. Fick scored a run, stole two bases, and had two multi-hit games while also improving his record to 3-0 on the mound, as UE topped the Spartans, 6-5, Sunday afternoon. Fick threw six full innings, allowing two runs on four hits, while also going 2-for-4 at the plate. Although third base is Fick’s primary position, the Freeburg, Mo. native leads the Aces’ pitching staff with a 0.90 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 20.0 innings pitched.

Robby Ort (INS) - Ort tallied more extra-base hits and RBIs than the entire Eastern Kentucky squad this past weekend, going 5-for-13 (.385) at the plate with a double, triple and home run. Ort also led ISU with nine RBIs over the three-game sweep of the Colonels, who as a team tallied just one extra-base hit (a double on Friday night) and six RBIs. Ort’s best game of the weekend came on Sunday, when the sophomore outfielder went 2-for-3 at the plate with a three-run home run and a bases-loaded, three-run triple. Ort also tied for the team-lead with five runs scored this weekend, while also stealing one base.

Brock Chaffin (MSU) - Chaffin batted .455 with a home run, five RBIs and two steals for the Bears last week. The junior DH slugged .818 while drawing five walks and being hit by a pitch for a .647 on-base percentage. He did most of his damage in the weekend Western Illinois series, reaching base four times with two RBIs in Saturday’s win, then driving in three runs and scoring another Sunday. Chaffin reached base safely in all five contests.

Chris Murphy (SIU) - Murphy batted .458 in five games last week to lead the Southern Illinois baseball team. He had three multiple-hit games over the week, including his four-hit performance at Middle Tennessee on March 16. That was his second four-hit game of the season, which matches his career-high. Murphy by himself accounted for 21 percent of the team’s hits in five games last week. The left-handed hitter is now batting .385 on the year, has nine more hits than anyone else on the team and leads the team in runs scored with 10.

Jacob Booden (BU) - The 6-foot-9 junior right‐hander improved to 3-0 by allowing two unearned runs on three hits in 6.0 innings, leading the Braves to an eventual 7-5 win versus Akron Friday at the RussMatt Baseball Central Florida Invitational.  Booden, who has not allowed an extra-base hit in any of his last four starts, struck out a season-best eight hitters while lowering his earned run average to 0.68.

Cole Isom (UE) - Isom (3-1) went the distance Saturday afternoon, throwing nine scoreless innings to give the University of Evansville a 2-0 victory over Big Ten foe Michigan State. Isom capped the complete-game shutout with two straight strikeouts in a three-up, three-down ninth. He allowed just eight scattered hits and three walks to the 35 batters he faced, while striking out four. Isom is off to an incredible first-year campaign, as he has not allowed a run in his last three outings, totaling 21 scoreless consecutive innings.

Corey Maines (ILS) - Maines improved to 3-0, Mar. 18, as the Houston, Texas native led ISU to a victory over Austin Peay. Maines pitched 7.0 innings, allowing just one run on four hits, while striking out six and walking two. Maines currently has a 2.67 ERA through a team-high 30.1 innings pitched. The right-hander has given up just nine earned runs, while striking out a team-high 30 batters. Maines is limiting opposing hitters to a .211 batting average.

Jason Van Skike (INS) - Van Skike tossed half of ISU’s second shutout of the season this past weekend, throwing the first seven innings of ISU’s 1-0, 15-inning victory on Saturday. Van Skike allowed just three hits and a .125 opponent’s batting average during his time on the mound, striking out five batters and walking five. The ISU senior leads the team with a 3.16 ERA this season and has let in just one earned run in his last 24 innings on the hill.

Clay Murphy (MSU) - Murphy went 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three relief appearances for the Bears last week. The sophomore struck out eight and allowed five hits for a .208 opponent average. Murphy began his week by getting the final two outs, both strikeouts, Tuesday night in the 13th inning against SEMO, then pitched the final two innings the next day to earn the win against the Redhawks. He allowed one hit, entering a 1-1 game in the eighth before the Bears scored the walk-off, 2-1 victory. Against Western Illinois on the weekend, he pitched four innings over two days to earn his second victory of the week. Murphy tossed two innings Saturday before rain delayed the game until Sunday afternoon, then pitched the first two innings of the resumption to finish with five strikeouts against four hits in another win.

Tim Kelley (WSU) - Kelley earned his third win of the year on Friday against Penn State.  He threw seven shutout innings and allowed just six singles and one walk along with seven strikeouts.  With his seven shutout innings, he now has a scoreless streak of 16.