for CBI Missouri Valley preview
gettin’ it done at Missouri State
By Phil Stanton
is how crazy baseball can be. Missouri State played six games
against Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park over its final seven
games in 2011. Both teams scored 22 times in those six contests,
but the Bears lost five of the six.
“We went there for the last league weekend, and
they were all low-scoring close ballgames,” Bears coach Keith
Guttin (left) said. “They did more that we did.”
Creighton had a half-game lead over Missouri
State for first place at the start of that weekend series and
posted wins of 3-2, 3-1 and 3-1 to clinch the regular-season
As fate would have it, the Missouri Valley
Conference Tournament also was held at TD Ameritrade Park, the
new home of the College World Series. Missouri State topped
Southern Illinois 6-4 to open the tournament and then saw those
beat them in the second round,” Guttin said. “And they got us
again and put us out. So basically they had our number last
year, no question.”
The Bears bounced Creighton 10-3 in that
second-round contest, but the Bluejays won 6-5 and 4-3 in 12
innings to advance to the MVC championship game.
Missouri State finished 33-23 in 2011 and returns
eight position starters and seven pitchers among its 19
letter-winners back for 2012.
“Anybody will tell you that if you have a lot of
experience back at the Division I level, that’s a huge plus,”
Guttin said. “We feel good about the guys. It’s not just that
you have returning guys. You need to return some quality guys
and we feel like we do.”
The Bears lost leadoff hitter Aaron Conway (.325,
52 R, 75 H, 16 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 19-24 SB), but return
most of the rest of the offense.
Brock Chaffin is the top stick back. The senior
first baseman batted .344 a season ago with 13 doubles, six
homers and 37 RBI. Senior third baseman Brent Seifert (.289, 16
2B) also provided some pop, with nine home runs and 43 RBI.
First Team All-MVC second baseman Kevin Medrano (left) hit .325
in 2011 with 67 hits, 34 runs and 34 RBI. He drew 21 walks and
struck out just 14 times. Medrano was selected in the 14th round
by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 MLB Draft but elected to
return for his senior season.
“Being back with all my friends,” Medrano said
about his return to Missouri State. “And knowing that we’re
going to have a pretty good team and hopefully make a run for a
Regional and maybe further than that. So I decided to come
Medrano has not had a chance to experience NCAA
postseason play yet, but looks forward to the possibility.
“We’ll be ecstatic,” Medrano said. “We haven’t
been there since ’03 when we made it to the College World
Series, so it would be a great feeling for all of us.”
On the mound, Nick Petree (9-2, 2.81, 2 SV, 96
IP, 86 H, 27 BB, 81 K) was the MVC Freshman of the Year in 2011.
And he will have plenty of staff help.
“We have a guy in Pierce Johnson who was throwing
as well as anyone we had the last half of the year,” Guttin
said. “We chose to use him as a midweek starter and a weekend
wild card guy and he was effective in both those roles.”
The junior right-hander was 6-5 with two saves
and a 4.76 ERA. Johnson struck out 72 in 75.2 innings.
return Grant Gordon, who was our closer as a freshman,” Guttin
said. “We feel like he’s a lot more suited for that role. He
started last year, but I think closing’s his forte and he’s
going to go back in that role.”
Gordon was 3-6 with a 4.26 ERA. The junior righty
allowed 82 hits in 69.2 innings with 41 walks and 50 strikeouts.
Gordon had four wins and seven saves during his rookie campaign.
He fanned 74 in 56 innings for 11.89 strikeouts per nine
innings, seventh in the nation and first among Division I
This will be Guttin’s 30th season as head coach
at Missouri State. He has led the Bears to seven NCAA Regionals,
including six in a nine-year span from 1995-2003. Missouri State
won the Lincoln Regional in 2003 and outscored Ohio State twice
in Columbus in the Super Regional to earn the school’s first
trip to Omaha.
Guttin is eight wins away
from 1,000, owning a record of 992-630 in 29 years with the
Bears. But he doesn’t want to talk about that milestone.
“I’m just worried about the next win, to be
honest with you,” Guttin said. “You don’t think about those
kinds of things. I’ve been here a long time. We’ve had a lot of
good players, we’ve had a lot of good assistant coaches and the
administration has been supportive. If you’re there for a long
time, you’re going to accumulate some wins.”
Amazingly, his top two assistants have put in a
combined 54 years on his staff. Brent Thomas has been with
Guttin for all 30 years. Thomas was an outfielder for the Bears
in 1981 and 1982 and became a coach when Guttin took over in
1983. Pitching coach Paul Evans has been with the program for 24
Medrano is a believer in Guttin, a former
Missouri State second baseman as well.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Medrano said. “He has
a lot of confidence in his guys and is an all-around great coach
to play for.
in as a freshman I didn’t know how to turn a double play and he
taught me the ropes on how to be quicker on my feet and made me
learn that position even better.”
The Missouri Valley Conference was strong in
2011, ranking seventh in conference RPI. Missouri State is the
favorite in the 2012 MVC preseason coaches’ poll, but it should
be another tightly contested race.
“I think it’s going to be very competitive,”
Guttin said. “If you look at the teams on paper, I think six of
the eight have a lot of returning quality players. I think the
league will be stronger as a whole than it was a year ago.”
(photos courtesy of Missouri State Media