The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 23, 2013

Lions brace for Wednesday's pivotal doubleheader at Pitt State

Threat of rain pushes games back

By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer

— Missouri Southern will play Pittsburg State in a pivotal MIAA doubleheader at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Al Ortolani Field.

The games, originally scheduled to be played today, were moved to Wednesday because of a 90 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in today’s forecast.

The doubleheader has postseason implications for both teams. Missouri Southern (27-16, 21-14) is in fourth place with five games remaining. The top four teams at the end of the regular season will have home-field advantage in a three-game series in the first round of the MIAA postseason tournament.

Pittsburg State (23-19, 19-17) is among a logjam of teams still in contention for a berth in the tournament. PSU is tied for seventh with Fort Hays State, followed by Southwest Baptist (17-17) and Nebraska-Kearney (17-19). Lindenwood (17-16) is ineligible for postseason play.

After Wednesday’s doubleheader, the Lions will face league-leading Missouri Western (24-2) in a three-game weekend series at Joe Becker Stadium. Meanwhile, PSU will face Northwest Missouri (16-22) in a three-game series at Al Ortolani Field.

This will be the Lions’ first trip to Pittsburg since the hiring of Matt Murray, who is the third head baseball coach in the program’s 33-year history.

Murray had served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Central Missouri the previous five seasons. He is a graduate of Northeastern (Okla.) State.

The Lions’ offense starts with their leadoff batter, second baseman Michael McCoy, who leads the team in runs scored (34), hits (60) and total bases (85). He has struck out six times in 175 at bats.

Right fielder Dallas Burke (.347) leads the team in batting, followed by McCoy (.343), catcher Sam Ryan (.342) and shortstop Thomas Wilson (.333). Ryan has a team-best 15 doubles, while Wilson has stolen 10 bases in 11 attempts.

Left fielder Will Wagner has raised his average to .313 and leads the team in home runs (7), RBIs (32) and slugging percentage (.574).

The Gorillas are batting .318 as a team and have outscored their opponents 278-219. Their lineup includes four players who are batting nearly .350 or better.

Center fielder Ryan Ventura (.346) leads the team in runs scored (45), walks (21) and has a team-high 17 stolen bases in 23 attempts.

Left fielder Tory Stoffregen leads the team in batting (.378), doubles (16), triples (4), RBIs (41) and slugging percentage (.601) and is second in runs scored (56).

Third baseman Brad Foss, who leads the team in hits (57), is batting .370, and catcher Jacoby Martin, a product of Galena (Kan.) High School, is batting .349. Ryan Bilovesky (.322) has hit 10 of the Gorillas’ 26 home runs.