With just two weekends remaining in the league schedule, Evansville (11-4 MVC) still holds a slim one-game lead over second-place Illinois State (10-5 MVC). The Purple Aces and the Redbirds will meet up this weekend in an important series in Evansville at Braun Stadium. Evansville is 7-2 in home league games this season, while Illinois State is 4-2 in road Valley games in 2014.
A three-way tie for third-place in the MVC standings exists between Indiana State, Dallas Baptist and Wichita State, which all sit at 9-6 in Valley play. The Shockers will welcome the Patriots to Eck Stadium this weekend in a pivotal matchup with heavy implications. Wichita State is a league-best 8-1 in league games at home this season, while the Patriots have a 6-3 road record in Valley action.
Indiana State (9-6 MVC) returns to play after a 10-day layoff to host Missouri State (7-8 MVC) this weekend, while Bradley (4-14 MVC) and Southern Illinois (4-14 MVC) take a break from Valley action this weekend.
Strong League RPI/NPI
The Missouri Valley Conference continues to rank amongst the nation’s best in terms of winning percentage, RPI and NPI. The league holds the fourth-best winning percentage (.603), the fifth-highest conference RPI and the nation’s fourth-best NPI.
Two Teams in RPI’s Top-35
Two league teams rank in the top-35 of the RPI, in Indiana State (No. 20) and Dallas Baptist (No. 35). Illinois State (No. 58), Evansville (No. 61) and Wichita State (No. 94) also continue to rank in the nation’s top-100.
In Good Company
The Missouri Valley Conference is one of just six leagues to have at least three teams with 30+ wins (Dallas Baptist, Evansville and Illinois State), joining the SEC (9), Big 12 (5), Conference USA (4), ACC (3) and Pac-12 (3).
As mentioned, the Valley already has three teams with 30 or more wins this season (Dallas Baptist, Evansville and Illinois State), while Indiana State (29) and Wichita State (25) are both within reach of the 30-win plateau.
Over the last 15 seasons, the MVC has had at least three teams with 30+ wins in all but one season (2004). In that same span, four teams have had 30 or more victories seven times, while 30+ wins were produced by five teams in 2001 and six teams in 2012.
With Evansville’s victory at Southern Illinois on Sunday, the Purple Aces notched their 30th win of the season, marking the third time in sixth-year head coach Wes Carroll’s tenure that UE has reached the 30 win mark. The most wins that an Evansville squad as tallied under Carroll is 32, which occurred in both 2010 (32-27) and 2012 (32-27).
Sunday’s 22-4 win at Western Illinois marked the 30th victory this season for Redbird baseball. It marks a school-record five-consecutive seasons ISU has won at least 30 games under fifth-year head coach Mark Kingston. He becomes the first coach in school history to tally five 30-win seasons and it’s just the 13th time in school history the Redbirds have surpassed the 30-win plateau.
Heefner Approaching 250
Dallas Baptist head coach Dan Heefner is approaching 250 career wins. The 36-year old Heefner, who is in his seventh season as the Patriots’ head coach, owns a career-record of 247-148 (.625). Heefner entered the 2014 season with a .621 win percentage, ranking him as the 34th winningest active coach in NCAA Division I baseball. Heefner will coach in his 400th career game on Tuesday, May 13, versus Oklahoma.
Kyle the K-Man
Kyle Freeland became just the fourth player in Evansville history to reach 100 or more strikeouts in a season, as he racked up nine more strikeouts against Southern Illinois on Friday night to bring his season total to 106, tying him with John MacCauley for the third-most strikeouts in a season in program history. On Evansville’s all-time strikeout list, Freeland is now tied for seventh with 261 Ks.
Against the Field
The MVC holds a winning record against 15 leagues in non-conference play (America East, Atlantic Sun, Atlantic-10, Big East, Big South, Big Ten, Ivy, Mid-American, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Southland, SWAC, Summit, WAC and West Coast), and at least a .500 record against another six leagues (American Athletic, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Mountain West and Sun Belt).
The MVC has won five games against top-25 opponents so far this season, as Wichita State has four victories (No. 9 Cal State Fullerton, twice, No. 15 Oklahoma State and No. 20 UC Santa Barbara). Evansville won the league’s other game against a top-25 opponent, topping No. 4 Vanderbilt.
In the last five seasons, the Valley has only registered five or more victories against top-25 teams on one other occasion (2011, seven wins).
Against 2013 NCAA Field
The Valley has won 30 games against 2013 NCAA Tournament teams, as all eight league teams have wins over last year’s NCAA field.
Wichita State has recorded the most wins (eight) against the 2013 NCAA field (Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton twice, Central Arkansas, Coastal Carolina twice, Oklahoma State and UC Santa Barbara).
Indiana State has six victories over 2013 NCAA Tournament teams, including Austin Peay, Canisius, Connecticut, Indiana and UNC Wilmington twice. Southern Illinois and Missouri State each have four wins (Austin Peay and Illinois, both twice) and (Central Arkansas, twice, New Mexico and Saint Louis), respectively.
The Patriots have three wins against the 2013 NCAA field, including Oklahoma, Sam Houston State and UTSA. The Purple Aces (Austin Peay and Vanderbilt) and Redbirds (Bowling Green and Illinois) each have two wins over NCAA Tournament participants, while the Braves have one victory (Saint Louis).
MVC Players of the Week
This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player and Pitcher of the Week are Illinois State's Mike Hollenbeck and Wichita State's Cale Elam, respectively.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Mike Hollenbeck, Sr., C, Illinois State
Hollenbeck batted .647/.727/.882 for Illinois State this week with one double, one home run and eight RBI. He went 11-for-17, drew five walks and only struck out once. The Joliet, Ill., native clubbed a pair of hits in a midweek loss versus Purdue. Hollenbeck singled in the fourth inning and drove home two runs with a double in the seventh. He reached three times in Friday’s loss at Western Illinois and smacked a career-best five hits, including his first home run this season, in Saturday’s 13-12 slug fest with the Leathernecks. Sunday, Hollenbeck reached base six times and drove home three runs to extend his active on-base streak to 11 consecutive plate appearances.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Cale Elam, Sr., RHP, Wichita State
Elam led the Shockers to a win over Bradley on Saturday. He pitched eight shutout innings and allowed just two singles with two walks and six strikeouts. He faced just three batters in five of his eight innings and never faced more than four in an inning. The Braves reached scoring position just one time against Elam and that was in the sixth inning. No base runner reached third base in the game. With the win, Elam improved to 5-0 in his career against Bradley with a 0.81 ERA.
Noteworthy - In addition to the league's player and pitcher of the week selections, several conference players had notable performances, and they include:
Austin Listi (DBU) – Listi hit a team-leading .400 (6-for-15) with two homeruns and 6 RBI in the Patriots’ four games this week. In Tuesday’s victory on the road at Oklahoma, Listi delivered a season-high four hits and collected his team-leading seventh homerun of the season. On Friday versus Missouri State, Listi’s three-run homer in the eighth inning tied the game at five apiece, before Dallas Baptist won the game in the ninth. On the week, Listi scored a team-high six runs, led the club in total bases with 12, and was tops on the squad with an .800 slugging percentage.
Kyle Pollock (UE) – Pollock hit .333 (6-for-18) for the week and came up with two big RBI for Evansville in its Friday night win at Southern Illinois, as he gave the Purple Aces a 2-1 lead with an eighth-inning home run, before providing UE with an insurance run in the top of the 11th. The Clinton, Ohio native tallied four RBI on the week and posted an even .500 slugging percentage.
Tate Matheny (MSU) – Matheny batted .471 (8-for-17) thanks to three multi-hit efforts, including a 6-for-11 (.545) performance in the Bears’ MVC road series with Dallas Baptist over the weekend. The St. Louis native logged a .609 on-base percentage and slugged .706 for the week. The sophomore doubled, swiped two bases and drove in three runs in the Bears’ loss at UALR on Wednesday, before closing his week with back-to-back three-hit games against DBU. After driving in a run to help MSU build a 5-2 lead over the Patriots in Friday’s series opener, Matheny reached base in all four of his trips to the plate Saturday. He saved his best performance for last, going 3-for-5 with a pivotal grand slam – his fifth home run in league play – as part of the Bears’ seven-run fourth inning that helped clinch a 10-5 victory over DBU.
Connor Kopach (SIU) – Kopach reached base safely in 10 of his 16 plate appearances against Evansville this weekend and had an on-base percentage of .500 for the week. He recorded a career-high four-hit day in Friday’s series opener. In that game, he gave SIU a lead in the fourth inning with an RBI triple. The Saluki leadoff man reached base safely three times in Saturday’s game with a walk and two hit by pitches. He also executed a sacrifice bunt in the game. On Sunday, he recorded another multi-hit game as he went 2 for 5, stole a base and scored a run.
Zair Koeiman (WSU) – Koeiman led the Shockers to a series sweep over Bradley. He went 7-for-16 (.438) in five games last week with three runs, two doubles, one RBI, two walks, a sacrifice fly and a sacrifice bunt. He also had a perfect fielding percentage in 25 total chances at second base. He had a hit in all five games to extend his career-best hitting streak to six games. Against Kansas, he went 1-for-3 with a walk and against Oklahoma State he went 2-for-4 with a double. In game one against Bradley, he went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a double and in game two he went 1-for-3 with a run and a walk. In the finale, he went 2-for-3 with two runs and a sacrifice bunt.
Paul Voelker (DBU) – Voelker earned his seventh win of the year tossing 7.2 innings of shutout baseball versus Missouri State on Saturday, May 3. In the Patriots’ 1-0 win over the Bears, Voelker, struck out seven batters and allowed just six hits and one walk. In two starts this year versus Missouri State, Voelker is now 2-0 and has not allowed a run in 15.2 innings of work, while striking out 15 and walking just four.
Cole Isom (UE) – Isom came up big for Evansville in Sunday’s series finale at Southern Illinois, as the senior southpaw allowed just three runs, one earned, on five hits over 7.0 innings to earn the victory on mound, as the Purple Aces captured the series with an 8-4 win. Isom notched a strikeout around three walks and surrendered just one extra-base hit in holding the Salukis to a .192 average in his seven innings of work. In Missouri Valley Conference play, Isom is now 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA and is holding Valley hitters to a .221 average in his five starts.
Dan Savas (ILS) – For the second time in three weeks, Redbird ace Dan Savas fired a complete-game loss. The right-hander went eight innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the defeat. He struck out a career-best 14 and walked none, but the Illinois State offense left 12 men on base and mustered only one run on four hits. The complete-game was the fourth this season for Savas.
Clay Murphy (MSU) – Murphy turned in 7.0 strong innings Sunday in the Bears’ series finale with Dallas Baptist, helping stop a four-game slide for MSU with his second straight mound victory. The senior right-hander kept the Patriots off the board until his final inning of work, allowing just three hits through the first six frames. In all, Murphy permitted just one earned run on six hits, striking out eight and walking two to notch his 15th career victory as a Bear.
Todd Eaton (SIU) – Eaton earned his third win of the season with a strong performance against the first place Purple Aces on Saturday. He retired 11 of the first 13 batters of the game and did not allow more than one hit in any inning as he lowered his conference ERA to 2.23. After throwing 10.0 innings in his previous outing, Eaton was again able to pitch deep into the game for his fourth straight outing of 7.0 innings or longer.