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Missouri Valley Conference Weekend Preview (April 29th-May 1)

By: John Lockwood

As we enter the mid-point of the MVC conference season, I was going to use this post to highlight those players whom have been the most outstanding half-way through Valley play. But with my attention span being that of a small-dog’s, I was completely sidetracked by this video— taken en route to Evansville’s series against Wichita State, which the Shockers won—and felt compelled to devote (at least the opening segment of) this article to it:


(Highlight: Senior Ty Legan: “I’ve never used PEDs.” Peanut Gallery: “It shows.”)

I’m glad I finally have an answer as to why several Purple Aces suddenly sprouted peach fuzz above their upper lips (I thought it was in solidarity to have the team’s name changed to the MoustACES…I was way off). But I will admit, Cody Fick’s Rolly Fingers-esque facial hair is impressive—and furthers my theory that he is actually a thirty year-old man playing college baseball. And who knows, if baseball doesn’t work out, he may have a future if they ever try to do a re-boot of Magnum P.I. But I digress.

Although a hilarious diversion from what can sometimes be a long and drawn-out season, it was the post-moustACES era (I making that a thing) that saw Evansville win their first conference series of the season—as they shut-out Bradley twice to take two of three. The fact that it was their pitching (a league-worst 4.49 ERA), and not their offense (second in the league at .301) which led them to the series win, must have been comforting to coach Wes Carroll as lack of pitching depth has been the culprit behind many of UE’s losses so far this season. You can bet that the pitchers will be working hard this weekend as Evansville (22-15, 3-6) takes on Missouri State (23-15, 6-3) in what will be a match-up of the top two hitting teams in the conference. The Bears will hope to build off a 5-2 victory over in-state rival Missouri Wednesday evening. Overall, junior transfer Brock Chaffin leads the Bears offense, batting .358 with four homers and 28 runs batted in. He’s backed up by first baseman Brent Seifert who paces the team with seven homers and 31 RBI. On the other side, mustachioed Cody Fick is second in the conference with a .397 average, but his 56 RBI are a conference best. I’m expecting at least 60 runs to be scored in this series.

Wichita State (26-18, 5-4) is coming off a huge win over #25 Oklahoma State, as they rallied to beat the Cowboys 6-5 at home Tuesday night. Down 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth, first baseman Johnny Coy hit a two run-homer to tie up the game. Micah Green followed up later in the inning with an RBI single to take the lead. The Shockers added an insurance run in the eighth, which turned out to be the winning run as the Cowboys scored on a Jared Womack RBI single to right in the top of the ninth. However, Shockers’ closer Cale Elam got OSU third baseman Mark Ginther to ground out to end the game. Coy finished with a 3-5 day including his fifth homer of the year, a double and four RBI. Womack went 4-5 with an RBI and run scored. The Shockers are streaking as of late, winning five of their last seven after going 1-5 at the start of conference play. The Shockers are hoping that this momentum will carry into this weekend’s series against a resurgent Southern Illinois (15-25, 6-3) in Carbondale. Despite coming off a hard fought series win against Creighton, the Salukis have only won three of their last eight games, most recently losing 11-4 against Southeast Missouri Tuesday afternoon. Starting pitching has been the key for the Salukis in each of their last three wins, as in each of those games SIU starters went at least seven innings and did not allow more than one run. Cody Forsythe and co. will have to be on their game if they want to come out on top against a very talented Shockers offense led by catcher Chris O’Brien—who is hitting a jaw-dropping .512 in conference games this year.

Indiana State (21-18, 3-6) shut-out SIU Edwardsville this past Tuesday, 3-0, with senior righty Jason Van Skike tossing seven-innings of scoreless baseball, allowing only four hits while striking out eight. After starting off the month of April with five straight wins, the Sycamores are 2-8 in their last ten games and have hit just .224 as a team during that span. Hoping to feed off some of the angst left-over from the Pacers-Bulls NBA playoffs series, Indiana State will travel to Bloomington to take on fellow “ISU” school Illinois State (25-12, 5-4). ILS is hoping to rebound from last weekend when they dropped their series against Wichita two games to one. Luckily for the Redbirds, they have a 12-3 record at home against the Sycamores dating back to 2001. In their five meetings last season, the Redbirds won four, including two victories in the State Farm MVC Tournament in Wichita. An interesting note: In the Redbirds last three wins, they have averaged eleven runs per game (12, 12, and 9, respectively). However in their last three losses, they have been held to only one run per game.

Their foray into national prominence only fleeting, Creighton (28-10, 6-3) dropped back out of the Top 30 following last weekend’s series loss to Southern Illinois. The Jays picked themselves up quickly however, beating Kansas 5-3 Tuesday evening at TD Ameritrade Park. Sophomore leftfielder Jordan Makovicka broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth, driving in the game winning run on a 2 RBI single to center. (He was rightfully rewarded with a post-game towel of shaving cream to the face.) The first-place Jays will welcome last-placed Bradley (20-19, 2-7) to Omaha for their upcoming weekend series. The Braves are just 5-12 in the month of April and have lost eight of their last nine—including a 14-1 drubbing at the hands of Northern Illinois Tuesday night. Game one starts Friday night, 6:30 pm CT.

Stay-tuned next week as we’ll be announcing the MVC mid-season team, selecting the players who have put up the best performances half-way through conference play.

Probables:

Missouri State at Evansville

Friday: Fr. RHP Nick Petree (6-0, 2.70 ERA) vs. So. RHP Kyle Lloyd (3-4, 5.18 ERA)
Saturday: So. RHP Grant Gordon (3-4, 4.14 ERA) vs. Fr. LHP Cole Isom (4-4, 4.37 ERA)
Sunday: Sr. RHP Blake Barber (6-2, 3.36 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Cody Fick (6-2, 2.62 ERA)

Wichita State at Southern Illinois

Friday: Jr. LHP Charlie Lowell (7-4, 3.29 ERA) vs. Jr. RHP Cameron Maldonado (3-5, 5.94 ERA)
Saturday: So. LHP Brian Flynn (4-1, 4.05 ERA) vs. So. LHP Cody Forsythe (5-3, 2.08 ERA)
Sunday: Jr. LHP Josh Smith (4-3, 3.88 ERA) vs. So. LHP Brad Drust (2-2, 3.13 ERA)

Indiana State at Illinois State

Friday: Jr. RHP Colin Rea (6-3, 4.09 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Corey Maines (7-1, 2.48 ERA)
Saturday: Fr. LHP Sean Manaea (3-3, 4.31 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Dan Savas (3-2, 4.17 ERA)
Sunday: Sr. RHP Jason Van Skike (3-2, 3.88 ERA) vs. So. RHP JD Learnard (4-2, 4.15 ERA)

Bradley at Creighton

Friday: Jr. LHP Joe Bircher (5-3, 2.65 ERA) vs. Fr. LHP Ty Blach (6-0, 2.24 ERA)
Saturday: Jr. LHP Tony Doerr (2-1, 3.43 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Jonas Dufek (6-1, 2.48 ERA)
Sunday: So. RHP John Nasshan (2-5, 5.37 ERA) vs. So. LHP Greg Hellhake (3-2, 3.68 ERA)