SEEDS UP FOR GRABS
With just one weekend remaining in the regular season schedule, Illinois State (13-5 MVC, .722) and Wichita State (15-6 MVC, .714) sit atop the league standings. The Redbirds can lock up the No. 1 seed for next week's MVC Baseball Championship with a sweep of their weekend opponent (at Southern Illinois), but the Shockers will earn the No. 1 seed if Illinois State falls in at least one game this weekend. Wichita State holds the tiebreaker over Illinois State (Shockers won the series with the Redbirds, 2-1), and thus would have the upper hand for seeding purposes in the event of a tie in the final league standings.
Creighton (11-7 MVC, .611) and Missouri State (11-7 MVC, .611) will battle it out this weekend for the No. 3 seed, with the winner of the Bluejays/Bears series in Omaha this weekend nabbing the No. 3 seed, while the series loser will take the No. 4 seed into next week's championship.
Evansville (10-10 MVC, .500) is locked in as the No. 5 seed regardless of the outcome of any games this weekend.
Indiana State (7-10 MVC, .412) and Southern Illinois (6-12 MVC, .333) are playing for the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds this weekend. The Sycamores can lock up the No. 6 seed with at least two victories this weekend against Bradley, while the Salukis require at least two victories against Illinois State and some help from Bradley (against Indiana State) to obtain the No. 6 seed.
Bradley (1-17 MVC, .056) will be the No. 8 seed in next week's MVC Baseball Championship.
Both Illinois State (33-18) and Wichita State (31-24) have already passed the 30-win plateau this season. The Redbirds have had 30+ wins in four-straight seasons, the longest streak in program history, and 2013 marks the 11th time overall that Illinois State has compiled 30+ wins in a season. Head coach Mark Kingston has recorded 30+ victories in each of his four seasons at Illinois State.
The Shockers 31 wins so far this season mark the 36th consecutive 30+ win season for Wichita State.
Missouri State (29-19) needs just one more victory to tally its 19th 30+ win season since 1991, while Creighton (28-14) needs two more wins to top the 30-win plateau for the 24th time.
Creighton and Wichita State continue to rank in the top-25 in average attendance this season. The Bluejays welcome 2,967 fans to TD Ameritrade each game, good for 17th in the nation, while the Shockers average 2,624 fans to Eck Stadium each contest, currently ranking 23rd in NCAA DI.
WATCH THE TOURNAMENT
Every game of this year’s MVC Baseball Championship will be available on the air. ESPN3 (www.espn3.com) will carry the first 14 games of the tournament and Fox Sports Midwest will televise the tournament final on Saturday, May 25 at 7 p.m.
This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player and Pitcher of the Week are Bradley's Mike Tauchman and Missouri State's Nick Petree, respectively.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Mike Tauchman, Sr., OF, Bradley
Tauchman took his torrid hitting pace to a new level by going 11-for-16 (.688) with three walks in Bradley’s four games last week. Tauchman, who also stole six bases in as many attempts, contributed to 11 runs in the four games with seven runs scored and four RBI’s. The lefty swinging Tauchman was 7-for-7 vs left-handed pitching in the four games, raising his season average against southpaws to a ridiculous .634 (26-41). After going 9-for-12 with two walks in the three-game series versus Southern Illinois, Tauchman raised his batting average in 18 MVC games to .493 and his league on-base percentage to .551. For the season, Tauchman is batting .437 with a .522 on-base percentage. During one stretch spanning three games, Tauchman reached base safely in seven consecutive plate appearances.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Nick Petree, Jr., RHP, Missouri State
In perhaps his final home start in a Missouri State uniform, Nick Petree kept his perfect Hammons Field record intact with a complete-game, 10-strikeout effort to beat Wright State and stop the Bears’ six-game losing streak Friday. Petree (8-1) permitted just three hits -- none after the fourth inning -- to improve to 12-0 in 18 appearances as a Bear at Hammons Field. The right-hander equaled Pierce Johnson’s MSU record of four-straight double-digit strikeout efforts and became the first pitcher in school history to top the 100-strikeout barrier in consecutive seasons. Petree cruised home by retiring 15 of the final 16 hitters he faced to finish off the 6-1 win and his second complete game of the season.
Noteworthy - In addition to the league's player and pitcher of the week selections, several conference players had notable performances, and they include:
Federico Castagnini (CU) - Castagnini opened the week with a 2-for-3, two RBI and two run performance to lead the Jays past South Dakota State, 7-1. Castagnini went on to lead Creighton to its first series win in Wichita since 2003. Castagnini delivered at least one hit in each contest, closing the week with a .357 average (5-for-14). Federico drew three walks, posted a .429 slugging percentage, a .444 on-base percentage and was flawless in the field.
Jason Hockemeyer (UE) - Hockemeyer hit .467 (7-for-15) for Evansville this week, recording a hit in each of the Purple Aces’ four games. The senior outfielder started the week by going 3-for-5 with a double and a triple in UE’s 11-7 win over SIU Edwardsville. In Friday night’s win, Hockemeyer went 1-for-4 with a run scored and swiped a base and followed it up with a 1-for-3 effort, including a double Saturday. Hockemeyer closed the week by going 2-for-3 with his first home run of the season Sunday afternoon.
Eric Aguilera (ILS) - Aguilera paced the Redbirds to a .636/.714/.818 weekend as Illinois State won a MVC series versus Evansville. The Cary, Ill., native tallied two doubles, collected seven RBI, scored five runs and played error-free defense in right field. His walk-off RBI single on Sunday capped a 14-4 run-rule victory over Evansville, securing a first place standing for the Redbirds with just three Valley games to go.
Robby Ort (INS) - Ort led the Indiana State baseball team last week, hitting .478 (11-for-23) with eight RBIs over five games. Ort tallied at least two hits in all five games for the Sycamores, including a 3-for-5 effort with five runs batted in on Saturday against Alcorn State. The ISU senior also stole four bases, scored five runs and played perfect defense in the field with 46 putouts and two assists at first base during the week. For the season, Ort leads Indiana State with 54 hits and 36 runs batted in.
Spencer Johnson (MSU) - After going hitless in his first six plate appearances of the week, Spencer Johnson heated up to bat .615 over his last 13 at-bats to help the Bears snap a six-game losing streak with wins in two of their three contests against Wright State. The Springfield native went 7-for-10 with three RBIs in MSU’s series win over WSU, posting multi-hit games in all three outings. In Friday’s 6-1 victory, Johnson drove in two runs with a pair of hits and reached base in three of his four trips to the plate to help halt MSU’s longest skid in three years. The following day, he went 2-for-3 with a double and drove in the go-ahead run with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly in a 3-1 Bears win. Finally, Johnson recorded a career-high three hits and swiped a pair of bases in Sunday’s 6-4 loss.
Jake Welch (SIU) - Welch helped the Salukis to a three-game sweep of Bradley over the weekend. In addition to his .364 average for the series, he drew four walks and scored three runs. Welch singled and scored to start a five-run rally in the sixth inning of Friday’s game. On Saturday he turned a pair of game-saving double plays, and on Sunday he drew a career high three walks and scored a run in SIU’s six-run ninth inning.
Garrett Bayliff (WSU) - Bayliff hit .412 in four games last week for the Shockers. He went 7-for-17 with one run, one double, one RBI and two walks. He went 3-for-5 with a run and a double on Tuesday against Kansas. In the first game against Creighton, he went 2-for-5 with an RBI. In game two, he went 1-for-3 with a walk and in game three, he went 1-for-4 with a walk.
Matt Warren (CU) - Warren was near perfect in a 7.2 inning performance against South Dakota State on Tuesday. The freshman hurler recorded the longest mid-week start (7.2 innings) since Ed Servais took over the Bluejays in 2004. Warren held the Jackrabbits to one unearned run on one hit, needing just 96 pitches. He issued three walks and recorded two strikeouts as he established a new career-high for innings.
Josh Biggs (UE) - Biggs turned in Evansville’s best start this weekend and earned the win over Illinois State by allowing just two runs on six hits in 6.0 innings to outduel the Redbirds’ Chris Razo. The senior left-hander struck out a career-high nine batters and was able to pitch around four walks to earn the victory.
Dan Savas (ILS) - Savas fired his third complete-game victory this season for ISU, limiting the Purple Aces to three runs, two earned, in seven innings of work Saturday at Duffy Bass Field. The redshirt sophomore struck out seven, scatted six hits and improved to 8-0 as ISU defeated the Purple Aces 17-3.
Sean Manaea (INS) - Manaea struck out a season-high 11 batters on Friday against Alcorn State, allowing just three hits over seven innings on the mound. Manaea struck out the side in the opening inning and recorded six strikeouts through three innings before Alcorn State posted their first baserunner of the game in the fourth inning. The Sycamore southpaw has 88 strikeouts in 68.1 innings this season, entering last weekend ranking seventh in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings pitched. For the season, Manaea is 5-4 with a 1.58 ERA over 11 starts.
Cody Forsythe (SIU) - On a day in which he became SIU’s all-time leader in career innings pitched, Forsythe also picked up his second conference win of the season. He allowed two runs off eight hits and struck out a season-high eight batters in Friday night’s 6-2 win over Bradley. The senior held the Braves scoreless through the first five innings of the game as SIU built a 6-0 lead before finally surrendering a single run in the sixth and one more in the eighth.
Garrett Brummett (WSU) - Brummett earned the win in the Valley finale for the Shockers on Sunday against Creighton. He pitched six innings and gave up one run on four hits with no walks and three strikeouts. The six innings pitched was a new career-high for the freshman. He has now allowed just one run in his last 22.1 innings pitched this season.
AGAINST THE FIELD
The MVC holds a winning record against 11 leagues in non-conference play (Great West, Horizon, Mid-American, Metro Atlantic, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC and WAC), and at least a .500 record against another four leagues (ACC, Atlantic Sun, Conference USA and Mountain West,).
AGAINST THE 2012 NCAA FIELD
The Valley has won 18 games against 2012 NCAA Tournament teams, as seven league teams have wins over last year's NCAA field – Bradley, Creighton, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Southern Illinois and Wichita State.
The Bluejays, Bears, Salukis and Shockers each have three wins against the 2012 NCAA field (Creighton all over Dallas Baptist; Missouri State over New Mexico, Sam Houston State and Missouri; Southern Illinois over Austin Peay, Belmont and UAB; Wichita State all over Oral Roberts). The Braves, Redbirds and Sycamores each have two wins against the 2012 NCAA field, including Belmont (BU and ILS), Dayton (BU), Miami-Fla. (ILS), Austin Peay (INS) and College of Charleston (INS).
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.