The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Missouri Southern Sports

May 10, 2012

Lions face Fort Hays State in MIAA baseball tournament

Missouri Southern’s strong finish — 11 victories in the last 14 games — moved the Lions into third place in the final MIAA regular-season baseball standings.

But the Lions play an elimination game against Fort Hays State at 2:30 p.m. today as the MIAA Postseason Tournament starts a four-day run at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.

Fourth-seeded Washburn and fifth-seeded Emporia State meet in the tournament opener at 11 a.m., and today’s two winners join top-seed Central Missouri and No. 2 Missouri Western in a four-team, double-elimination affair starting on Friday.

This tournament format is different from any other tournament schedule being used in the region.

“It definitely rewards the top two seeds,” Lions coach Bryce Darnell said. “The winner of our game will be pitching their No. 2 guy against somebody’s No. 1. But that’s just part of it.”

The Lions (32-18) have made the postseason tournament for the third time in Darnell’s five seasons. Their 15-1 start to the season was capped by a four-game sweep at home over Fort Hays State in early March.

“We’re a different team, they’re a different team, that was a long time ago,” Darnell said. “Obviously it’s not about who you play but when you play them, and we caught them at the right time.

“We feel like we played well this past weekend (in a four-game sweep over Southwest Baptist), and we want to keep that going. Fort Hays is a tough opponent. They are a real offensive team. They have a real good left-handed pitcher (Shawn Lewick) that we’ll see. We have our hands full for sure.”

Right-hander Cody Griebling (9-3, 2.83) will start on the mound for the Lions. He has nine complete games this season, second in the country behind Missouri Western’s Brandon Simmons, who has 10. Griebling tossed a seven-inning, complete game in the Lions’ 5-4 victory on March 9 when he gave up six hits and four unearned runs, walked one and struck out eight. Lewick took the loss, yielding five runs (three earned) and six hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking three and fanning seven.

David Reese (6-3, 2.43), Ryan Wheat (5-3, 3.84) and Ethan Stenger (5-2, 3.99) complete the Lions’ starting rotation. Missouri Southern’s 3.64 team ERA is the school’s best since the 1991 staff had a 3.24 mark.

The Lions are batting .310 as a team, and the first five in the lineup are hitting above .300 — second baseman Luke Acosta (.337), left fielder Michael McCoy (.374), designated hitter Cullen Baxter (.306), catcher Sam Ryan (.302) and first baseman Jesse Kinzey (.333).

Completing the probable batting order: third baseman Tee Helsel (.293), center fielder Dane Kolkmeyer (.287), right fielder M.J. Sartin (.298) and shortstop Thomas Wilson (.269).

1
Text Only
Missouri Southern Sports