The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 12, 2014

Southern tied for 9th in baseball after split

Mitchell Osburn drove in the winning run with a two-out single in the seventh inning as Missouri Southern defeated Northeastern State 6-5 in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday at Joe Becker Stadium.

The RiverHawks gained a split with an 8-6 victory in the second game and won the four-game series three games to one. The two teams are tied for ninth in the MIAA standings as they battle for a spot in the eight-team postseason tournament.

MSSU (21-19, 15-17 MIAA) led 5-1 going into the last inning of the seven-inning first game. The RiverHawks tied the score with four runs in the top of the seventh.

In the bottom of the inning, the Lions’ Dusty Harper hit a two-out double off the left-field fence, and Osburn followed with a hard-hit grounder through the middle of the infield. Harper beat the throw to the plate from NSU center fielder Cody Robinson.

“As soon as he hit it, I knew we were going to score on that one,” said Harper, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning. “I knew I had to book it and get home. As soon as it was hit, he (head coach Bryce Darnell) was waving for it.”

Osburn, as the Lions’ designated hitter, was 2-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice.

“I was just trying to put the bat on the ball,” said Osburn, whose .308 batting average is tied with second baseman Brandon Weller as the team’s third highest. “I’ve been struggling lately, so I wasn’t trying to do too much.

“I had faith in (Harper) the whole time. I knew he was going as soon as I hit it.”

Center fielder Logan Moon was 2-for-3 with a walk and right fielder Axel Johnson was 2-for-3 with a walk and scored two runs. Stephen Vaughn (2-2), who entered the game in the seventh with the bases loaded and none out, picked up the win.

With the score tied 1-1, the Lions scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on RBI singles by third baseman Austin White and catcher Matt Smith, and Evin Natick drove in a run with a double. The third run of the inning scored on a wild pitch.

But in the top of the seventh, the RiverHawks loaded the bases on Caleb Hill’s double, an error and a hit batsman. Pinch hitter Ryan Staggs drove in the first run with a single to right field, and the second run scored on the throw to the infield.

Cody Begovich’s RBI single to left cut MSSU’s lead to 5-4. Robinson, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, tied the score with a sacrifice fly.

The Lions took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on walks to Johnson and Harper, Osburn’s sacrifice and Jared Lupo’s run-scoring ground ball.

Kyle Shambaugh was the starting pitcher for the RiverHawks in the first game, and Cayle Shambaugh was the starter in the second game. The two left-handers, from Jay, Okla., were replaced in the fourth inning.

In the second game, the Lions took a 6-4 lead with six runs in the fourth, but the RiverHawks scored a run in the fifth, two runs in the seventh and one more in the ninth.

“This time of year, the players understand how important the games are,” said NSU coach Travis Janssen, whose team will face Southwest Baptist in a four-game series at Bolivar next weekend.

“With where we are in the standings, it was a big series. I was very happy to win three out of four, especially after losing the first game (Saturday) the way we did.”

The Riverhawks (19-21, 15-17) will wrap up their regular season with a four-game series against Washburn at Tahlequah. MSSU will face Central Oklahoma (28-10, 22-10) in a four-game series that begins Thursday at Joe Becker Stadium, then will go to Nebraska-Kearney for four games.

The Lions, playing without injured starters Tee Helsel and Robbe Ewing, had a scare when Natick was hit in the lower leg by a pitch in the fourth inning.

“I look out in the second game and we’re starting four freshmen,” Darnell said. “We’re giving it all we’ve got. It’s just not enough right now.”

Osburn drove in the first two runs of the fourth inning with a double that scored Moon and Johnson, who had singled. White’s single with the bases loaded drove in Osburn, Natick forced in a run when he was hit by a pitch, and Smith, as the designated hitter, hit a two-run single.

NSU scored four runs on four hits in the second inning, then scored a run in the fifth on a wild pitch. Catcher Tyler Wilkins had a RBI double in a two-run seventh and drove in a run with a groundball in the ninth.

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