Baseball Weekly Notebook (Apr. 18)
Monday, April 18, 2011

With two league action weekends now in the books, Creighton continues to lead the charge with a 5-1 start in Valley play.  The Bluejays swept Indiana State last weekend, while the Sycamores enter this week at 2-4 in conference play.

Illinois State, Missouri State and Southern Illinois are all sitting at 4-2 following last weekend's games.  The Redbirds swept Bradley (1-5 MVC), while the Bears took two-of-three games from the Salukis in Carbondale.

Wichita State evened its league mark at 3-3 after winning the series over Evansville (1-5 MVC) last weekend.

April 19 marks the grand opening of TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, when Creighton hosts Nebraska in the first competition at the venue.  The game was announced as a sellout just hours after tickets went on sale last Monday.

The game will be televised nationwide on the CBS Sports Network and in Nebraska on NET-HD.

Creighton will host the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, May 24-28 in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.  

The Men's College World Series will move to TD Ameritrade Park Omaha after a 61-year run at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. The 2011 CWS will be played June 18-29.

Creighton has played in 15 one-run games this season, tallying an impressive 12-3 record in those contests.  Of Creighton's 33 games in 2011, nearly half (.455) have been decided by just one run.  In fact, only one of the Bluejays' seven losses has been by more than three runs.

Creighton checks in at No. 28 in this week's Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Top 30 poll, while the Bluejays are also receiving votes in the latest USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll.

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, last season was the first time a team won the MVC regular-season title (Illinois State and Wichita State) with fewer than 16 league victories (15-6).

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.    

Illinois State and Wichita State are looking to become just the second Valley school to win back-to-back regular-season titles, as the Shockers are the only league school to have ever accomplished this feat.  Wichita State won back-to-back titles in 2007-2008, were winners of 10 consecutive regular-season championships from 1991-2000 and also won three straight titles from 1987-89.

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 26 of the 27 seasons – the only season Wichita State did not finish in the top three was in 1984, the year the league first adoped a conference schedule.

Missouri State has placed in the league’s top three in 13 of 20 seasons, including 11 of the last 15 seasons. 

Creighton has also finished in the top three 13 times – in the Bluejays' 27 seasons of league play.

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

The Valley has won 20 games against 2010 NCAA Tournament teams, as five league teams have wins over last year's NCAA field – Creighton, Illinois State, Missouri State, Southern Illinois and Wichita State. 

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

The MVC holds a 5-7 record against top-25 teams so far this season, with all five wins belonging to Wichita State (two wins over No. 11 Arizona, two wins at No. 24 Oregon 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). 

Creighton, Evansville, Illinois State and Missouri State each boast winning records both at home and on the road so far this season.  Indiana State is also on the verge, as Sycamores have a winning home record and are just one game below .500 on the road.

The Valley is a whopping 26-1 in non-conference shutout games this season.  Six teams (Wichita State, Creighton, Evansville, Indiana State, Missouri State and Bradley) are all undefeated in non-conference shutout games, while Southern Illinois is 3-1.  Illinois State is the only league team that has not played in a shutout game this season.

This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Trever Adams and Kurt Spomer of Creighton.

Trever Adams, Sr., OF, Creighton
Adams continued to lead the Bluejay offense, going 7-for-14 from the plate last week.  The senior right-fielder improved his overall batting average to .397, driving out two doubles and two home runs on the week, both in the sweep at Indiana State.  Adams finished the week hitting .500, with a slugging percentage of 1.071 and an on-base percentage of .611.  Adams was intentionally walked twice on the week, both against Big 12 power Kansas State.  He was also walked twice in the 6-5 win on Sunday over Indiana State, both after his solo home run and one on four pitches.  Adams finished the day on Saturday (the 9-5 win) going 3-for-4 from the plate, driving in four and scoring once.  He finished the week with five runs scored, scoring in every game last week and twice in the 6-5 Sunday win.  Adams leads the team in average (.397), runs (28), hits (52), home run (10), RBI (44), total bases (101), slugging percentage (.771) and stolen bases (11-13).  Adams is also perfect in the field as well, with 62 put outs and two assists over the 33 games.

Kurt Spomer, Jr., RHP, Creighton
Spomer picked up a win over Kansas State, a win over Indiana State (4/17) and a save at Indiana State (4/16).  In 4.1 innings of work, the right hander gave up just two hits, no runs, walked two and struck out four.  Spomer got out of a jam in the eighth inning of Sunday’s win, coming in with a tie ball game, getting two outs and then striking out two and forcing a ground ball in the ninth to earn the win.  Spomer now has three saves in 6.1 innings of work thus far in the Valley and is 1-0.  He holds a 0.00 ERA, giving up just two hits and two walks, while striking out seven batters.  Spomer is limiting opponents to a .111 batting average against him in conference play.

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

Rob Elliott (BU) - Elliott hit .417 (5-12), drew five walks and was hit by a pitch for a .611 on-base percentage in Bradley’s four game last week.  Moved to the leadoff position for Sunday’s series finale against Illinois State, Elliott responded by reaching base four times – 2-for-3 with a hit by pitch and a walk.  He stole two bases and scored twice in Sunday’s finale.

Cody Fick (UE) - With two outs and trailing, 8-5, senior Cody Fick belted a grand slam in the sixth inning to give Evansville the lead for good over Wichita State, Friday night as UE went on to win, 12-11. The Freeburg, Mo. native finished a triple shy of hitting the cycle in UE’s game one victory over the Shockers, going 3-for-6 with a single, double, grand slam, and six runs batted in. He also made a diving catch at third base for the last out of the game that ended WSU’s ninth inning rally. Fick hit .368 on the week with a .579 slugging percentage, recording at least one hit in each contest. In Evansville’s win over St. Louis, Fick went 2-for-5 with a run scored. Fick currently co-leads the MVC with a .404 average on the season.

Mike Hollenbeck (ILS) - Mike Hollenbeck went 6-for-14 (.429) over the past four games, leading the Redbirds with a .643 slugging percentage, including a team-best seven RBI and a team-high three doubles. Hollenbeck amassed a .529 on-base percentage with two doubles and three walks during the four-game stretch. The Plainfield, Ill., native is now hitting .298 during his freshman season, with 28 RBI.

Koby Kraemer (INS) - Kraemer drove in nearly half of Indiana State’s runs over their four games last week, going 6-for-17 (.353) at the plate with six runs batted in. The ISU sophomore tallied at least one hit in every game for the Sycamores, recording his biggest game on Saturday against Creighton. Kraemer went 2-for-5 on Saturday with a three-run home run and four RBIs overall. For the week, Kraemer led the Sycamores with six hits, 10 total bases and one stolen base.

Jordan Sivertsen (SIU) - Sivertsen drove in 13 runs in five games last week and had at least one RBI in four of the five games. Sivertsen hit two doubles and two home runs, including a grand slam in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against Missouri State. It was his first career grand slam and Sivertsen had a career-high six RBIs to lead SIU to an 11-1 victory over the Bears in seven innings. Sivertsen now has 13 RBIs in six conference games, which is tied for the league-lead, as is his three home runs. The Richmond, Ill. native is batting .328 on the year and has 10 doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 39 RBIs, which is 16 more than any other Saluki.

Preston Springer (WSU) - Springer led the Shockers to a series win over Evansville.  He went 7-for-20 (.350) with four runs, a double, three home runs and 12 RBI in five games last week for the Shockers.  In game one against the Aces, he went 2-for-5 with three RBI and a home run.  In game two, he went 3-for-5 with five RBI, a double and a home run and in game three, he went 1-for-3 with four RBI and a home run.  He homered in all three of the Evansville games and now has five on the year. 

Dan Savas (ILS) - Dan Savas (3-1) pitched five innings without allowing an earned run, as the freshman right-hander led Illinois State to a 12-2 win against Bradley Saturday evening. Savas allowed just four hits, walked one and struck out nine. The Rosemont, Ill., native now has the second-lowest ERA among starters (3.41) and ranks second on the team with 46 strikeouts.

Colin Rea (INS) - Rea struck out eight batters in eight innings on Friday night, allowing just two runs on a pair of solo home runs by the Creighton Bluejays. Rea threw a season-high 124 pitches on Friday, scattering six hits as the Sycamores and Bluejays battled in the series opener. The ISU junior leads the team with a 3.39 ERA while going 6-2 on the mound, including one save.

Dan Kickham (MSU) - Kickham posted a pair of two-inning scoreless outings this week, recording one save, four strikeouts and a .182 opponent average. Tuesday, the junior pitched the final two innings against 16th-ranked Arkansas, fanning two against one hit. Sunday, Kickham entered the Bears’ MVC game at Southern Illinois with a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning and held the Salukis scoreless for the two-inning save, his longest of the year, to move into a tie for third in school history with eight saves on the season.

Cody Forsythe (SIU) - Forsythe improved to 2-0 in MVC play by throwing a complete-game victory in SIU’s 11-1 win over Missouri State in seven innings in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Forsythe scattered seven hits and allowed just the one run. He struck out five batters and walked only one, as he has not given up more than one walk in any of his nine starts this season. Forsythe has allowed one run in each of his last three starts and he leads the conference with 62.1 innings pitched.

Charlie Lowell (WSU) - Lowell earned the win with a complete game effort in game two against Evansville on Saturday.  He pitched eight innings and gave up one unearned run on six hits with one walk and eight strikeouts.  He struck out at least one batter in six of the eight innings.  He allowed five hits in the first four innings and then just one in the final four innings as he retired 14 of the final 15 batters.  The only run he allowed scored with two outs in the fourth on a passed ball.  He is now 2-0 in Valley play with a 0.56 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched.