By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
On his previous three at-bats, M.J. Sartin was retired on fly balls.
But in the bottom of the 10th inning, Sartin lined a single to center field to score Sam Ryan with the winning run as Missouri Southern beat Northeastern State 4-3 Wednesday night at Joe Becker Stadium.
The Lions, 26-16 after their second nonconference victory in as many days, return to MIAA play this weekend in Jefferson City against Lincoln. The series, originally scheduled Friday through Sunday, has been changed to two doubleheaders starting at 1 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday.
Tee Helsel singled to center on an 0-2 pitch from Trevor Walch (5-6) to start the Missouri Southern 10th, and Sam Ryan, attempting to sacrifice, was hit by a pitch. Will Wagner, who tied the game with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the eighth, did get a bunt down, but Walch fielded the ball and fired to third to retire Helsel on a close play.
With two outs Sartin, who flied out to right to end the eighth with two runners in scoring position, singled sharply up the middle to score Ryan easily.
“I just tried to stay on top of the ball a lot more,” the left-handed swinging Sartin said. “I was just getting under, missing some pitches earlier in the game. I was really concentrating on trying to stay on top of one and trying to get through it instead of getting underneath it.
“I knew he was coming fastball. He had been working a lot of fastballs, so I expected that and just tried to time it up and put a good level swing on it.”
Sartin, from Hamburg, Ark. — the same hometown as former NBA star Scottie Pippen — played two seasons at Garden City Community College before going to Nebraska-Omaha. Then UNO’s move to Division I forced Sartin to look for another school.
“They had a lot of money cuts, so they didn’t have any scholarship money for out-of-state kids,” Sartin said. “Coach recruited me out of junior college actually, so I had a connection here. I almost came here out of junior college and picked UNO instead.
“One of my roommates from junior college, Kevin Burgi, is on this team and told me it was a good place to be, a good place to go to school, a good town. So I decided to give it a shot and I’m really enjoying it so far.”
“It was great to get M.J.,” Lions coach Bryce Darnell said. “M.J. is a baseball player. Practice starts at 2:30 and M.J. is usually waiting for me at 1:30 to get here. His work ethic is great. Sometimes I have to tell him you’re done taking extra swings, you’ve swung enough.
“He’s been a great addition to our team for sure.”
The Lions’ only lead before Sartin’s game-winner was 1-0 in the first on Helsel’s sacrifice fly after two walks and a bunt.
Craig Meyer’s two-run single gave the RiverHawks (22-23) the lead in the second, and Mike Stone’s sacrifice fly made it 3-1 in the fifth.
Thomas Wilson walked, moved to third on Luke Acosta’s single to center and scored on Michael McCoy’s sacrifice fly to pull the Lions within a run in the sixth. Cullen Baxter singled in the eighth, Helsel was hit by a pitch and Ryan bunted the runners over before Wagner’s sacrifice fly to left.
Five Lion pitchers combined to strike out 12 batters and walk none while allowing 10 hits, including just two over the last four innings.
Winner David Reese (5-3) fanned five in the last two innings and struck out the side in the 10th — the only inning NSU did not have a baserunner.
“I thought our pitchers did really well,” Darnell said. “That’s the kind of effort we’re going to need this weekend, and that’s a pretty good team we beat tonight. It’s a good win.”