By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Sam Ryan went 4-for-6 and drove in five runs Sunday as Missouri Southern defeated Truman State 15-8 and won the decisive game of a three-game series at Joe Becker Stadium.
Ryan’s two-out RBI single in the second inning was the first of five consecutive two-out hits that propelled the Lions to a 7-0 lead.
From there, starting pitcher Drew Noble (3-1) shut down Truman State on just three hits before he was removed leading 11-3 with two outs in the seventh inning.
“Today’s the team we are,” said Ryan, who raised his batting average to .365. “We got hits with two outs and we haven’t been doing that.
“Drew’s a great pitcher,” he said. “It’s hard to pitch when you’re behind, and we haven’t been scoring runs for him. Today, Drew pitched like we all know he can pitch.”
Missouri Southern (10-10, 6-8 MIAA) is just two games behind third-place Central Oklahoma in the lost column of what has become an 11-team scramble for the six berths in the MIAA postseason tournament.
The Lions play a doubleheader at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Northeastern State and will return home for a doubleheader against Lincoln at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Ryan, who drove in a run with a double in the third inning and two runs with a double in the fifth, took over the team lead with 27 hits and 10 doubles. He is tied with Nick Doughty for the team lead in RBIs with 16.
Ryan caught the first game of the series against Truman (5-14, 5-13 MIAA), then returned as the Lions catcher for Sunday’s game and helped guide Noble threw the Bulldogs’ lineup.
“He kept hitters off-balance all day,” Ryan said. “He was able to command his off-speed stuff, and when he does that, he’s tough to hit. Today is what Drew Noble is about.”
Noble, who walked three and struck out five, retired the first 10 batters he faced. Truman first baseman Paul Trenhaile doubled and scored in the fifth inning and left fielder T.J. Wood singled and scored on a passed ball in the sixth inning. Wood drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk in the seventh as the last batter Noble faced.
“We’ve been struggling at the plate, so it gives our offense a lot of confidence and it’s easy to pitch behind that,” Noble said.
The game started 20 minutes behind schedule as the Lions prepared the field after light rain fell in Joplin overnight. The game time temperature was 40 degrees, and light rain prompted a 20-minute delay after Truman scored four runs in the top of the eighth inning.
“I’m from Kansas, so we deal with this every so often. You have to fight the elements,” said Noble, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior who is a native of Eudora and transferred to MSSU from Coffeyville Community College.
Noble said he threw a two-seam fastball along with a slider and changeup. “I threw my changeup really well today, which is a plus,” he said. “I’ve been working on it.”
Leading 11-8, the Lions tacked on four runs in the bottom of the eighth on a bases-loaded walk to Thomas Wilson, Michael McCoy’s sacrifice fly and consecutive two-out singles by Dallas Burke, Ryan and Tee Helsel.
Helsel, who was 3-for-5, doubled and drove in a run in the second inning. Back-to-back doubles by Ryan and Helsel in the third inning drove in two runs and widened the Lions’ lead to 9-0.
McCoy, Burke and Dane Kolkmeyer had two hits and six Lions scored two runs. David Reese, who entered the game with one out in the eighth, allowed an unearned run on two hits and picked up his second save.