With 15 games remaining in the regular season for the Missouri State baseball Bears, it’s time see where the team is at. With an overall record of 13-26 and a conference record of 4-5, the Bears have lost seven of their last ten and three of their last five.
Of the Bears’ next 15 games, 12 are Missouri Valley Conference opponents, which is loaded with good teams. Only three of the teams in the conference are below .500, and the Bears are one of them.
For the Bears to have a chance at playing spoiler, or just competing in the conference, the pitching all around has to be better. Over the past five games, the Bears’ pitching has given up nearly nine runs per game. They surrendered 20 in Saturday’s loss to the University of New Orleans.
Junior Logan Wiley threw a complete game shutout against the Privateers. The right-hander gave up one run on four hits and four walks. The complete game was the junior’s first on the season and just his second victory of the year.
Wiley has the team’s second-best ERA, right behind right-hander Connor Sechler’s 3.18. The team’s combined ERA of 6.73 is not going to cut it when going into what most would call a stretch run. The bullpen has been better, with RHP Hayden Juenger finding a home in the bullpen and giving head coach Keith Guttin another name to call on that isn’t Sechler.
Juenger gave over innings of relief work during Thursday night’s 8-3 victory against the Privateers. The freshman’s 4.75 ERA is good enough for third best on the staff and has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 33-19. The Bears will need him to continue his hot streak on the mound if they want to have success.
The offense for the Bears has been better as of late, averaging seven runs per game over the last five. The team’s batting average is on the rise as certain key hitters have started to find their groove.
First baseman Ben Whetstone has seen his batting average climb from .224 to .271 over the past 10 games. The junior has four home runs and 25 RBIs on the year, his on-base percentage of .385 is good for second on the club, behind junior Drew Millas’ .389. Whetstone has started every one of Missouri State’s games and, barring injury, will not be out of the lineup soon.
Freshman Dakota Kotowski has found a spot in Guttin’s lineup card. The outfielder leads the team with a .282 batting average and is tied for the team lead in home runs with sophomore Joey Polak. Kotowski’s .564 slugging percentage tops on the team. While he hits for power, it’s with the bases empty. For a guy that has seven home runs, to see 10 RBIs next to it is disheartening.
While the offense has started clicking, the club is still striking out at an alarming rate. The pitching staff has struck out 312 batters on the season, and for comparison Bears hitters have struck out 395 times. If the strikeout rate does not slow down, the Bears could be on the outside looking in when it comes time for the postseason.
In stacked conference, the Bears are finding themselves trying to climb out of the basement at the wrong time of the season. Three of their next conference opponents have records of .500 or better, the biggest test of this club will be Dallas Baptist. The Patriots are 27-12 overall and 6-3 in conference play. DBU has been the biggest thorn in the Bears side over the past couple of years.
While a chance at making a conference tournament championship run is unlikely, it is baseball and anything can happen. The Bears’ next game is at the University of Missouri on Tuesday, April 23, and will host the Bradley Braves from the 26-28.