Missouri Western kicks off MIAA play this week as they face No. 4 Emporia State.
A series that was originally supposed to be held in Western’s Spring Sports Complex has now been moved to Emporia, Kansas. Now, the teams will play two doubleheaders, on Thursday, Feb. 19, and Friday, Feb. 20.
The Hornets come into the series ranked No. 4 nationally. They are currently 4-0 on the season. In those four games, they have outscored opponents 47-12, including a 17-6 victory over Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Left fielder Price Jacobs is hitting a team-leading .600 average, including 12 hits and two home runs. Catcher Tory Bell is batting a .429 and bringing in eight RBIs.
The Hornets were the demise of the Griffons last year. Two victories in the MIAA tournament ended the Griffons’ season.
Western enters the series 3-4 so far this season. The Griffons had a strong showing against another nationally ranked team. They took two of four against No. 17 Arkansas Tech to open the season, including a 10-4 victory. But two late hits by the Bison of Harding University had the Griffons leaving Searcy, Ark. with just one win.
Right fielder Trevor LaHonta is hitting a team-high .429 batting average with 12 hits and three RBIs. First baseman Cosimo Cannella leads the team with five RBIs and is hitting a .417 average with 10 hits.
The Griffons are coming off a weekend off and head coach Buzz Verduzco is feeling confident that the issues they had in the first two series are under control.
“We’ve been practicing hard over the last week, since two weekends ago against Harding,” Verduzco said. “We did work out some things that I really feel, over the last week and a half, are really catching and have really gotten a lot better. That was one of the concerns we had… that part I feel really good about going into Emporia.”
Verduzco is in his 16th season as the Griffons’ head coach. Overall, he has a 434-327 record. But the story of the weekend is Verduzco’s quest for his 300th MIAA victory. He enters the Emporia State series at 298.
The Griffons head to Emporia, Kansas, on Thursday, Feb. 19, to play the No. 4 Hornets. First pitch for game one is set for 1 p.m.