By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Before this season, Dane Kolkmeyer has played on the infield during his entire baseball career.
But now Kolkmeyer patrols center field for Missouri Southern, and it’s been a pretty simple transition for the junior from Joplin.
“Just see ball, go get ball,” Kolkmeyer said.
“It’s been real smooth,” Lions coach Bryce Darnell said. “Dane is a gifted, natural athlete. He has a lot of God-given ability. We had all the intentions of him playing outfield last year. It’s just the way things shook out, we needed him in the infield. We recruited him with the idea that he’s probably going to be an outfielder.”
Kolkmeyer, an all-stater in baseball and football for the Joplin Eagles, has two assists and two errors in 70 chances this season. With action in center field much less frequent than it is on the infield, Kolkmeyer admits the mind can wander at times.
“Sometimes, because you get about three flyballs a game if you’re lucky,” Kolkmeyer said. “You just have to keep focused, but on the infield, you’re in the play every single pitch.
“But it’s not bad. I like it. You just have to keep your focus a little more.”
Case in point, Kolkmeyer had only one putout in the Lions’ 11-1 Game 1 victory at Pittsburg State on Tuesday afternoon. Then he had four putouts in the 2-0 loss in the second game, including three straight batters for the last out of the fifth inning and the first two outs in the sixth.
Kolkmeyer had two hits and three runs batted in during the first game and another in the nightcap to raise his season average to .307. His 28 RBI this season is tied with M.J. Sartin for second most on the team, two behind Michael McCoy and Sam Ryan.
“We did a good job the first game, had contributions from 1 through 9 hitters and finally got base hits with runners on,” Kolkmeyer said. “We got the big hits the first game.
“The second game we hit a lot of balls hard, just right at them. That’s how baseball is sometimes. We have a big weekend this weekend, so we can’t dwell on it too much.”
The Lions are home this weekend for a four-game series against Emporia State. The series originally was going to be played during a three-day span, but with a rainy forecast this weekend, the schedule has been altered to doubleheaders starting today at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 1.
Missouri Southern (21-15, 14-14 MIAA) is sixth in the conference standings, just one game behind fourth-place Washburn, one-half game behind Fort Hays State and two games in front of Southwest Baptist, Pittsburg State and Northwest Missouri State. The top six teams advance to the league’s postseason tournament.
Emporia State (20-12, 15-9) slipped from second to third place on Tuesday when the Hornets dropped a home doubleheader to Missouri Western. The Griffons, who play this weekend at Pittsburg State, moved one game ahead of ESU with the sweep.