By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Missouri Southern clinched a spot in the MIAA baseball tournament Friday by sweeping a doubleheader against Southwest Baptist 9-3 and 7-4 at Joe Becker Stadium.
Senior right-hander Cody Griebling tied a school record with his ninth complete game of the season in the first game. He scattered eight hits in seven innings, walked one and struck out five.
The Lions’ offense supported Griebling and second-game starter David Reese with a six-run inning in each game.
“Usually, if you look at a boxscore, the winning team has more runs in one inning than the losing team has in the whole game,” said Lions head coach Bryce Darnell.
Missouri Southern (30-18, 21-17 MIAA) concludes the regular season with a doubleheader at 1 p.m. today against the Bearcats.
Leadoff hitter Luke Acosta was 2-for-2, walked twice, scored two runs and drove in three runs in the first game as the Lions scored nine runs on six hits.
The Lions’ six-run second inning featured a two-run double by Thomas Wilson and a two-run single by Michael McCoy, both with one out.
Sam Ryan started the uprising with a one-out double to right-center field. Tee Helsel was hit by a pitch and M.J. Sartin walked before Wilson’s bases-loaded double to right.
Acosta drove in Sartin with a single, and the Lions loaded the bases again on a walk by Dane Kolkmeyer. McCoy followed with a two-run single to center that gave the Lions a 5-0 lead and ended the outing of Southwest Baptist starter Tyler Burnett (0-5).
“In practice, we concentrated on situational hitting, hitting behind runners,” Darnell said. “As we get closer to tournament time, every run counts. When you get a chance to score, you need to score.”
The Lions’ sixth run scored on a bases-loaded walk to Ryan after Baxter was hit by a pitch.
Southwest Baptist (20-26-1, 14-22) scored runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Center fielder Tyler Christophel had two hits and scored twice, and catcher Drew Miller had a pair of RBI singles.
Acosta’s two-run home run to left field in the fifth inning gave the Lions an 8-3 lead, and they added a run in the sixth without a hit.
“You’re not going to have your best stuff every day,” said Griebling, who became the first Missouri Southern pitcher in 30 years to throw nine complete games in a season. “It’s nice to pitch with a lead, especially when you don’t have your best stuff.”
Griebling tied the record held by Tim Doss in 1974, Barry Jenkins in 1977 and 1978, and Gary Bradshaw in 1982.
The Lions took a 6-2 lead in the second game with a six-run fifth inning that reflected another aspect of their practice routine, Wilson said.
“Small ball is part of our game,” he said. “They gave us some outs and we took advantage. We want to go into the conference tournament playing our best baseball.”
Sartin led off the fifth inning with a single to center field. Wilson and Acosta, attempting to sacrifice, both reached on bunt singles.
Kolkmeyer drove in a run on a fielder’s choice, McCoy singled in a run and Will Wagner walked before Baxter’s two-run single gave the Lions a 4-2 lead. Sartin then drove in a pair of runs with a two-out double to left-center field.
“The last couple of weeks, we’ve really been stressing situational hitting,” Baxter said. “We work on it every day. It’s a huge part of our practice regime.”
McCoy was 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI, and Sartin was 2-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs. Spencer Blacksher and Bo Helsel each had two hits for the Bearcats.
Reese allowed four runs, three earned, on eight hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out seven. Ryan Taylor picked up his first save with two scoreless innings.
The Lions added a run in the seventh inning on Wilson’s sacrifice fly. Baxter led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice by Jim Gilkerson and went to third on a throwing error.