By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
M.J. Sartin drove in the winning run with a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning in the first game, and Missouri Southern went on to sweep Southwest Baptist 10-9 and 3-1 Saturday at Joe Becker Stadium.
Ethan Stenger, one of 15 seniors recognized during Senior Day ceremonies between games, tossed a seven-inning three-hitter in the second game and raised the Lions’ record at home to 24-2.
The victories, in front of the largest crowd of the season, moved the Lions into third place in the conference standings going into the MIAA Centennial Baseball Championship, which begins Thursday at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.
The Lions (32-18, 23-17 MIAA) will play No. 6 Fort Hays State at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, and the winner will advance to play No. 2 Missouri Western at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
Sartin’s game-winning hit scored Cullen Baxter, who led off the ninth inning with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Jesse Kinzey. The Bearcats then chose to intentionally walk Sam Ryan and face Sartin.
“Right now, I call M.J. Mr. Walkoff,” said Ryan, whose three-run home run in the fifth inning gave the Lions a 9-7 lead. “It was almost a blessing to me because right there I knew the game was won.”
Sartin, who was 2-for-5 with two RBI, hit a leadoff home run in the second inning that landed just beyond the right-field fence.
“He gave me a pitch I wasn’t looking for,” Sartin said. “I got a fastball inside.”
His game-winning hit came after he hit two long foul balls to right field. “I was looking for a fastball out over the plate,” he said. “Then I was looking offspeed and he left me something up in the zone and I put a barrel on it.”
Southwest Baptist (20-28-1, 14-24) had tied the game in the sixth inning on RBI singles by Ross Wolfe and Bo Helsel. Lions head coach Bryce Darnell then brought in Michael McCoy from left field, who pitched 3 1/3 innings of one-hit relief in his third pitching appearance of the season.
“We just felt like the matchup for McCoy was best for us,” Darnell said. “He’s not necessarily a stranger to the mound.
“He pitched in our intersquad games in the fall and the spring, but obviously when you get in a game, the situation is very different. He’s an old-school baseball player.”
McCoy, who leads the team in hitting with a .374 average, made his first appearance by pitching the ninth inning of a 21-7 victory against Central Methodist last month.
“I get the work in at practice,” McCoy said. “I just wanted to throw strikes and give my team a chance to win. If I get called on, I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team win.”
The Lions built a 6-0 lead in the first three innings against Southwest Baptist starter Dustin Caplette.
Will Wagner drove in the first of three runs in the first inning with a double that scored Luke Acosta, who had singled. Cullen Baxter’s ground ball drove in McCoy, who had walked. Wagner scored on Jesse Kinzey’s single.
The Lions added two runs in the third inning on singles by Baxter and Kinzey and Ryan’s two-run double, all with two outs.
The Bearcats rallied with two runs in the fourth inning and five in the fifth to take a 7-6 lead.
Helsel, who was 3-for-4 with four RBI, drove in two runs in the fifth inning with a bases-loaded single that brought the Bearcats to within 6-4, then Spencer Blacksher and Jacob Estes followed with back-to-back doubles.
Stenger threw 74 pitches in the second game, which lasted an hour and 18 minutes. He walked two and struck out two. The Bearcats’ only run came in the sixth inning on a leadoff double by Blacksher, an error, a wild pitch and Jeremiah Bryan’s sacrifice fly.
“It was everything you could hope for to finish your college career,” Stenger said. “I could throw all four pitches for strikes and had command the whole game.
“We found different ways to win, even when we were down,” he said. “We got the job done.”
The Lions took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on Harrison Gerber’s single to right field that scored Thomas Wilson, who had doubled. They added two runs in the sixth on a single by McCoy, a triple to left center by Ryan and Kinzey’s suicide-squeeze bunt. Ryan and Wilson each had two hits.