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Griffons attempt to rise in MIAA rankings against Lions

Western goes back on the road for their second MIAA series against the Lindenwood Lions after taking three out of four games from former No. 4, now No. 26, Emporia State Hornets.

After winning three games against Emporia State, Western improved to No. 3 in the MIAA with a 3-1 conference record and a 6-5 overall record.

Meanwhile, the Lions sit at the bottom of the conference at No. 11 with a 5-5 overall record. Lindenwood’s conference play will begin during their home opener against the Griffons.

Although Western did not face the Lions during the 2014 season, they have had past success against Lindenwood, achieving the three-game sweep during their regular season series in 2013.

Even though the Lions are towards the bottom of the conference, every moment of play is important according to head coach Buzz Verduzco.

“Every inning is a crucial pitch, it’s a crucial hitter, it’s a crucial everything,” Verduzco said.

The Griffon batters have taken advantage of many crucial pitches of late. Offensively, they are being led by first basemen Cosimo Cannella, who is riding an eight-game hit streak and center fielder Ryan Degner, who has compiled a six game hit streak.

Defensively, Western has kept games close from the mound with pitchers allowing only 11 extra base hits and combining for a team 3.66 ERA. The Griffon pitching staff has five pitchers that have not accumulated an ERA, including right-handed pitcher Richard Peoples who was named MIAA/AstroTurf Pitcher of the Week.

Verduzco believes that the Lindenwood series could quickly change this season’s story if they do not continue to play consistently at the plate and on the field.

“We have to build on it because if we go next weekend and fall on our face it’s a different year now,” Verduzco said. “So we have to do what we can to make sure we play as consistent as we possibly can [and] orchestrate the pitching staff to keep us within striking distance offensively.”

The Lions will rely on the offense of senior outfielder Wade Rothermich, who has recorded a hit in eight out of 10 games and is leading the team with a .436 batting average. Lindenwood’s pitching staff only has a combined 6.01 ERA but is led by right-handers Connor Law and Geoff Hartlieb, who have a 1.35 and 2.70 ERA respectively.

Early season position decisions are beginning to be settled just in time for the series against the Lions.

“We had concerns a couple weeks ago about certain positions – catcher I think we have figured out so that’s a huge plus,” Verduzco said. “A lot of the positions are solidifying.”

The Griffons will continue their rise through the MIAA rankings during their second conference series against the Lindenwood Lions in St. Charles, Missouri, beginning on Friday, Feb. 27, at 4 p.m.

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