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Missouri Valley Conference Weekend Preview (May 6th-8th)

By: John Lockwood

As we cross the mid-point of the MVC conference season, the teams of the Valley gear up for week number five with three teams tied for second, two games behind Creighton.

All eyes will be on Wichita, KS where the Shockers will host the first-place Jays’ in a possible preview of the MVC Championship game to be played later this month. Meanwhile, the best hitting team and best pitching team in the conference go head-to-head this weekend in Normal, Ill. But before we get to that, as promised, this week College Baseball Daily presents the Missouri Valley Conference Mid-Season team—recognizing the top performers, by position, half-way through conference play:

CBD Missouri Valley Conference Mid-Season team

C Chris O’Brien, WSU – .481, 3 HR, 9 2B, 17 RBI, 11 R, .815 SLG
1B Johnny Coy, WSU – .383, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 11 R
2B Kevin Medrano, MSU – .419, 7 RBI, 7 R, 2 2B, .480 OBP
SS Jimmy Swift, CU – .313, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 10 R, 4 2B,
3B Trent Copeland, UE – .513, 6 2B, 4 RBI, 7 R, 4 SB
OF Trever Adams, CU – .469, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 10 R, .857 SLG
OF Jordan Sivertsen, SIU – .325, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 13 R, 5 2B, 1.137 OPS
OF Tyler McNeely, ILS – .308, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 16 R, .481 OBP
OF Robby Ort, INS – .381, HR, 11 RBI, 8 R, .490 OBP
DH Preston Springer, WSU – .358, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 9 R
SP Cody Forsythe, SIU – 4-0, 0.90 ERA, 2 CG, 30.0 IP, 24 H, 4 BB, 24 K
SP Charlie Lowell, WSU – 4-0, 1.23 ERA, 1 CG, 29.1 IP, 23 H, 9 BB, 40 K
SP Nick Petree, MSU – 3-1, 2.70 ERA, 1 CG, 30.0 IP, 22 H, 7 BB, 32 K
SP Corey Maines, ILS – 3-1, 2.77 ERA, 26.0 IP, 27 H, 9 BB, 32 K
RP Justin Hauer, ILS – 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 10.0 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 18 K
RP Kurt Spomer, CU – 1-0, 0.96 ERA, 3 SV, 9.1 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 10 K

Wichita State leads all teams with four selections, followed by Creighton and Illinois State with three each, two from Southern Illinois, two from Missouri State, and one from both Evansville and Indiana State.

On to the conference games this week—and oh what a slate of conference games it is. As previously stated, the spotlight this week will be on Wichita, KS as first-place Creighton (31-10, 9-3) travels to Wichita State (29-20, 7-5) to take on a Shockers team coming off back to back losses to Kansas during the week. The Shockers lost Tuesday night’s game 7-4 in Lawrence, and then dropped the rematch Wednesday in Wichita 11-2. Creighton on the other hand is coming off a sweep of Bradley last weekend, in which they outscored their opponents 33-10 and hit .406 as a team. On the mound, sophomore Ty Blach has been absolutely rolling this year, going 7-0 and winning his last eight decisions dating back to last year. Fittingly, Blach’s last loss came at the hands of Wichita State during the regular season last year. In his only career start against the Shocks, Blach went just 4.2 innings allowing five earned runs on eight hits. WSU, who is hitting a league-best .334 in conference, has been led by junior left-handed start Charlie Lowell (8-4) who is undefeated thus far in conference play with just a 1.24 ERA. Each pitcher will have their work cut off for them on the mound this weekend as this series also pits the two best hitters in the conference against each other: Blach will have to contend with Shockers catcher Chris O’Brien (.401, 7 HR, 58 RBI), while Lowell will try to best senior right fielder Trever Adams (.411, 12 HR, 50 RBI). Despite going into the very hostile territory that is Eck Stadium, Creighton does have the Big Mo’ on their side: the Jays have won their last four and 11 of their last 14, while the Shockers are just 5-5 in their last ten.

Normal, Ill. will be host to a match-up of number ones as the best hitting team in the MVC, Missouri State (25-17, 6-5), takes on the conference’s top pitching staff in Illinois State (27-13, 7-5). Coach Guttin’s squad will be looking to build off of their 5-0 shutout, and season sweep, of Big 12 rival Missouri Tuesday night. Sophomore starter Pierce Johnson was stellar for the Bears, going seven innings allowing only four hits, no free passes, and striking out eight. Junior Brent Seifert was 2-4 and hit his team-leading ninth homerun of the season. Friday night starter Nick Petree (6-1) was knocked for the first loss of his career last week against Evansville, despite only allowing three earned runs in seven innings while striking out nine. However, it is the hitting which has propelled the Bears to eight games over .500, as they are hitting a conference-best .303 as a team on the season and have the fewest strikeouts of any team in the Valley (251). This makes for an exciting matchup as they face a Redbirds’ staff coming into the weekend with conference-bests in team ERA (3.21) and Ks/9 (9.68). Just the opposite of Missouri State, the Redbirds have had to rely on strong pitching to get by recently, as they are hitting just .229 in the past six games. The bullpen has been especially strong for Illinois State as of late, tossing a combined 16 scoreless innings and tallying 16 K’s over their two series. In fact, the Redbirds’ bullpen hasn’t allowed a run since April 17th, and the duo of Justin Hauer and Kenny Long haven’t allowed a run in conference play, all the while striking out a ridiculous 26 batters in 14.2 innings.

Evansville (25-15, 5-6) has been riding the wave of good pitching as they’ve compiled a 1.00 ERA en route to a five-game winning streak. Sophomore left-hander Cole Isom has been the hottest starter for the Aces, posting two of those five wins (including a complete game shutout of Bradley), allowing just five hits and no earned runs in 17 innings pitched, and holding batters to just a .094 batting average against. On the other side of the ball, junior third baseman Trent Copeland is hitting a lights-out, and Valley-best, .516 in-conference. The Aces do battle this weekend on the road against in-state rivals Indiana State (22-20, 4-8). The Sycamores come into this weekend heading in the complete opposite director of the Purple Aces, losers of 7 of their last 10 and hitting just .213 over their last five games. Despite their woes, outfield Robby Ort has been one of the hottest hitters in conference play and is coming off a series against Illinois State in which he hit .444.

Meanwhile, the surprise of the Valley, Southern Illinois (17-27, 7-5 MVC) hopes to improve on its second-place 7-5 conference record this weekend as they travel to Peoria to take on inter-state foe Bradley (20-22, 2-10 MVC). The Salukis are coming off a dominating mid-week performance, beating Big Ten rival Illinois 9-0 Tuesday evening. Senior right-hander Andrew Bever (4-4) tossed six scoreless innings for SIU, only allowing four runners to reach base. Second baseman Brock Harding and left fielder Jordan Sivertsen each had three hit days, combining to drive in five runs. Sophomore lefty Cody Forsythe (6-3) will hope to continue his recent domination of the Missouri Valley Conference as he faces a Braves team hitting just .249 in conference play this season. Game one starts Friday at 6 p.m.

Creighton at Wichita State

Friday: Jr. LHP Charlie Lowell (7-4, 3.29 ERA) vs. Fr. LHP Ty Blach (6-0, 2.24 ERA)
Saturday: So. LHP Brian Flynn (4-1, 4.05 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Jonas Dufek (6-1, 2.48 ERA)
Sunday: TBA vs. So. LHP Greg Hellhake (3-2, 3.68 ERA)

Prediction: Creighton 2-1

Missouri State at Illinois State

Friday: Fr. RHP Nick Petree (6-1, 2.82 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Corey Maines (8-1, 2.23 ERA)
Saturday: So. RHP Grant Gordon (3-4, 4.14 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Dan Savas (3-3, 4.02 ERA)
Sunday: Sr. RHP Blake Barber (6-3, 3.33 ERA) vs. So. RHP JD Learnard (5-2, 3.84 ERA)

Prediction: Illinois State 2-1

Evansville at Indiana State

Friday: Jr. RHP Colin Rea (6-4, 4.35 ERA) vs. So. RHP Kyle Lloyd (4-4, 4.55 ERA)
Saturday: Fr. LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 3.98) vs. Fr. LHP Cole Isom (5-4, 4.41 ERA)
Sunday: Sr. RHP Jason Van Skike (3-3, 3.92 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Cody Fick (6-2, 2.62 ERA)

Prediction: Evansville 2-1

Southern Illinois at Bradley

Friday: Jr. RHP Cameron Maldonado (3-6, 6.09 ERA) vs. Jr. LHP Joe Bircher (5-4, 2.71 ERA)
Saturday: So. LHP Cody Forsythe (6-3, 1.95 ERA) vs. Jr. LHP Tony Doerr (2-2, 3.95 ERA)
Sunday: So. LHP Brad Drust (2-3, 4.97 ERA) vs. So. RHP John Nasshan (2-5, 5.61 ERA)

Prediction: Southern Illinois 2-1