The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

May 5, 2013

Lions win twice to advance in MIAA tournament

Dallas Burke drove in five runs as Missouri Southern advanced to the semifinals of the MIAA tournament Sunday by defeating Northeastern State 6-5 and 5-3 at Joe Becker Stadium.

Missouri Southern (31-19) won the three-game, first-round series and will face Pittsburg State (28-22) at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.

No. 15 Missouri Western (37-8) will face Central Oklahoma (30-17) at 11 a.m. in the other semifinal. The losers of the first two games will play at 6 p.m. today.

Burke, a senior, cracked a three-run double in a five-run fourth inning in Sunday’s first game. His two-run home run in the third inning of the second game gave the Lions a 2-0 lead.

“Today was a big step from yesterday,” Burke said, referring to the Lions’ 4-2 loss in the first game of the series. “We’ve had some ups and downs this season, but we didn’t want our season to end at Joe Becker.”

Burke, who was 3-for-7, raised his team-leading batting average to .345. The home run was his fourth of the season.

“Dallas had a good day,” said Lions head coach Bryce Darnell. “We needed somebody to come up with a big hit and Dallas was able to do that.”

Ryan Bates (7-2) scattered nine hits in eight innings in Sunday’s first game. The Lions’ bullpen withstood a four-run uprising by the RiverHawks in the ninth inning, including a three-home run by designated hitter Kyle Singleton, his 16th of the season.

The RiverHawks (28-23) came into last week with 68 home runs, the most of any team in NCAA Division II. Singleton’s blast to right-center field was the Riverhawks’ only home run and one of NSU’s three extra-base hits in the three-game series.

Payton Walker (6-4), allowed four hits, all singles, and pitched a nine-inning complete game in the final game of the series. He walked three and struck out one.

“We didn’t talk about it much, but obviously we knew those guys where there,” said Walker, a freshman left-hander from Carl Junction. “We knew pitching was going to be the difference coming in. All around, our pitching staff had a good weekend.”

The Lions handed Walker a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning when shortstop Thomas Wilson’s single to right field drove in Tee Helsel, who led off the inning with a single and moved to second on Nick Doughty’s sacrifice.

The Riverhawks cut the lead to 3-1 with a run in the fifth on David Weber’s RBI grounder to short.

The Lions took a 5-1 lead with two runs in the sixth on back-to-back RBI singles by Wilson and Zack Steadman. Wilson’s single scored Helsel, who had singled and advanced to second on a ground ball. Wilson then stole second and scored on Steadman’s opposite-field two-out single to left.

Walker, who pitched out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the second inning, walked leadoff batter Chad Davidson in the seventh. Davidson moved to second when Ryan Staggs was hit by a pitch, and the runners advanced on Greg Jackson’s sacrifice.

Trent Wilkins then grounded a single up the middle that drove in both runs, and he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Walker got out of the inning on an infield popup and a fly ball to center field.

“Payton is a mature younger guy,” said Lions catcher Sam Ryan. “When he gets ahead, he’s tough to hit. It’s just Payton’s mentality to fight through everything and on to the next pitch.”

Walker, who threw 108 pitches, retired eight of the last nine batters he faced.

“Obviously, I was confident we would play well,” Darnell said. “I wasn’t sure we would win two games.”

Bates held the RiverHawks scoreless on four hits through the first five innings. In the sixth, NSU cut the Lions’ lead to 5-1 with an RBI single by first baseman Preston Cash.

Designated hitter Nick Doughty started MSSU’s five-run fourth with a one-out walk. Wilson reached on an error and Steadman singled to left, loading the bases.

McCoy, who was 5-for-8 on the day, drove in a run with an infield single before Burke’s shot into the gap in right-center field cleared the bases.

Burke scored when Will Wagner, who was 4-for-8, doubled to right field. The RiverHawks then replaced starter Craig George (6-5) with the first of four relief pitchers.

Bates, a junior right-hander, walked three and struck out seven. He threw 118 pitches.

“The big thing with Bates is he has to come out and attack in the first inning,” Ryan said. “When he does that, he’s a very good pitcher and he has guys behind him who can make plays.”

Pinch hitter Dane Kolkmeyer drove in what proved to be the decisive run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning that scored Doughty, who walked and moved to third on Wilson’s double.

In the ninth inning, the RiverHawks scored four runs on five consecutive hits, including Singleton’s home run, before left-hander Bo Bergen struck out Davidson and retired Cash on a force out at second base for his third save.

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