—Missouri State’s ace pitcher, Nick Petree, battled through a rough start Friday night before showcasing why Perfect Game named him a preseason all-American. He retired the final 16 UE batters faced while leading the Bears to a 9-5 win at Braun Stadium in game one of the teams’ series. The Aces continue at 2 p.m. Saturday (weather permitting) and 1 p.m. Sunday against Missouri State, the Missouri Valley Conference’s No. 1 team.
—Redshirt junior Johnny Day, who has a history of shoulder problems, was out of UE’s lineup Friday and will be for an indefinite period of time moving forward. Day aggravated a shoulder again last weekend at Wichita State while sliding into second base. Said coach Wes Carroll of the starting infielder who has a 266 average and .388 on-base percentage: “We’ll see how it goes.”
—I reached Cowley County Community College assistant coach Donnie Jackson Friday, who informed me that sophomore Ben Vozzola is on a recruiting visit to UE this weekend. No formal offer for Vozzola yet, but with another junior college guard, Malcolm Brooks, off to Pepperdine, Vozzola seems a top option for Aces coaches during the spring signing period.
—Illinois State cruised to a 4-0 win over the UE women’s tennis team Friday morning, ending the Aces’ run at the Missouri Valley Conference team championships after one match. UE’s No. 1 singles and doubles player, sophomore Natasha James, didn’t even get through either of her matches before both points were clinched.
—The Sun Belt Conference reached out to Illinois State recently, but the Redbirds aren’t interested in switching leagues right now. It would have been a football-only move, and writer Jim Benson has the full story here. Missouri State is also rumored for such a move from the Missouri Valley Football Conference, possibly to Conference USA. Again, that’s assuming the Bears would stay in the MVC for all other sports.
—UE’s softball team starts its three-game series at Indiana State today with a noon first pitch. The Aces have won four consecutive series while reaching .500 in conference play. After Indiana State, they’re back at Cooper Stadium against Western Kentucky on Wednesday and Illinois State for a weekend series to finish the regular season.
—UE’s men’s golf program heads to Dalhousie Country Club in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Monday and Tuesday for the MVC championships. MVC coaches tabbed the Aces seventh of nine teams in the league’s pre-championship poll. Southern Illinois is the host team this year, and admission is free.