With just under two weeks until conference play begins, the teams of the Missouri Valley have seemingly begun to hit their stride after a collective slow start to the season. This week, the Valley went 17-7 against their non-conference opponents, an improvement over their 10-11 showing from a week ago. Thus far into the season, Missouri State has appeared the sharpest, notching quality wins over Texas State, Sam Houston State, and #23 Southern Miss and taking #27 Oklahoma State into extra innings. After Missouri State it’s…well… after that it gets kind of fuzzy.
Two-time defending MVC champion Creighton has appeared somewhat enigmatic, sweeping Dallas Baptist to start the season and then promptly dropping their series against BYU. After being swept by Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh!) to start the season, Wichita State has gone 9-2 (albeit with their toughest opponent being Iowa). To the east, Indiana State has managed wins over College of Charleston and Mercer, but has also been shut-out by IPFW (RPI 258). Meanwhile, Illinois State has a 5-7 record to this point, but has played the 20th hardest schedule in the country (the hardest by far in the conference; Creighton is second at #50) which will most likely increase when they play two games at #24 Miami starting Tuesday.
And Austin Peay has yet to lose a game against the Missouri Valley Conference (watch out Sycamores…).
So as the weather gets warmer (the high 40’s), and the snow melts away (at least for those of us not in Florida), we’re reminded that it’s still early in the season and that two weeks in college baseball is an eternity.
MVC Players of the Week:
Wichita State – 1B Casey Gillaspie, 6-12, 2 HR (1 GS), 3 2B, 7 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB
Evansville – RHP Kyle Lloyd (2-1); 8.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9K
Missouri State: Bears Sweep Northwestern
After a tough extra innings lost on the road to #27 Oklahoma State on Tuesday, Missouri State (10-3) managed to take all three in a dramatics-filled weekend against visiting Northwestern (4-5). On Friday, the Bears found themselves in a pitchers’ duel as All-America junior Nick Petree squared off against NU’s star senior Zach Morton. Through six innings neither team could seem to muster much against either pitcher. Petree was masterful in his start, going seven scoreless while striking out eight in the no-decision. Morton was likewise dominant, going 7.2 and striking out six before coming out in the eighth after yielding a two-out double. With Petree out, the Wildcats took advantage of a lead-off double by clean-up hitter Jack Havey to plate their only run of the game in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the ninth, MSU notched back to back singles and an intentional walk to load the bases with one out. Third baseman Joey Hawkins battled through a seven-pitch at-bat to manage a bases load, game scoring walk. Yet the Bears followed this up with a foul-out and ground-out to end the inning. Then things got a little crazy in the top of the tenth. Morton and Havey singled to start the inning, and a HBP loaded the bases with no one out. Senior Grant Gordon (1-0) entered the game, and managed to get back-to-back infield ground balls that resulted in force outs at home. The inning ended on the next batter who grounded out to SS. In the bottom of the inning, senior Luke Voit reached on an error, stole second and then was brought home on a two-out single by junior Trey Massenberg to win the game.
On Saturday, the Bears managed to hold off Northwestern 7-5, thanks to a 5 RBI day from freshman Tate Matheny. Every time the Wildcats managed to pull closer to the Bears, they were stymied by Matheny who seemingly refused to allow NU to close the gap. After NU scored two to pull within in one in the top of the sixth, Matheny pushed one over the fence in left center (the first of his career) to make the score 5-2. Again, after NU scored two in the seventh, to make the score 5-4, Matheny laced a two-run double to right in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach for good. Freshman Jonathan Harris (3-0) put out a quality performance on the mound, going six innings allowing two earned on six hits while fanning a career-high ten batters.
As if the first two games weren’t close enough for Coach Keith Guttin, it came to two-outs in the ninth for his squad to clinch the sweep. Tied 2-all into the bottom of the ninth, the DH Peebles doubled to center with one out to get things started for the Bears. After an intentional walk and a foul-out, senior shortstop Travic McComack bounced a ground-ball between first and second base into short right field. Peebles took off immediately from second with no intent of stopping at third. Morton fielded the ball in right and fired home, but his throw was behind the Peebles who slid in to end the game and the series. Starter Tyler Thompson went six and two-thirds for the Bears, allowing just two runs while striking out seven. McComack, Hawkins and first baseman Conor Smith all had three hits on the day.
The Bears will head to Jonesboro, Ark for a two game set against Arkansas State on Tuesday.
Northwestern – 1B Jack Havey, 7-11, 2 2B, RBI
RHP Zach Morton ND; 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 K; 4-11, 2 RBI, BB
Missouri State – CF Tate Matheny, 4-11, 2B, HR, 6 RBI
1B Conor Smith, 6-10, HR, 4 R, RBI
C Luke Voit, 6-11, 2 2B, R
RHP Nick Petree ND; 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 8 K
Creighton: 2-1 at Riverview Inn Classic
The Creighton Blue Jays (6-3) traveled to Clarksville, TN to play a three game set at the Riverview Inn Classic. Friday night the Jays topped Arkansas – Little Rock (9-5) thanks to a solid start from freshman right-hander Tommy Strunc (2-0) who went five innings, striking out eight.
Game two saw a much more offensive contest as CU squared off against All-America Jordan Hankins and the 12-2 Austin Peay Governors. The two teams combined for 11 runs in the first 3 innings alone, as Hankins started things with a two run home-run to put APSU up 2-0 after one. The Jays replied with five-runs in the top of the second thanks to a two-run homer from senior shortstop Alex Staehely, as well as a 2 RBI single from lead-off man Brad McKewon and an RBI single from third baseman Frederico Castagnini. Defensive miscues in the bottom half of the inning resulted in CU’s lead being shaved to one, but junior Mike Gerber sent one over the fence in the top of the third to bring the score to 6-4. After tying the game in the bottom of the seventh, the Governors took the lead for good thanks to Creighton’s third error of the game and 2-RBI double by left-fielder Cody Hudson. Although the Jays were able to load the bases and force in one in the top of the 9th, pinch hitter Michael Blatchford struck out and McKewon grounded out to seal the 9-8 APSU victory.
In the final game, the Jays were able to pull ahead of the Panthers of UW Milwaukee (4-9) thanks to an eight run seventh inning. Trailing 5-4, the Jays put up eight two-out RBIs thanks to a single from Blatchford which plated two, a three-run homerun from sophomore Kevin Lamb, and a three-run trip from Gerber. Second baseman Jake Peter had a four hit day while Gerber finished the game with 5 RBI.
Creighton will finish-up their four game road trip with a Tuesday matchup against SE Missouri State.
CF Mike Gerber, 4-12, HR, 3B, R, 7 RBI
RHP Tommy Strunc (2-0); 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
Evansville: Aces Drop Series at Kennesaw State
Evansville (4-9) traveled to Georgia for a three game set against Kennesaw State this weekend. The Aces dropped the first two closely contested games before taking the series finale on Sunday. Junior lefty Cole Isom took the hill in game one, going seven innings and striking out seven, but ultimately taking the loss by a score of 4-3. The Aces jumped out to a two nothing lead thanks in part to an RBI double by senior Jason Hockemeyer. However, KSU got three right back in the bottom half of the inning on a two run single from firstbaseman Anthony Duran. UE would tie up the game in the top half of the third on a John Day RBI double, but Isom couldn’t hold down the Owls bats and sacrifice fly by clean-up hitter Max Pentecost plated the go ahead run. On the mound for Kennesaw the trio of Travis Dean (2-2), Colton Cross and James Connell (SV 3).
In game two, the Owls built a sixth run lead before Evansville finally broke through in the seventh, but it wasn’t enough as KSU held on for the 6-3 win. Owls centerfielder Bo Way had a 3-4 day with 3 RBI while starter Kevin Kyle (2-2) tossed six scoreless innings, walking one and striking out five. On the mound for the Aces, Kyle Freeland (2-2) went the distance and tallied 8 strikeouts, but was not helped by his defense, resulting in three unearned runs on top of three earned.
Senior starter Kyle Lloyd shut-down the Owls in game three however, as the Aces wrapped up the series with an 8-3 win on Sunday. Lloyd (2-1) was lights-out, going eight scoreless, with five hits, no walks and nine strikeouts. Already leading 3-0, UE blew the game open in the sixth thanks to a three-run homerun from Jonathan Ramon and a solo shot from shortstop Shain Showers.
Evansville hosts Eastern Illinois on Tuesday and plays at Oakland City on Wednesday before their three-game set with Purdue next weekend.
RHP Kyle Lloyd (2-1); 8.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9K
1B John Day, 5-10, 2B, 5 RBI, R
Illinois State: 2-1 in RussMatt Invitational
Illinois State (5-7) traveled to sunny Winter Haven, FL to play three as part of the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational this weekend. After a rocky start to the season, the Redbirds were able to take two of three thanks to some quality pitching from the Redbirds’ staff. Game one saw the ‘Birds beat winless LIU Brooklyn (0-7), 6-3. Two-RBI games from first baseman Kyle Stanton, centerfielder Chad Hinshaw and second baseman Brock Stewart allowed starter Dan Savas to go five innings allowing just one earned-run while striking out six. Senior Chris Razo picked up his third save of the season.
In game two, however, the Redbirds struggled to get the big hit, stranding eleven on route to a 4-2 loss to Miami (OH) (3-6). In the fourth inning, a costly error by the ISU second baseman allowed the Redhawks to jump out to a 4-0 lead, which was more than enough for senior starter Brooks Fiala (1-2). The right-hander went seven and two-thirds innings allowing no runs on five hits while striking out five and walking three. The Redbirds managed a late-rally in the ninth inning, plating two and loading the bases before MU closer Seth Varner came in to get two quick outs to seal the victory. In a bright spot for the ‘Birds, redshirt junior JD Learnard tossed three innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one hit and striking out four.
The final game of the weekend saw more great relief pitching from ISU, as freshman Jack Landwehr, sophomore Jeremy Rhoades and Razo went six innings allowing no runs on just one hit to hold on to the 4-2 victory against Fairfield (3-4). The Redbirds scored all four of their runs in the second inning thanks to two sacrifice flies and two bases-loaded walks. Landwehr (1-0), a freshman, picked up his first collegiate win by pitching four scoreless innings after starter Dylan Craig left the game after three innings. Razo pitched around trouble in the ninth to pick up his MVC-leading fourth save.
Illinois State heads to Coral Gables for a two-game mid-week set against #24 Miami starting Tuesday at 4pm EST.
Illinois State – RHP Jack Landwehr (1-0); 4.0 IP, H, 2 BB, 4 K
Miami (OH) – RHP Brooks Fiala (1-2); 7.2 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 5 K
Wichita State: 2-1 over Texas-Pan American
Wichita State (9-5) hosted Texas-Pan American (3-9) at Eck Stadium, taking two of three from the visiting Broncs. Game one saw three UTPA homeruns in one inning as the Broncs went on to win 7-5. With his team leading 3-1 heading into the top of the sixth, Broncs’ designated hitter Will Klausing took the first pitch of the inning deep to right field. Two pitches later, first baseman Alberto Morales went over the fence in left center. Two batters later third baseman Dillon Engelhart hit a solo shot out left. On the day, five Broncs’ hitters had multi-hit games.
In game one of Saturday’s double-header, Shocker’s righty Cale Elam (1-1) shut-down the opposition en route to an 8-1 victory. The junior went six innings allowing just one run on two hits, two walks and K-ing a career-high 8 to pick up his first victory of the season. Sophomore Taylor Doggett led the way for the Shockers offensively, going 4-5 with three runs scored and an RBI. Junior left-hander Aaron LeBrie threw three scoreless innings to pick up his second save of the season.
In the rubber match, both teams combined for 23 runs, with the Shockers capitalizing on a ten-run seventh inning to take the series with a 15-8 victory. Some stats from the seventh inning:
- 7 Shockers reached base before an out was recorded.
- UTPA went through three pitchers without recording an out, and used five in the inning.
- 72 pitches were thrown in the bottom of the inning alone.
- WSU registered six walks, two doubles, two RBI singles, and a grand slam (capping off the game and a monster series for Casey Gillaspie).
Wichita State will host North Dakota for two games at Eck Stadium beginning Tuesday at 3 pm CST.
RHP Cale Elam (1-1); 6.0 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, 8 K
1B Casey Gillaspie, 6-12, 2 HR (1 GS), 3 2B, 7 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB
CF Taylor Doggett, 7-12, 2B, 5 RBI, 4 R
2B Tanner Dearman, 6-8, 2B, 4 R, 3 RBI, SB
Bradley: Braves Take Two at Dayton/Wright State
After a rain/snow-out on Friday, the Bradley Braves (5-9) split a double-header against Wright State on Saturday. In game one, the Braves managed to get 23 runners on base, but only scored six runs as they fell to WSU 7-6. Trailing 6-3 after six, the Raiders of Wright State cut the deficit to one thanks to a 2 RBI single from junior centerfielder Mark Fowler. In the seventh, the Raiders took the lead for good on 2-run double from freshman Cody Gardner. Game two was all Bradley however, as the Braves scored 7 runs in the top of the ninth to avenge the morning’s loss, 12-3. Four Braves had multi-RBI games and starter David Kroll went seven and two-thirds, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out eight.
The Braves wrapped up the weekend with a 9-3 rout of Dayton (3-8-1) thanks in part to senior left-fielder Mike Tauchman who went 2-4 with a three-run homerun. Tauchman’s round-tripper—his first of the season—was part of a five-hit, five-run inning which blew the game open for the Braves. This was more than enough run-support for sophomore start Stephen Toma (1-0) who went seven innings, allowing just three runs on four hits, one walk and five K’s to pick up the first win of his career.
Bradley will hit the road for Nashville, TN where it plays two games against Lipscomb and one against Belmont starting next Friday.
LF Mike Tauchman, 5-11, HR, 5 R, 4 RBI, 2 SB
RF Brady Wilkin, 7-14, 2B, 4 R, SB
RHP Stephen Toma (1-0); 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, BB, 5 K
Indiana State: 2-1 at Indiana State tournament
Indiana State (5-5) hosted #28 Mercer and South Dakota State this weekend at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute. The Sycamores dropped the weekend opener 9-1, against Mercer (14-3) Friday night. The Bears scored 6 in the eighth, including four via a grand slam by senior Logan Gaines. After starter Grant Papelian went just two and thirds, sophomore right-hander Ben Lumsden (2-0) carried Mercer for five innings, allowing just three hits while striking out two. Four Bears finished with multi-hit days.
In the second game of the weekend, the Sycamores regained their footing, coming back against South Dakota State (8-6) to pull-off the 5-4 victory. The Sycamores went down early, as starter Jeff Degano struggled to find the plate, managing just one out and being tagged for three runs. Reliever Devin Moore kept the Sycs in the game however, tossing 4.2 scoreless innings and striking out a career-high ten batters. Moore’s performance allowed his teammates to chip away at the lead, tying it up at three in the third before a two-run fifth inning put ISU ahead for good.
In the finale, Indiana State squared off against Mercer again, this time with All-America Sean Manaea (1-1) on the mound. Behind a solid six-inning, 8 K start from Manaea, the Sycamores went on to win 10-2. The Sycamores supplied their starter with plenty of offense, scoring in 6 straight innings. Junior Owen Conway led the way with a 3-3 day including three doubles, three runs scored and three runs batted in. Junior Kurt Kudrecki picked up the three-inning save while K-ing three.
The Sycamores host Austin Peay on Tuesday.
RHP Devin Moore (2-0); 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 10 K
LHP Sean Manaea (1-1); 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K
LF Owen Conway, 4-7, 3 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI
Southern Illinois: Salukis Take 3 from Northern Illinois
Southern Illinois (8-6) swept their northern neighbors, Northern Illinois (2-12) over the weekend in Carbondale. Ken Henderson’s squad started things off with an 8-3 come-from-behind victory on Friday night. After struggling to string together hits against NIU starter Jordan Ruckman, the Salukis trailed 3-1 heading into the eighth inning. But after back-to-back one out walks, singles from first baseman Ryan Casillas and a sac fly from senior Rennie Troggio tied the game at 3. Junior Jake Welch knocked in the go-ahead run (a sign of things to come) and two more hits in the inning allowed five more runs to cross the plate, and closer Todd Eaton pitched a scoreless ninth to finish things for SIU.
In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Salukis again came back, this time scoring two in the bottom the ninth to take the second game of the series 3-2. Sophomore Sam Coonrod went 7.0 innings allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and four walks while striking out a career-high eight to keep the Salukis in the game. SIU struggled to find the big hit against NIU starter Alex Klonowski (1-3) who went the distance for his second straight complete game of the season. After back-to-back one-out singles in the bottom of the ninth, senior Brock Harding tied the game up with a double to left field. Welch came through again with a deep fly out to right field to bring in the winning run.
In the series finale, the Salukis received seven innings of one-run relief pitching to hold on for the 4-2 win. All-MVC starter Cody Forsythe lasted just three innings, but six pitchers combined to finish the game and pick up the sweep. SIU got all the runs they would need in the sixth inning, knocking in three thanks to RBIs from Casillas, catcher Luke Mottashed, and (again) Welch. Eaton pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save of the season.
Southern Illinois – 2B Jake Welch, 5-13, 4 RBI, R
1B Ryan Casillas, 5-11, 3 R, 2 RBI
Northern Illinois – RHP Alex Klonowski (1-3); CG, 10 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K