By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Missouri Southern will face Central Oklahoma in an MIAA doubleheader at 2 p.m. today at Joe Becker Stadium. The games were originally scheduled for Wednesday but were moved to today because of the threat of severe weather.
The doubleheader pits two teams that are in a hotly competitive race going into the last two weeks of the regular season. MSSU (25-15, 19-13 MIAA) is in fourth place, 1/2 game ahead of Pittsburg State. Central Oklahoma (22-18, 18-15) is in seventh place, one game ahead of Nebraska-Kearney.
The top eight teams qualify for the first round of the MIAA postseason tournament May 2-5. The top four seeds will have home-field advantage for a three-game series. The winners will advance to a four-team championship tournament May 9-11 at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.
After today’s doubleheader, the Lions will have just one three-game series at home left on their regular-season schedule. Missouri Western, ranked No. 6 this week in the ABCA/Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll, is scheduled to play April 27-28 at MSSU.
Missouri Western was the top hitting team in NCAA Division II with a .381 batting average through games of April 7.
The Lions, who won one of three games last weekend at Central Missouri, are batting .294 as a team. Catcher Sam Ryan is batting .354 and leads the team in doubles (15). Second baseman Michael McCoy is batting .346 and leads the team in runs scored (33), hits (56), total bases (80) and stolen bases (9).
Left fielder Will Wagner, who is batting .308, has taken over the team lead in home runs (5) and RBIs (29).
Left hander Brett Abell (4-2, 4.01 ERA) leads the Lions with 60 2/3 innings pitched and 70 strikeouts.
Central Oklahoma has won its last four games and five of its last six. The Bronchos swept a three-game series against Nebraska-Kearney last weekend 15-5, 14-4 and 15-11.
The Bronchos, batting .291 as a team, are led by shortstop Cesar Wong and left fielder Tyler Crabtree, who are batting .336. Third baseman Matt Johnson is batting .320 and leads the team in doubles (16) and RBIs (85) and is second in home runs (8).
Starting pitcher Edgar Lopez (5-3, 3.98 ERA) has 54 strikeouts in 61 innings. Reliever Ethan Sharp (2-0, 3.38) has four saves.