By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Thursday’s rain may have been letting Missouri Southern know it was OK for the Lions to head north to open their baseball season.
The Lions are scheduled to leave at 7:30 a.m. today for Minneapolis and doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday in the Hubert H. Humphrey Dome against Montana State-Billings.
Starting times are 11:45 a.m. on Saturday and 7 a.m. on Sunday. Each game is set for seven innings.
Southern coach Bryce Darnell revealed on Thursday — in no particular order — the probable starting pitchers for the Lions in the four games.
“We have 14 pitchers on our staff and we’ll need at least five starters (for the MIAA) with three games on the weekend and two games during the week,” Darnell said.
Probable starting pitchers for the Lions on Saturday are junior right-hander Drew Noble and senior left-hander Brett Abell.
Junior right-hander Ryan Bates and freshman left-hander Payton Walker are the Sunday probables.
“David Reese (a junior right-hander) obviously is another starting pitcher (after a stellar 6-3, 2.64 ERA effort in 2012),” Darnell said. “He’ll pitch this weekend. He recovers quickly.
“Right-handers Kaleb Clark (junior) and Kanon Hoover (sophomore) also are competing to start,” Darnell said. “We’re expecting senior left-hander Bo Bergen and junior right-hander Stephen Vaughn to perform well at the back end of games. Junior right-hander Josh Engler, a transfer, is a middle innings pitcher.”
Bergen worked in 14 games with a 1-2 record and one save in 2012.
Completing the hurlers are freshman right-hander Sean Goostree, junior right-hander Tyler Kjellsen, freshman left-hander Jacob Lux and junior right-hander Jon Riley.
Bates, Noble and Walker are new to the starting rotation, Darnell noted.
Abell, a junior standout in 2011, made two appearances last season before eventually having Tommy John surgery.
“He looks great,” Darnell said of Abell. “He’s worked extremely hard. We’re proud of him. We’re excited to see him on the mound.
“We’re happy (with the pitching),” Darnell said. “The key is to throw strikes and work ahead of the hitters. We like our staff.
“We also like our defense. It’s solid,” Darnell said.
Notes: Here’s a shocker: Darnell, former Southern catcher who’s in his sixth season as the Lions’ head coach, turns 41 on Sept. 13. Well, maybe that wasn’t a shock. ... Darnell’s assistants again are Jason Immekus (pitching), Nick Tuck (outfield/recruiting) and Denny Vilela (hitting). ... Darnell estimated he’d seen, or had played, at least 50 games in the Metrodome (which opened April 3, 1982). He was at Game 7 of the 1991 World Series — likely waving a hanky — when Jack Morris stymied the Braves 1-0 in 10 innings. ... It should take the Lions about nine hours to reach their destination, Darnell said. The Lions plan to stop at Lamoni (Iowa) for lunch. They don’t expect to see Bruce Jenner.