IT'S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE
With four league weeks in the books Creighton (9-3 MVC) has taken a two-game lead heading into the final three weeks of the regular season. A three-way tie for second place has emerged between Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Wichita State – which all sit at 7-5 in Valley play.
Missouri State (6-5 MVC) lost its first league series of the season last weekend to Evansville (5-6 MVC), as the Purple Aces have won four straight games.
Indiana State (4-8 MVC) and Bradley (2-10 MVC) hope to get back on the winning track this weekend as both the Sycamores and Braves return to their home fields for MVC play.
BATTLE OF THE BIG STICKS
League-leading Creighton will head to Wichita State this weekend, in a Valley series that looms large in the ranks of the MVC standings. The league's top-two hitters – Creighton's Trever Adams (.411) and Wichita State's Chris O'Brien (.404) will showcase their hot hitting in as the Bluejays and Shockers battle this weekend.
SAFE AT HOME?
After compiling an impressive 70-27 (.722) record in home non-conference contests, league teams are just 22-24 (.478) in home Valley games. Just three teams (Creighton, Missouri State and Wichita State) have an above .500 record at home in MVC contests, as the Bluejays, Bears and Shockers are all 4-2 so far this season.
80 STOLEN BASES
For the second time in program history, Bradley has stolen 80 bases. With at least 12 games remaining on the 2011 schedule, the Braves remain on pace to break the longest-standing team record on the books. The 1956 Braves swiped 99 bases in just 32 games.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR
Creighton played its 41st game of the 2011 season on Sunday, May 1, defeating the Bradley Braves 16-6. Creighton has now matched its best start of the season in the history of the program, holding a 31-10 record after the first 41 games. Two other teams have started with the same record, the 2005 NCAA Tournament team and the 1991 College World Series team.
The Jays picked up 39 hits in the weekend series with Bradley, led by the 14-hit outing on Friday night. Creighton’s 1-4 hitters had 10 of the 14 hits on Friday, with Trever Adams leading the way with four. The 14 hits marked a season high by the Jays, while Creighton’s 16 runs, 16 RBI and six doubles on Sunday also marked season highs.
Evansville has won seven of its last 10 games, including its last four Valley contests. In those games, the Aces’ pitching staff has been completely dominant. The hurlers own a collective 1.00 ERA, 21 strikeouts, and a .176 batting average against in the four consecutive wins, including complete game shutouts for Cody Fick and Cole Isom. Closer Jake Naumann picked up two saves this weekend, throwing a scoreless two and a third innings.
LONG MAKES HISTORY
Kenny Long earned his 13th career save Sunday against Indiana State, moving him into sole possession of first place on the Illinois State career saves list. Long moved above current Baltimore Oriole Jeremy Accardo.
OFFENSE RUNS THROUGH ORT
Sophomore Robby Ort is averaging over one RBI and one run scored per game, the only player to do so this season in the MVC. Ort leads the Sycamores in nearly all offensive categories, with a .350 batting average, eight home runs, six triples, 45 RBIs and 42 runs scored in 41 games played.
BEARS AGAINST THE BIG 12
Missouri State hosts Missouri Tuesday in its seventh game against the Big 12 this season. The Bears are 4-2 this year against the conference, a .667 winning percentage that would place MSU third in the BCS league. MSU owns wins over Oklahoma State, Kansas (twice) and Missouri, while losing to Nebraska and Kansas State in 2011.
QUITE A CAREER
Southern Illinois senior center fielder Chris Murphy played in the 200th game of his career last Saturday. The Saluki veteran, who was a second team All-MVC selection in 2010, has moved into a tie with Steve Finley for eighth-place in SIU history with 246 career hits. He needs to score five more runs and play in 10 more game to break into the top-10 in program history in those respective categories.
Saluki freshman reliever Tyler Dray’s six saves this year are the third most by an SIU freshman in program history. Dray leads the team with 18 appearances and has a 1-1 record with 25.0 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .234 off of the 6-5 lefty and he has 21 strikeouts against 10 walks.
NOT TOO SHABBY
Wichita State is 7-3 in the last 10 games. In those 10 games, the Shockers are hitting .343 with a team ERA of 2.69. Chris O’Brien is leading the way with a .452 average in the last 10 games, while Preston Springer is hitting .415, Micah Green .414, Johnny Coy .410, Tyler Grimes .357, Tyler Coughenour .333 and Walker Davidson .313. Charlie Lowell is 3-0 in the last 10 games with a 1.27 ERA and Brian Flynn is 2-1 with a 2.62 ERA.
PUT ME IN COACH
Freshman outfielder Micah Green had a career-day in game three at Southern Illinois on April 30. He went 2-for-3 with a career-high seven RBI. He hit his first career home run, a grand slam, for his first four RBI, used a sacrifice fly to drive in his fifth run, earned a bases loaded walk for the sixth RBI and drove in his final run with a single. He is the first Shocker to have seven RBI in a game since Nick Blasi had seven against Sam Houston State on March 12, 2004.
Creighton has played in 19 one-run games this season, tallying an impressive 13-6 record in those contests. Of Creighton's 41 games in 2011, nearly half (.463) have been decided by just one run. In fact, only one of the Bluejays' 10 losses has been by more than three runs.
AGAINST THE FIELD
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).
AGAINST THE 2010 NCAA FIELD
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 6-9 record against top-25 teams so far this season, with all six wins belonging to Wichita State (two wins over No. 11 Arizona, two wins at No. 24 Oregon, one win at No. 24 Tulane and one win against No. 19 Oklahoma State). The Valley was a combined 2-11 against top-25 teams last season.
AGAINST THE BIG DOGS
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).
The Valley is a whopping 27-1 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.
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, 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 adopted 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.
TOP-10 TEAM STATISTICS
Creighton ranks in the nation's top-10 in two different categories (through April 24 games).
The Bluejays are ninth in sacrifice bunts with 52 and also ranks 10th in fielding percentage (.978).
This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Jimmy Swift of Creighton and Kyle Lloyd of Evansville.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jimmy Swift, Sr., SS, Creighton
Swift was one of Creighton’s most productive hitters in the last week, going 7-for-16 from the plate (.438) as the Jays finished the week 4-0. The senior shortstop drove in 10 runs in the four games last week, including four in the 16-6 win over Bradley on Sunday. Swift had three doubles in that game, two in the eight-run, seventh inning. Swift also had three RBI in a 1-for-4 performance n Saturday and two RBI in his 3-for-4 outing on Friday night. Swift scored four runs on the week and picked up his second home run of the season in the outing. He now has eight doubles. Defensively, Swift was perfect in the field on the week, going error-free in his 21 chances. On the season, Swift now is hitting .299 with 46 hits and 28 runs scored. He has walked a team leading 17 times and also has a team high 10 hit by pitch this season.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Kyle Lloyd, So., RHP, Evansville
Lloyd piloted Evansville to a 3-1 conference victory over Missouri State, hurling eight solid innings, allowing just one unearned run, three hits, while striking out three. In his fourth win of the season, Lloyd sat down 12 consecutive batters from the second to the sixth innings, as he went on to pitch four perfect in the contest. Lloyd shut down the Bears’ conference-leading offense, limiting the visitors to a .120 batting average, while also not allowing any hits for extra bases and ended three MSU players’ multi-game hit steaks.
Noteworthy - In addition to the league's player and pitcher of the week selections, several conference players had notable performances, and they include:
Trentt Copeland (UE) - Copeland led Evansville to two wins over Missouri State, batting .750 with a 1.000 slugging percentage and .750 on-base percentage. Copeland went 3-for-4 in both victories with two singles and a double in each contest. In UE’s 3-1 win, the junior sparked both of the Ace’s rallies in the fourth and sixth innings with a single, double, and run scored. In game two, the Guelph, Ontario native recorded an RBI and two runs scored and tallied his 16th double of the season. Playing second base, Copeland turned the game-ending double play, his 24th of the season, that preserved the, 5-4, win as the Bears threatened with bases loaded and one out in the one-run game. Copeland is hitting .359 on the season and leads the conference with a .513 batting average against MVC opponents.
Josh Colon (ILS) - Colon led the Redbird offense against Indiana State, going 5-for-9 (.556) with a run and a RBI against the Sycamores. Colon amassed a .636 on-base percentage and slugged .556. The senior from Chicago collected five total bases, including two walks. Colon has the second-highest batting average on the team with 10 doubles.
Kyle Burnam (INS) - Burnam began this past weekend’s MVC series at Illinois State by reaching base in his first seven trips to the plate, picking up two singles, a double, a solo home run, a pair of walks and a hit by pitch before making an out in the field. Burnam led ISU with four hits last week, also recording three RBIs. The junior outfielder’s home run against the Redbirds gave ISU the lead on Saturday, as the Sycamores picked up the 3-1 victory.
Johnny Coy (WSU) - Coy led the Shockers to a 3-1 week including a series win at then-league leader Southern Illinois and a win against No. 19 Oklahoma State. He went 9-for-17 (.529) with four runs, two double, a home run and five RBI. Against No. 19 OSU, he went 3-for-5 with a run, a double, a home run and four RBI. His two-run home run tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. In game one against SIU, he went 3-for-4 and in game two, he went 1-for-3 with a run and a double. In the series finale, he went 2-for-5 with two runs and an RBI. I.
Jonas Dufek (CU) - In one of Dufek’s most dominant outings of the season, the right handed pitcher had his best outing of the MVC regular season. Dufek threw 8.0 innings, giving up just five hits, one earned run and striking out seven. He raised his strikeout total on the season to 80, third in the MVC. Dufek faced 30 batters and threw 110 pitches in his eight outings. He held opponents to a .185 average against and recorded a 1.12 era on the week. On the season, Dufek now has a 2.33 era and is 7-1 overall in his 10 starts. In 73.1 innings of work, he has given up just 19 earned runs and is holding opponents to a .192 average against.
Corey Maines (ILS) - Maines (8-1) earned the win in Illinois State’s 8-2 victory against Indiana State Friday afternoon at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Ill. Maines pitched 6.2 innings without allowing an earned run, striking out nine and walking one The Dallas, Texas native, who is the all-time career wins leader at Illinois State with 23, leads the Redbirds this season with a 2.24 ERA and 85 strikeouts.
Sean Manaea (INS) - Manaea turned his best pitching performance in Missouri Valley Conference action on Saturday, leading the Sycamores to a 3-1 victory by tossing seven innings, allowing just three hits and one run with five strikeouts and four walks. The Indiana State southpaw allowed just one scoring play, a solo home run in the second inning, before shutting down the Redbird offense for the remainder of the afternoon.
Cody Forsythe (SIU) - Forsythe continued his domination in Missouri Valley Conference play, improving to 4-0 in the league by throwing a complete game, 4-3, victory over Wichita State on Saturday. It was his second complete game in MVC play and his third overall this year. Forsythe limited the Shockers to just five hits in the game and struck out five without walking a single batter. Just one of the three runs scored on him were earned and he threw first-pitch strikes to 25 of the 35 batters he faced in the game. Forsythe only threw 102 pitches in his nine masterful innings and he had three 1-2-3 innings. His 11th start this year lowered his already league-leading ERA down to 1.95. Through four MVC starts, Forsythe has a 0.90 ERA, allowed just five runs and only three earned, struck out 24 batters and walked just four.
Cale Elam (WSU) - Elam helped the Shockers to a 3-1 week including a series win at then-league leader Southern Illinois and a win over No. 19 Oklahoma State. He pitched in relief in three of the four games and earned saves in two of them. In his three appearances, he pitched 3.1 shutout innings and allowed three hits with three strikeouts. Against No. 19 OSU, he pitched the ninth and struck out two to pick up his third save of the season. In game one at SIU, he pitched 0.2 innings with one strikeout to pick up his fourth save of the year. He also pitched in game three at SIU in a non-save situation. He went 1.2 shutout innings in that game. He now has a team-high four saves on the season and lowered his ERA to 0.91.