By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Kan. —
Brett Abell pitched a six-hit shutout and Tee Helsel hit a seventh-inning grand slam Thursday afternoon as Missouri Southern defeated Pittsburg State 9-0 in the semifinals of the MIAA Tournament at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Third-seeded Missouri Southern faces top-seeded Missouri Western at 11 a.m. today in the winners’ bracket final, and Pittsburg State plays the loser at 2:30 p.m. Missouri Western defeated Central Oklahoma 9-3 in the first semifinal game, and Pittsburg State eliminated UCO 3-1 Thursday night.
Helsel’s grand slam highlighted a six-run seventh inning that began against Pittsburg State starter Matt Stalcup (7-4). With the Gorillas trailing 4-0, Jake Moore relieved Stalcup and walked Lions designated hitter Will Wagner intentionally to load the bases.
Helsel’s drive hit the base of a chain-link fence beyond the left-field wall, just short of the $100,000 bull’s-eye sign.
“It was a hanging slider,” said Helsel, who was 2-for-4 and scored two runs. “I was sitting fastball. I was trying to hit the bull’s-eye.
“We had a lot of other timely hits,” he said. “We got three runs in the fourth. There was a lot of stuff that helped us get to that point.”
The Lions (32-19) scored three runs in the third inning on a leadoff single by Helsel, who was sacrificed to second by Thomas Wilson and scored when Nick Doughty grounded a single into right field. After Dane Kolkmeyer’s single to left, Michael McCoy hit a popup into shallow right field that fell in for a two-run single.
“We got a huge break with the popup,” said Lions head coach Bryce Darnell. “The sun just came out five minutes before. Stalcup is so tough, but so was Brett Abell. I can’t say enough about how he has bounced back. I’m so happy for him.”
Abell allowed five runners to reach second base. PSU had runners at first and third with two out in the fifth when Ryan Bilovesky lined out to Helsel, who made a diving catch to his left. In the sixth inning, Cody Ball, who was 2-for-4, lined a one-out triple that landed near the 411-foot sign in left-center field but was left stranded.
“In a bigger setting, you have to settle in,” said Abell, who walked three and struck out seven. “Early on, I wasn’t throwing the changeup very well. We stuck with our plan and our approach.
“Pittsburg State is a good hitting team,” he said. “Anytime you can hold them to six hits, you take it. We get the importance and sense of urgency. This is a senior-laden team. We know how Missouri Western is. They’re a good hitting team, but we’re a good hitting team, too. It’ll be a dogfight.”
Shaun Hoover began the Lions’ six-run seventh when he was hit by a pitch. He moved to second on McCoy’s sacrifice, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single to right by Dallas Burke, who was 2-for-4.
Sam Ryan, who was 2-for-5, doubled down the left-field line and Burke stopped at third.
Stalcup, who allowed 10 hits, walked two and struck out six, left the game to a rousing ovation by Pittsburg State’s fans.