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2013 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview

MVCTourneyLogoFeaturedThe 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Championship tournament opens play this Tuesday May 21 at 9:00am CST at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, IL. To quickly review, the seeds for the tournament are as follows:
1. Illinois State
2. Wichita State
3. Creighton
4. Missouri State
5. Evansville
6. Indiana State
7. Southern Illinois
8. Bradley
Here at College Baseball Daily, we have broken down each game of each round and projected which teams will be advancing through the tournament:
First Round
Game 1: No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 6 Indiana State
Probable Starters: RHP Tommy Strunc vs. LHP Sean Manaea
Analysis: Coach Rick Heller will give the ball to his ace in game one and the big lefty will deliver as he did during the regular season when the Sycamores completed their only sweep of an MVC opponent this year. An unfortunate pairing for the Jays who are the higher seed, but don’t match-up well against Indiana State in this one-game setting.
Projected Winner: Indiana State
Game 2: No.2 Wichita State vs. No. 7 Southern Illinois
Probables: RHP Cale Elam vs. LHP Cody Forsythe
Analysis: The Salukis took game one of their series against the Shockers during the regular season by a score of 5-4. While their best chance to steal a win this postseason is with their senior ace on the mound, the Shockers will be better prepared this time around. The Shockers are coming off a sweep of Northwestern, whereas SIU comes off a tough sweep at the hands of tournament hosts Illinois State.
Projected Winner: Wichita State
Game 3: No. 4 Missouri State vs. No 5. Evansville
Probables: RHP Nick Petree vs. RHP Kyle Lloyd
Analysis: In what could be the most exciting game of the first round, the 4-5 game sees two of the best pitchers in the conference go head-to-head (should UE head coach Wes Carroll give the nod to senior righty Kyle Lloyd who has been his only dependable starter this year). Petree grabbed the victory in his start against the Purple Aces, but was knocked for five runs (three earned). In game two, Lloyd shut down the Bears in what might have been the best pitching performance all year: 9.0 IP, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, 12 K. Can he duplicate his success again?
Projected Winner: Yes, Evansville
Game 4: No. 8 Bradley vs. No. 1 Illinois State
Probables: LHP David Koll vs. RHP Chris Razo
Analysis: It has been a long season for the Bradley Braves who have a team ERA north of seven in conference games this year. Unless they find a miracle on the mound (or Mike Tauchman does even more than he has at the plate this season—which is impossible) their season is likely to come to a quick end.
Projected Winner: Illinois State
Game 5: (Consolation 1) No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 7 SIU
Probables: RHP Austin Groth vs. RHP Sam Coonrod
Analysis: Starting pitching has been a real problem for the Salukis this season. Starter Sam Coonrod had a solid start against the Redbirds last weekend, but struggled mightily in his start against the Jays going only 1.2 innings. While the Salukis have been able to make up for their shortcomings with offensive power, sooner or later in tournament play lack of pitching will catch up with them.
Projected Winner: Creighton
Game 6: (Consolation 2): No. 4 Missouri State vs. No. 8 Bradley
Probables: RHP Matt Hall vs. LHP Brent Stong
Analysis: MSU has an overabundance of talented pitching which will allow them to go far this tournament and get through any unexpected bumps in the road.
Projected Winner: Missouri State
Second Round
Game 7: No. 6 Indiana State vs. No. 2 Wichita State
Probables: RHP Devin Moore vs. RHP AJ Ladwig
Analysis: A huge piece of the puzzle for Coach Heller’s ballclub is starter Devin Moore. Moore had a mediocre-at-best start against the Shockers during the regular season (5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 5 BB) in a loss in which he faced off against Cale Elam. Coach Stepehenson will most likely go with AJ Ladwig, who although he struggled against the Sycamores in his regular season start, has been the second most reliable starter behind Elam. In the end, the Shockers offense might be too much for Moore and force the Sycs into the consolation bracket.
Projected Winner: Wichita State
Game 8: No. 1 Illinois State vs. No. 5 Evansville
Probables: RHP Dan Savas vs. LHP Josh Biggs
Analysis: Josh Biggs was “big” against the Redbirds in the regular season (6.0 IP, 2 ER, 9 K), out-dueling Chris Razo for the only victory in their series against the host team. However, sophomore Dan Savas who led the league in wins during the regular season was just as good: CG, 2 ER, 7 K. Even though the Redbirds outscored the Aces 33-10 in the series, expect a low-scoring game.
Projected Winner: Illinois State
Game 9: No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 6 Indiana State
Probables: RHP Nick Musec vs. RHP Daniel Peterson
Analysis: The Sycs may have swept the regular season series, but their lack of hitting this season has come back to bite them. This combined with a drop-off in pitching past Manaea and Moore bodes well for the Jays in this rematch of their first game. Advantage: Creighton.
Projected Winner: Creighton
Game 10: No. 5 Evansville vs. No 4. Missouri State
Probables: RHP Kyle Freeland vs. RHP Jonathan Harris
Analysis: Again, can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be deep in pitching in this tournament. While Evansville has some studs at the front end, Freeland has struggled this season. Harris, a freshman, won his first eight starts of his career this season.
Projected Winner: Missouri State
Semifinals
No. 2 Wichita State vs. No. 3 Creighton
Probables: RHP Garrett Brummet vs. TBD
Analysis: Wichita State lost two of three to Creighton at home this season, but the one win came with freshman righty Garrett Brummet on the mound. Brummet went six innings allowing just one run on four hits. Creighton will have to reach down the depth chart for some pitching, while the Shockers will also be able to pull from their bullpen which might be the best in the Valley.
Projected Winner: Wichita State
No. 4 Missouri State vs. No. 1 Illinois State
Probables: LHP Andy Cheray vs. RHP Brad Sorkin
Analysis: As they have all season, the Bears will be able to call on another talented freshman arm most likely in the form of Andy Cheray. Sorkin has been inconsistent this season whereas Cheray has been steadily improving with each start (with the exception of his last outing against Creighton). During his regular season start against the Bears, Sorkin went 5.1 innings allowing just three runs (all earned), but surrendered seven hits in an eventual 8-3 loss.
Projected Winner: Missouri State
Game 2: No. 4 Missouri State vs. No. 1 Illinois State
Probables: TBD vs. TBD
Analysis: Both teams will have to reach deep into their depth charts for this rubber match. For the Bears, while the option of Petree is always there, most likely Coach Guttin will try to save him for the would-be championship game. Instead we could see junior Tyler Thompson or perhaps even a start from senior reliever Grant Gordon (who was a starter as a sophomore). For the Redbirds, talented, but unproven, freshman left-hander Will Headean could be tabbed for the game or junior JD Learnard. In the end, with both pitching staffs exhausted, it appears this game will come down to offense. Advantage Illinois State who was second in the league in hitting with .292 average and first in homeruns with 29.
Projected Winner: Illinois State
Championship Game
No. 1 Illinois State vs. No 2. Wichita State
Probables: RHP Chris Razo vs. RHP Cale Elam
Analysis: With a NCAA tournament berth on the line, this rematch of the 2010 MVC tournament championship game is likely to be electric. This match-up occurred on March 29th, with the Shockers winning 4-3 in extra innings. Razo lasted six innings, Elam only five. Razo has built a reputation for big performances in the clutch. Can he summon one more? In the end, the Redbirds are playing for a championship in front of their home crowd.
2013 Projected Champions: Illinois State