By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Kansas City, Kan. —
Ryan Bates pitched Missouri Southern’s second complete game in two days Friday, and the Lions advanced to the championship game of the MIAA Tournament by defeating No. 5 Missouri Western 4-3 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Missouri Southern (33-19) will face the Griffons (39-9) again at 11 a.m. today. If Missouri Western wins, a second game will decide the tournament champion. The Griffons eliminated Pittsburg State 11-4 in Friday’s second game.
Bates, a 5-foot-10 junior from Killeen, Texas, preserved Missouri Southern’s bullpen with a 146-pitch performance and posted his eighth victory in 10 decisions.
“I just calmed down,” said Bates, who allowed three hits and three runs in the first inning, including a two-run home run by third baseman Grant Fink. “I usually struggle in the first inning. I left a couple of balls up. The nerves were gone after the first inning. I knew it was going to be a good ballgame.
“Our guys always hang in there. They always have my back,” he said. “I think that’s the most I’ve thrown this year.”
The Lions, trailing 3-2, had some help in scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the fourth inning. After Dallas Burke’s leadoff single to center, Griffons starter Jerad Hawkins (6-1) mishandled Sam Ryan’s bunt for an error.
Will Wagner’s grounder to first advanced the runners and, with two out, Burke scored the tying run on a wild pitch. Nick Doughty then drove in the go-ahead run when he grounded a single into right field.
“That’s stuff you try to eliminate your team from doing in a game,” said Lions head coach Bryce Darnell. “We were able to take advantage of those things when they happened. If we had a close game into the fifth inning, I thought we would have a chance to win.
“It’s playoff baseball. Ryan Bates was just great. He doesn’t hurt himself. I’m proud of him.”
Bates allowed 10 hits, walked one and struck out five. Just two Missouri Western baserunners reached second base after the fourth inning.
Missouri Western struck quickly with back-to-back first-inning singles by Michael Schulze and Bubba Dotson as the first two batters of the game. With one out, Nate Ramler drove in a run with a sacrifice fly before Fink’s two-run home run.
Bates didn’t allow another hit until first baseman Spencer Shockley led off the fourth with a single.
“He’s his worst enemy,” said Lions catcher Sam Ryan. “Our defense made plays behind him and that gave him the confidence to finish the game.
“Today, he hit his spots. If he’s locating his pitches, he’s going to get outs. Today, he had all three of his pitches going.”
Missouri Southern trimmed the Griffons’ lead to 3-2 in the second inning when Shaun Hoover’s two-out, two-run double to left field scored Tee Helsel and Daughty. The inning ended when Griffons second baseman Kyle Simpson made a diving stop on Michael McCoy’s hard-hit grounder.
“We were playing the No. 1 team in our conference,” Helsel said. “We had our No. 2 (pitcher) going and they had their No. 2 going. The coaches kept us up-tempo. Every time you go to the plate, you have an uplifting spirit around you. It all starts with the pitching.”