Baseball Weekly Notebook (Mar. 19)
AND THEY'RE OFF
Beginning on Friday, March 23, six of eight Missouri Valley Conference teams will get their first taste of league play with Creighton traveling to Missouri State, Bradley visiting Southern Illinois and Indiana State heading to Evansville. Each of the weekend match-ups are scheduled for a three-game series.
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 all but three teams that have won the MVC regular season have won at least 16 games since 2005, the first year of a 24-game conference schedule.
In fact, the last two seasons were the only times a team won the MVC regular-season title (Illinois State and Wichita State went 15-6 in 2009-10, while Creighton went 15-6 in 2010-11) with fewer than 16 league victories.
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.
Creighton is 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 placed in the top three of the regular season standings in 27 of the 28 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 21 seasons, including 11 of the last 16 seasons.
Creighton has also finished in the top three 14 times – in the Bluejays' 28 seasons of league play.
AGAINST THE FIELD
The MVC holds a winning record against 17 leagues in non-conference play (America East, Atlantic Sun, Big 12, Big East, Big West, Colonial, Conference USA, Great West, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic, Mid-Eastern, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southland, SWAC, Summit and SWAC).
The MVC holds a 3-3 record against top-25 teams so far this season, as Southern Illinois topped No. 19 Stetson and Wichita State tallied two victories over No. 24 Purdue. The Valley was a combined 7-9 against top-25 teams last season and 2-11 against ranked teams in 2009-10.
AGAINST THE BIG DOGS
Against the six BCS conferences, the Valley holds a winning record over two (Big 12 and Big East).
This week's Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Player/Pitcher of the Week are Creighton's Anthony Bemboom and Missouri State's Nick Petree.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Anthony Bemboom, Sr., C/OF, Creighton
Bemboom led the Bluejays offensively last week, picking up a team-high eight hits and scoring five runs to lead the Jays to a 4-1 week. In the five-game homestand, Bemboom hit .471, starting all five games. He had a .824 slugging percentage, picking up 14 total bases on the week thanks to three doubles and a home run. Bemboom went a perfect 4-4 from the plate with a pair of singles, a double and a solo home run in the 16-3 win over North Dakota on Saturday afternoon. The senior did not strike out on the week, the only Bluejay in the starting lineup to accomplish the feat last week. He led the Bluejays with a .550 on-base percentage with three walks. On the season, Bemboom is hitting .284, starting in 17 of the 18 games either behind the plate or in the outfield. He has a team-leading seven doubles, leading to a .462 slugging percentage. Bemboom is one of the toughest batters to strikeout in the lineup, as he has just four strikeouts in 67 at-bats on the year. He has also played flawless defense, not committing an error in 90 chances.
MISSOURI VALLEY CONFERENCE PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Nick Petree, So., RHP, Missouri State
Petree notched his second-consecutive combined shutout Saturday with a 5-0 blanking of Oral Roberts. Petree scattered six hits over 8.0 IP, fanning a season-high nine hitters to run his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 15.0 (March 10-17). He fanned five hitters while facing the minimum through the first three innings en route to winning his fourth-straight start to improve to 4-1 on the year. The right-hander needed just 94 pitches to complete eight innings before handing the ball to freshman lefty Tyler Burgess, who worked a scoreless ninth to register his eighth-consecutive scoreless outing.
Noteworthy - In addition to the league's player and pitcher of the week selections, several conference players had notable performances, and they include:
Greg Partyka (BU) - Partyka hit .350 (7-20) with three doubles and drove in a team-best nine runs in five games last week at the RussMatt Central Florida invitational, helping the Braves to a 4-1 record for the week. In Monday’s 7-6 win against Fairfield, Partyka was 2-for-4 with three RBI’s and drove in what proved to be the deciding run with a 2-out, 8th-inning double. In Thursday’s 3-2 win against Navy, Partyka was 1-for-4 with two RBI’s, including a sacrifice fly to end the game in the bottom of the 10th inning. Partyka hit safely in all five games last week for a career-best 5-game hitting streak.
Tim Bodine (UE) - Leading Evansville to a four-win week, sophomore Tim Bodine was both consistent and clutch, batting .579, including a game-changing double and a game-winning walk-off single that gave UE a series victory over Western Michigan. Going 11-for-19 at the plate, Bodine raised his season batting average 134 points on the week, while also contributing five RBI and five runs. Bodine recorded multiple hits in 4-of-5 games, including three 3-for-4 performances in three bottom of the ninth comeback wins over UT Martin and Western Michigan. In UE’s first game against WMU, Bodine headed a five-run ninth inning rally with his first career double down the left field line and scored the tying run that set up the 10-inning victory. In Sunday’s rubber match, Bodine came through in the clutch with a two-out walk-off single to centerfield that capped UE’s four-run bottom of the ninth rally. Starting all five contests, Bodine also recorded a perfect fielding percentage in right field.
Matt Mirabal (ILS) - Mirabal led Illinois State to victories against Navy and Army at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla. The senior outfielder went 6-for-12 (.500), slugged .833 and amassed a .500 on-base percentage during the three-game weekend series. Throughout all five of the ISU’s games last week, Mirabal hit .381. With Illinois State trailing by one run in the sixth inning, Mirabal hit a two-run home run, which proved to drive in the game’s winning run. The next day against Army, Mirabal went 5-for-8 with two RBI and three runs scored throughout two seven inning games. He also legged out one double. Mirabal now ranks second on the team with a .391 batting average.
Kyle Burnam (INS) - Burnam led the team with eight hits last week, going 8-for-18 (.444) at the plate with four RBIs. Burnam drove in the game-winning run with two outs in the ninth inning against Houston Baptist on Friday, completing a 4-3 ISU comeback victory with a bases-loaded single to right field. The ISU senior keyed ISU’s rally against Notre Dame on Saturday, getting on base with a double before scoring the go-ahead run later in the inning. Burnam placed second on the team with a .524 on-base percentage while also dropping down a pair of sacrifice bunts.
Luke Voit (MSU) - Voit led Missouri State in nearly every offensive category last week and came up big at the plate in each of the Bears’ three wins in their series with Oral Roberts over the weekend. The Wildwood, Mo., native belted his third home run of the season Tuesday against No. 28 Purdue, and registered a hit in all five MSU games and at least one RBI in four of the Bears’ outings. Voit, who hit .389 and slugged .667, delivered the biggest offensive blow of the week for MSU with his three-run, ninth-inning double Friday at ORU to cap a 2-for-5 day and help the Bears overcome a two-run deficit to post a 5-3 victory. In Saturday’s 5-0 blanking of the Golden Eagles, Voit scored a run, drove in another and reached base in three of his five trips to the plate. Finally, the junior catcher recorded the game-winning RBI with his first-inning RBI double in Sunday’s series-clinching 3-2 win. In addition to his work at the plate, Voit was flawless behind it in 54 fielding chances and received every pitch from a staff that held ORU scoreless for 18 1/3 consecutive innings and posted a 2.05 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 44.0 innings for the week.
Jordan Sivertsen (SIU) - Sivertsen collected three hits in Friday afternoon’s game against Northern Illinois and delivered the game winning hit, an eighth inning, two-run double. Sivertsen recorded two more hits on Saturday against NIU. He hit .400 (6-for-15) with four RBI and a .500 on-base percentage in four games this weekend and started four errorless games in left field.
Johnny Coy (WSU) - Coy led the Shockers to two wins over No. 24 Purdue last week. In five games, he went 6-for-18 (.333) with five runs, two doubles, two home runs and five RBI. He had a hit in each of the five games. On Tuesday against Oral Roberts, he went 2-for-4 and in game one against Purdue he went 1-for-4 with a run and a double. In game two against Purdue, he went 1-for-4 with a run, an RBI and a home run and in game three he went 1-for-3 with three runs, two RBI and a home run. In the finale against Purdue he went 1-for-3 with two RBI and a double.
Joe Bircher (BU) - Bircher continued his strong start to the season by tossing 7.0 scoreless innings to start Bradley’s eventual 3-2, 10-inning win Thursday against Navy. Bircher scattered six singles, did not walk a batter and struck out six Midshipmen. The six strikeouts pushed Bircher’s season total to 44 and he has walked just four hitters in his 35.1 innings to date this year. Thursday’s scoreless effort lowered Bircher’s season ERA to 2.55 and he remained 3-0 in his five starts.
Erik Mattingly (CU) - After his dramatic entrance onto the scene in last year’s MVC Tournament, Erik Mattingly has emerged as a go-to guy in the Bluejay bullpen. The senior our of Garden City CC made a pair of appearances on the weekend, striking out six batters in 4.0 innings of work. Mattingly was a part of the Bluejays first shutout of the season, a 2-0 win over BYU on Tuesday. He held his opponents to just a .077 batting average and was one of seven different pitchers in the Bluejay ‘pen to go at least two innings and not allow a single run.
Kenny Long (ILS) - Long earned three saves during a two-day stretch to secure one Illinois State victory against Navy and two wins versus Army on Friday and Saturday at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla. During Friday’s game versus Navy, Long retired the side in order during the ninth with one strikeout. In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, the left-handed closer pitched the final two innings without surrendering a run and striking out three batters. A few hours later, Long returned to pitch the final 1.2 frames of the second doubleheader game. The Fox River Grove, Ill., native was called to duty with runners on first and third base, one out, and the Redbirds leading by just two runs. Long not only pitched the Redbirds out of the jam, but he also did not allow an earned run during his 1.2 innings of work. In addition to the games Long saved, he also closed out Illinois State’s loss Wednesday at South Florida. Long pitched a scoreless and hitless eighth inning with one strikeout against the Bulls. During the week, Long made four appearances and pitched 5.2 innings without allowing an earned run while striking out five. He now has a 1.17 ERA with 16 strikeouts. Long has now increased his Illinois State career saves record to 21 and he now ranks third on the career appearance list with 78.
Kyle Rupe (INS) - Rupe pitched Indiana State to a pair of victories last week, including Sunday’s championship game over Notre Dame in San Antonio, Texas. On Sunday, Rupe allowed just three hits and one run in 6.2 innings with a pair of strikeouts against the Fighting Irish, pushing his record for the season to 4-0. The ISU newcomer also picked up a victory in Terre Haute on Tuesday, allowing one run in five innings against SIU Edwardsville. For the season, Rupe is 4-0 on the mound with a 0.73 ERA.
Sam Coonrod (SIU) - In his second collegiate start, freshman Sam Coonrod allowed one run off just two hits in six innings of work. He also struck out a career-high seven batters and allowed one walk. The only run against him came in an inning in which Northern Illinois did not record a hit. The freshman became more dominant as the game went on, striking out five batters in his final three innings of work. He left in line for the victory but took a no-decision after a late rally.
Josh Smith (WSU) - Smith led the Shockers to a win over No. 24 Purdue in game one of a doubleheader on Saturday. He pitched 6.1 innings and allowed one run on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts. He limited Purdue, who ranked first nationally in team batting average at .372, to a .182 average in his 6.1 innings. He earned the win as the Shockers won the game 8-2. He is now 3-1 on the year with a 2.20 ERA.