The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 6, 2013

Lions, Gorillas split baseball doubleheader

By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer

— Missouri Southern scored two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings and outlasted Pittsburg State 4-1 in the first game of an MIAA doubleheader Wednesday afternoon at Joe Becker Stadium.

Pittsburg State’s Evan Thomas was 2-for-3 with four RBI in the second game, won by the Gorillas 5-2.

Wagner, Missouri Southern’s designated hitter, was 3-for-7 in the doubleheader with two RBI in the first game and two doubles and two runs scored in the second game.

“Today, I made an adjustment and shortened my swing,” said Wagner, whose two-out, two-run single in the fifth inning of the first game gave the Lions a 4-1 lead. “I was just trying to hit the ball up the middle.”

The lead held up behind the pitching of starter Drew Noble (2-0), who scattered eight hits and walked two in 6 1/3 innings. Help in the seventh inning came from left-hander Bo Bergen and right-hander Stephen Vaughn, who both struck out the only batter they faced.

“Drew Noble pitched outstanding. That was a good win for us,” said Lions head coach Bryce Darnell. “Our bullpen did really well. Vaughn and Bergen did a great job, no question.”

The Gorillas (6-3, 4-3 MIAA) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by Ryan Bilovesky, who was 3-for-4 with three singles. Missouri Southern broke through against PSU left-hander Matt Stallcup (2-1) with two runs in the fourth inning aided by two walks and an error.

Shaun Hoover drove in a run on a fielder’s choice and Dane Kolkmeyer drove in the other with a two-out single to center field.

Wagner’s two-out, two-run single in the fifth inning drove in Sam Ryan, who singled, and Nick Doughty, who moved Ryan to third with a double.

“We just need to focus on coming out ready to play,” Wagner said. “There have been a couple of games when we haven’t done that. It’s hard to make that climb sometimes. But we feel most comfortable on our field. It’s usually a hard place to play for visitors.”

The Lions (8-5, 4-5) are in the midst of a nine-game homestand. Next up is a doubleheader with Emporia State on Tuesday, followed by a three-game weekend series against Truman State.

The second game featured a pitching matchup of two former Carl Junction High School teammates, Jake Stevenson of the Gorillas and Payton Walker of Missouri Southern.

Stevenson, a sophomore right-hander who allowed six hits and walked three in six innings, was the winning pitcher with relief help from James Fitzgearlds, who picked up his second save.

“It was a lot of fun. I was excited when I found out I was matched against him,” said Walker, a freshman left-hander who struck out six in 4 1/3 innings. “We played together for a long time and really got to be good friends. It was a lot of fun.”

Walker allowed three hits, walked four and allowed two unearned runs in the third inning on RBI singles by Thomas and Bilovesky after a flyball in the outfield was dropped.

“The curveball was a lot better than the last time,” Walker said. “And my slider was working, too. I did have a lot more movement than the last time I threw.”

Missouri Southern missed a series of opportunities to score in the second game. The Lions stranded 11 runners, including six in scoring position. Two double plays also helped the Gorillas, who recorded forceouts at home twice.

“We did not deserve to win the second game,” Darnell said. “We did a lot of things that did not help our cause. When Pittsburg had a chance to score runs, they did, and when we had a chance to score runs, we did not.”

Wagner doubled and scored on Thomas Wilson’s single in the fourth inning. Wagner led off the seventh inning with a double and scored one out later on Shaun Hoover’s single to right field.

Pittsburg State returns home to face Washburn in a doubleheader at 2 p.m. Friday.