The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 17, 2014

Central Oklahoma spoils solid effort by Lions' Walker, wins series opener

Jake O’Brien’s two-run home run in the seventh inning broke a 1-1 tie, and Central Oklahoma defeated Missouri Southern 4-1 Thursday night in the first game of a four-game MIAA series at Joe Becker Stadium.

O’Brien, a left-handed hitting first baseman, was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. His home run came with none out after third baseman Matt Johnson led off the inning with a double.

MSSU’s Payton Walker (5-4), a sophomore left-hander, allowed one run on two hits through the first six innings. The Bronchos came into the game with a league-leading .363 team batting average.

“Tonight was the best I’ve felt all year,” said Walker, a Carl Junction product who allowed six hits in seven innings, walked none and struck out seven. “All of my pitches were working. I made three mistakes tonight and all three cost us runs.”

Kanon Hoover pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and Tyler Kjellsen shut out the Bronchos in the ninth.

“Statistically, they’re the best hitting team in our league,” said Lions head coach Bryce Darnell. “He made one bad pitch and the guy made him pay. Payton’s not in that situation if we do some things better on offense. Payton pitched great.”

UCO starting pitcher Jared Sterling (6-2), a junior right-hander, allowed seven hits in seven innings, walked one and struck out four. Phillip Wilson picked up his sixth save with two scoreless innings of relief.

The Lions (22-20, 15-18 MIAA) outhit UCO 9-7. MSSU catcher Mitchell Osburn was 2-for-3 with a walk.

The two teams will play a doubleheader at 2 p.m. today, then finish the series on Senior Day with a nine-inning game at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Bronchos (30-10, 23-10) took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when O’Brien led off with a double, advanced to third on a sacrifice and scored when Sterling chopped an infield single over the pitcher’s mound.

The Lions tied the score in the third inning. Shortstop Jared Lupo hit a leadoff double off the left-field fence, moved to third on Austin White’s sacrifice and scored on a wild pitch.

“He just left a fastball up,” said Lupo, who was 1-for-3. “I got a good pitch to hit and hit one well finally. Hopefully, we can turn the bats around and get some wins.”

The Lions had runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings but could not score.

Center fielder Logan Moon led off the eighth and grounded a single into left field, which prompted UCO head coach Dax Leone to replace Sterling with Wilson, who began the game at shortstop.

Designated hitter Matt Smith grounded a single into right field, but the Bronchos got out of the inning with a double play and an infield popup.

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