Wichita State Shockers

Valley's NCAA hopes fail to improve

OMAHA — One look at NCAA regional projections might drive a Missouri Valley Conference coach crazy.

At perfectgame.org, Oklahoma State is a No. 2 seed. So is Miami (Fla.). Dallas Baptist is a No. 3 seed. So is Arizona. So is Kansas State. And Jacksonville.

All at-large picks. All teams MVC coaches might reasonably feel they can compete with.

The MVC is wrapping up a good season, and nobody seems to notice.

After cratering at No. 17 last season, it is ranked No. 9 in boydsworld.com conference power rankings. It is No. 7 in the rankings at warrennolan.com.

"When you're the seventh-best league, you deserve more than one team," Missouri State coach Keith Guttin said. "The league has real good starting pitching, again. We've got teams that could go out in postseason and compete well, I think, with that pitching."

Oklahoma State, the fourth-place team in the Big 12, lost two to Missouri State, the MVC's No. 4 team. Wichita State split two games with the Cowboys. K-State split with WSU, lost to Creighton and beat Missouri State. WSU swept Arizona in a two-game series. Illinois State split two games at Miami.

Dallas Baptist, which will play all MVC teams the next two seasons, went 4-3 against the Valley.

From an MVC perspective, it did well against the caliber of competition that will suck up many of the at-large spots.

Valley schools won 60.3 percent of their non-conference games. They went 12-9 against the Big 12, although they did win seven of those against the bottom three teams. It went 4-3 against the Pacific 10, 7-9 against ranked opponents and 31-29 against the six power conferences.

What is hurting MVC schools? It is a familiar story for MVC basketball fans — a lack of marquee victories. Creighton is 1-0 vs. the top 50, according to warrennolan.com. WSU is 6-3, and no other school has a winning record against the top 50. WSU wasted that chip with a home series loss to Penn State, two losses to Kansas and a loss to Nebraska. MSU went 3-8 against the top 50.

The jump in the power ranking is no mystery to one coach.

"Better players, there's a lot better players, top to bottom, in the league," Illinois State coach Mark Kingston said. "There's been a tremendous infusion of talent."

Creighton, with an RPI rank at No. 39, is the MVC's only shot an at-large bid. No other MVC school is in the top 50.

All even — Three games separated top-seeded Creighton from fifth-seeded Southern Illinois in the standings.

Upsets should be no surprise, and may not be upsets. Indiana State coach Rick Heller subscribes to that theory.

"We knew that," Heller said. "We knew we could beat anybody, or be beat by anybody. I'm just glad to get the first one out of the way, when we didn't play all that well."

Fun in the rain — WSU and Evansville arrived at the stadium just in time to hear the weather report.

Not good. The tarp went on at 12:05 p.m. and the rain started soon after. That delayed the 12:30 p.m. start until 3:10.

Baseball players are used to those circumstances.

"We just kind of sat around and played telephone," WSU starter Charlie Lowell said.

Telephone is a game where one person comes up with a phrase, whispers it and sees how it changes as it goes around the room.

Lowell declined to give highlights.

"I don't think I can be quoted on some of that stuff," he said.

Indiana State 5, Illinois State 2 — The sixth-seeded Sycamores held Illinois State to three hits.

Indiana State pitchers Colin Rea, Reggie Hochstedler and Blake Drake combined to strike out 10 and walk seven.

Right fielder Robby Ort tripled to drive in a run in the first inning, then scored on a throwing error. The Sycamores (27-27) added two runs in the eighth on three hits. One run scored when Jon Hedges was hit by a pitch.

Pitcher Corey Maines struck out 12 for third-seeded Illinois State (35-17), the defending tournament champion.

Missouri State 6, Southern Illinois 4 — Tyler Paxson and Aaron Conway homered for the fourth-seeded Bears (32-21).

Paxson gave MSU a 3-1 lead in the third with a two-run shot to left field. Conway's home run made it 4-1 in the fourth.

SIU starter Cody Forsythe took a line drive off his left forearm in the fourth inning, ending his night.

SIU (22-33) ended the game with runners on second and third. Bears reliever Pierce Johnson struck out Jake Welch and got Austin Montgomery to ground out to end the game.

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