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2011 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview

By: John Lockwood

The 2011 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship tournament will take place from May 24-28 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE. TD Ameritrade Park is the home of the Creighton University Jays as well as the College World Series, which will be played there from June 18-29. The format of the tournament is the same as in past seasons, with all eight teams of the MVC being seeded and matched-up accordingly along a two-sided bracket. The tournament is double-elimination with a one game championship to be played Saturday, May 28th.

Seeds 1-8 are as follows:

  1. Creighton
  2. Wichita State
  3. Illinois State
  4. Missouri State
  5. Southern Illinois
  6. Indiana State
  7. Evansville
  8. Bradley

Games will be played at 9:00 am, 12:30 pm, 4:00 pm and 7:30 pm each of the first three days. Two “if necessary” games at 12:30 pm and 4 pm on Friday, with the championship game airing on Fox Sports Midwest at 7:00 pm CST on Saturday.

Tuesday’s game one match-ups are as follows:

No 8. Bradley vs. No. 1 Creighton

Jr. LHP Joe Bircher (6-5, 3.03 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Jonas Dufek (9-1, 2.32 ERA)

In the teams’ regular season series, the Jays manhandled the Braves, taking all three at home and outscoring their opponents 49-10. In the opening match-up of the regular season series, the Jays roughed up Bradley’s number one starter, as Bircher lasted only five innings giving up four runs (two earned) on eight hits, three walks and only one strike out. In game two, senior starter Jonas Dufek shut-down the Braves, going eight innings allowing just one run on five hits and one free pass while striking out seven, en route to a 10-1 win.

Prediction: Creighton

No. 7 Evansville vs. No. 2 Wichita State

TBD vs. Jr. LHP Charlie Lowell (9-4, 2.77 ERA)

Despite beating the Shockers 12-11 in the opener of their regular season series, the Shockers outscored the Aces 20-3 in the final two games, winning their regular season series at Eck Stadium. In his game two win against the Aces, in which the Shocks run-ruled the Aces 11-1 in eight innings, Lowell went the distance holding his opponents to just one unearned run on six hits a walk, while fanning eight. Though the Aces had been steadily gaining momentum since their series versus the shockers (they were 9-5 heading into the last week of the regular season), four straight losses heading into the conference tournament—including a sweep at the hands of Illinois State—does not bode well for a team, especially when they are playing the Shockers. Senior RHP Tim Kelley, who has not pitched since March 30th due to an injury to his pitching elbow, is still questionable for the tournament. It is very unlikely that he will pitch, but Coach Gene Stephenson could keep him on the roster as an option out of the bullpen.

Prediction: Wichita State

No. 6 Indiana State vs. No. 3 Illinois State

Jr. RHP Colin Rea (7-4, 3.79 ERA) vs. Sr. RHP Corey Maines (9-3, 2.91 ERA)

The Indiana State Sycamores and Illinois State Redbirds come into this weekend as two “ISU” teams heading in opposite directions: INS losers of 5 of their last 7; ILS winners of six-straight and eight of their last nine. In their regular season match-up the Redbirds took two of three from the Sycamores, with INS taking game two behind the arm of freshman lefty Sean Manaea. As a team, Indiana State is hitting a middling .273, but is buoyed by stand-out sophomores Robby Ort (.333, 10 HR, 50 RBI) and reigning MVC Player of the Week Jeremy Lucas (.340, 28 RBI, .411 OBP). Across the diamond however, Illinois State comes into the tournament owning a conference-best 3.24 team ERA. The Redbirds strength is in finishing games as the relief trio of Justin Hauer, Jay Wielebnicki and Kenny Long come into the game with respective ERA’s of 1.47, 1.01, and 1.07; as well as averaging over 11 strikeouts per nine innings.

Prediction: Illinois State

No. 5 Southern Illinois vs. No. 4 Missouri State

So. LHP Cody Forsythe (8-4, 2.08 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Nick Petree (8-2, 2.93 ERA)

Coming off of a devastating season-ending sweep to regular season champs Creighton, the Missouri State Bears have shot themselves in the foot coming into the conference tournament—dropping to fourth place and earning an opening round match-up against tough Southern Illinois. The Bears won their regular season series against the Salukis, two games to one, but their one loss was at the hands of sophomore lefty Cody Forysthe, who tossed a complete game allowing just one run on five hits. Interim Coach Ken Henderson can also sleep easy knowing that he has one of the best pitchers against the MVC on his team heading into the MVC tournament: Forsythe, finished with the most wins in conference play (6-1) and the second-lowest 1.59 ERA. One can also imagine that coming one win away from a perfect 7-0 record in conference play has Cody Forsythe a little irked and with something to prove heading into the conference tournament. To make matters worse for MSU, while the Bears are 0-3 so far at TD Ameritrade Park, the Salukis took two of three from Creighton in the first ever series played at the stadium. The Bears will have their work cut out for them in their opening round game which starts Tuesday, 4pm CST.

Prediction: Southern Illinois

Stay tuned to College Baseball Daily for updates on the 2011 Missouri Valley Conference Championship tournament from TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE.