The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 29, 2014

Strong pitching, Natick's catch spark Missouri Southern to sweep

Missouri Southern’s pitchers allowed just eight hits as the Lions swept a doubleheader against Southwest Baptist 7-1 and 4-2 Saturday afternoon at Joe Becker Stadium. The Lions, who have allowed four runs in winning the first three games of the series, will face the Bearcats in a single nine-inning game today at noon — one hour earlier than originally scheduled.

Right-hander Ryan Bates allowed five hits and pitched a seven-inning complete game in the opener. Left-hander Payton Walker allowed three hits in the second game with last-out relief help from Stephen Vaughn.

Left fielder Evin Natick’s over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track in the fifth inning turned into a double play when second baseman Brandon Weller’s relay throw beat baserunner Bo Helsel back to first base.

“Evin in game one made a game-changing play, without a doubt,” said MSSU head coach Bryce Darnell. “It was as good a catch as I’ve seen since I’ve been a coach.”

Natick was 3-for-4 in the first game, including a two-run single in the sixth inning.

“I got a good jump on it,” said Natick, a junior from Chicago. “The ball ended up in my mitt. Everyone thought the ball was going to be in the gap. The baserunners were aggressive. It was a big, emotional moment right there.”

The Lions had scored three runs in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead on consecutive singles by Weller, Axel Johnson, Mitchell Osburn and Robbe Ewing. Jared Lupo drove in the third run with a sacrifice bunt.

Bates (3-2), a senior, walked one and struck out three.

“We wanted to mix our pitches up,” said Bates, who pitched his second complete game in six starts and lowered his ERA to 4.06. “We threw a little more off-speed today and in the series. Our offense played well. They executed.”

MSSU (17-12, 12-11 MIAA) opened a 7-1 lead with three runs in the sixth inning. Lupo’s one-out single scored Osburn, who had walked and advanced to second on Ewing’s infield single.

After Lupo stole second base, Natick, who batted leadoff in both games, drove in Ewing and Lupo with a single to left field.

The Bearcats (14-15, 11-11) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Spencer Blacksher’s sacrifice fly scored Landon Young, who led off with double.

MSSU’s Logan Moon grounded an RBI single into right field and tied the score in the bottom of the inning. Natick led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on Phillips’ sacrifice bunt.

In the second game, right fielder Beau Phillips tied the score 2-2 in the fifth inning when he lined an RBI single to center field. Lupo, who reached first base on an error and was sacrificed to second by Natick, scored despite an accurate throw to the plate by center fielder Christian Binger.

“It was Lupo’s slide that allowed him to be safe,” Darnell said.

Osburn’s sacrifice bunt drove in pinch runner Zack Steadman with the go-ahead run in the sixth. One out later, Phillips grounded a single up the middle that scored Ewing, who reached on an error.

“I was just trying to focus on putting the ball in play, trying to be aggressive at the plate,” said Phillips, who was 3-for-4 with three RBI. “It’s definitely big for us. We’re trying to be in the right spot at the end of the year.”

SBU took a 2-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI double by Young, who later scored on a passed ball. The Lions cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on a single by Phillips that drove in Matt Smith, who walked and moved to second base on Lupo’s sacrifice.

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