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Bell helps baseball improve to 3rd in conference

Coach Buzz Verduzco had a hunch in this past weekend’s matchup against Washburn. Hardly anybody agreed with him, however.

With two outs and Bubba Dotson on second base, Verduzco decided to pinch hit Jared Bell, who hadn’t had a hit all season. It paid off.

Bell’s walk off single to center field sent Dotson home to seal a 5-4 victory in game four of Missouri Western’s four-game sweep against Washburn.

“My logic was that [their pitcher] kind of took it to our right handers a little bit,” Verduzco said. “Some of the lefty at bats that I felt were a lot more productive against that kid than some of the right  handers. And we had one guy left and that was Jared Bell.”

Western took a 4-0 lead after five innings, but the Ichadbods scored two runs in the top of the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game at four. With two outs, Bell delivered to give Western the victory and a 19-9 record overall, which includes a 12-6 conference record.

Bell’s walk off came one day after Jimmy Smelcer’s walk off to defeat Washburn 3-2. Western beat Washburn 3-2 in both game one and game two. The Griffons were outhit by the Ichabods in three of the four games this past weekend, and tied game three with six hits.

“One thing I can tell you about Jared, he doesn’t have a hit but he goes to the batters box and he swings,” Verduzco said. “I’ll give Jared Bell that. He doesn’t get cheated. He’s going to up there and get a good pitch, and he’s going to swing. And so, sure enough, he got a pitch to hit, drove it up the middle and the rest is history.”

Western moves up to No. 3 in the conference, right behind No. 1 Central Missouri (23-5, 18-4 MIAA) and Emporia State (19-8, 15-7). Washburn fell to No. 5 with a .500 MIAA record (9-9) and a 13-12 record overall.

The Griffons head to Maryville to take on Northwest Missouri State this weekend. Although Northwest is currently sitting at No. 9 in the conference, Verduzco said that the team must be prepared because it is a rivalry game, and those are always tough. The Bearcats hold the second most hits in the conference with 303, just 10 behind Emporia.

“It’s going to be knock down, drag out, you’re going to throw records out the window; it don’t mean anything,” Verduzco said.

Pitching has been stronger than in the years past, according to Verduzco. Brandon Simmons holds a 6-2 record while Ethan Ward (4-1) and Nik Jurado (4-0) help provide depth.

Western doesn’t return home until Apr. 28 against Southwest Baptist, following 14 straight road games.

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