The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 11, 2014

Lions drop out of top MIAA spot after defeat

Emporia State knocked Missouri Southern out of first place in the MIAA standings with a 12-6, 9-3 sweep of a doubleheader Monday at Joe Becker Stadium.

The Hornets had 27 hits — eight for extra bases — off of six MSSU pitchers and stole 11 bases in 14 attempts.

The losses dropped Missouri Southern (13-4 overall, 9-3 MIAA) into a tie with Central Missouri for second place in the league. Northwest Missouri (11-5, 8-2) took over the top spot.

The Lions will face Lindenwood (4-12, 2-6) in a four-game series that begins Friday at St. Charles, then will travel to Warrensburg to face Central Missouri in a four-game series Mar. 21.

The series against Emporia State was the first of the season for MSSU’s Axel Johnson, who was 6-for-15 in the four games (.400) as the Lions’ designated hitter and was 4-for-7 Monday, including a double.

“It’s getting there,” said Johnson, a transfer from TCU who is recovering from a broken leg last December. “It all comes with seeing pitchers.”

Emporia State scored eight runs in the second inning of the first game, highlighted by back-to-back triples by shortstop Tony Cornejo and third baseman Dean Long. Cornejo’s triple to deep center field scored two runs, then Long’s blast hit near the top of the gate in center field, just to the right of the green batter’s eye background.

The Hornets were aided in the inning by two bunt singles and two hit batsmen. All four later scored.

“They really exposed some of our weaknesses,” said Lions head coach Bryce Darnell. “We have plenty to work on.”

Emporia State had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by center fielder Justin Harris and added two runs in the third inning on Cornejo’s RBI double and a throwing error.

The Lions scored twice in the third inning on RBI singles by Robbe Ewing and Dusty Harper but left the bases loaded. In the fifth, the Lions scored twice with two outs on Ewing’s RBI single and a double by Harper.

“We need to play better,” Darnell said. “We didn’t pick runners up when we had to, and we didn’t make plays when we had to.”

Backup catcher Matt Smith hit a solo home run to right field in the sixth, and center fielder Logan Moon walked and later scored on Ewing’s ground ball.

In the second game, MSSU tied the score 3-3 with two runs in the sixth inning. The Lions loaded the bases with no outs on singles by Mitchell Osburn, Johnson and Tee Helsel. Brandon Weller drove in a run when he hit into a fielder’s choice, and the other run scored on an error.

Lions starting pitcher Drew Noble (3-1) allowed two earned runs on seven hits through six innings. He was relieved in the seventh, and the Hornets went on to score three runs in the seventh, two in the eighth and one more in the ninth.

ESU leadoff batter Levi Parker was 6-for-10 and scored five runs. Long was 3-for-7 with three RBIs and three runs scored, and Harris was 5-for-7 with three RBIs and three runs scored.

Emporia State took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on Wade Hanna’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Price Jacobs. The Lions scored a run in the bottom of the inning on doubles by Johnson and Weller. ESU took a 3-1 lead in the fifth when Long’s double to right-center field scored Cornejo, who had walked.

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