After a rough nonconference start, the Missouri State baseball team is ready for Missouri Valley Conference play. They’ve faced some tough opponents, from Oklahoma State to the University of Arkansas and UC Santa Barbara, so the Valley should be a warm welcome to the struggling Bears.

Over the past five seasons, the Bears have a 69-31 record in the MVC and are always one of the top teams in the conference. Missouri Valley play is either going to help get the Bears back on track, or it is going to bury them further in the cellar of the conference.

If the Bears are going to find any sustainable success this season, lots of things are going to need to change, including the starting pitching.

Three pitchers for Missouri State have made four or more starts on the season, and the average numbers are not the best. They have a combined earned run average of 6.87 and opposing batters are hitting .302 against them. Freshman Logan Thomazin has made four starts this season, and while opponents are hitting .256 against him, he has an 7.50 ERA.

While some of the starting pitching problems can be traced back to losing sophomore Ty Buckner and junior Tyler McAlister to season ending injuries, expectations were still high for the Bears pitching.

Junior Logan Wiley has stepped up and made seven starts for the Bears. The right-hander has a 4.62 ERA with 29 strikeouts and six walks in 37 innings pitched. Wiley is going to have to continue to carry the load amongst the starters. The inability to work deep into games and giving up a lot of runs has put strain on the Bears bullpen.

On Wednesday, March 27, Missouri State used five different relief pitchers to cover the final five innings in the 9-5 loss to the University of Kansas. 

Sophomore Connor Sechler has been the Bears’ best choice out of the bullpen. In 11 appearances the right-hander has a 2.42 ERA. Sechler is not going to make 37 appearances like Jake Fromson did back in 2017, but he is on track for over 30 for the second time in his career, which could wear on the sophomore.

While the pitching has given up quite a few runs, the offense has been the biggest disappointment for fans. Collectively the club is hitting .209 and have four regular starters hitting right at or below the Mendoza Line.

Coming into the season, junior Drew Millas was projected as a possible draft pick within the first five rounds, but he has seen his stock fall. In 21 games played, the catcher is hitting .218 with two home runs and nine runs batted in. He missed five games early in the season due to injury, but has struggled to find a rhythm at the plate.

Missouri State’s offense must produce more than four runs a game for them to have a chance in the Valley. There is no shortage of potential offense in the dugout. Between Millas, juniors Ben Whetstone, John Privitera and Logan Geha, the core will need to turn their struggles around in order to help get the club in contention for the Valley title.

If this Bears club is able to figure out how to get starters to go deeper into games, and the offense starts clicking, this is the type of club that could make a run deep in the Missouri Valley tournament.