Conference championship hopes alive

The Griffons won three of their four games this past week, clinching a playoff spot and finding themselves just two games out of first place. With seven games left in the regular season, there is plenty of time for the team to win the conference championship—with three of those games against first place Central Missouri. Western started last week by welcoming the Bearcats of Northwest to the Griffon Baseball Field by winning 12-2. The offense continued to do what it has done all season -- that is, score a lot of runs. The Griffons scored eight runs in the first two innings. Infielder Landon Mason stretched his hitting streak to 20 games in the first inning and scored a run. Center fielder Nick Gawley recorded four hits in four at-bats with seven RBIs and a homerun. Fellow outfielder Kody Matthews also had a good day at the dish with three hits and two RBIs. Pitcher Tyler Tuepker received his first win of the season, going three innings and allowing just two runs. Pitchers David Anderson, Jared Lloyd and Mike Calimeno then combined for eight shutout innings. Coach Buzz Verduzco loves anytime his team can take care of the Bearcats. “Anytime you can go up there and take care of them, that’s a good thing,” Verduzco said. The Griffons hosted Nebraska-Kearney this past weekend at Missouri Western. Western won the first game by a score of 10-3 and took two of three from UNK. Gawley’s bat did not cool down in this game with three hits and four RBIs. Mason, the MIAA’s leader in batting average, collected three hits in the game. Pitcher Richard Peoples had a solid game on the mound, allowing three runs in seven innings. Game two of the series would go to the Lopers 2-1. The normally powerful Griffons offense was held to just six hits in the game. Mason’s hitting streak ended at 21 games and the team’s only RBI came from Matthews in the second inning. Pitcher Weston Caindec received the loss, but pitched well, allowing just two runs in seven and a third innings. Caindec allowed six hits and recorded four strikeouts. “Our pitching staff has been so good lately,” Verduzco said. The Griffons got back to their winning ways in the rubber match of the series, defeating the Lopers 8-2 on Sunday. Second baseman David Glaude led the Griffon offense with four hits and three RBIs. Third baseman Jeremy Alvarado had just one hit in the game, but that one hit was his 13th homerun of the season. First baseman Cosimo Cannella added an RBI giving him 61 so far this season, good for second in the conference. The pitching for Western was strong once again. Alex Clavet went six and a third and allowed just two runs. Preston Bailey pitched two and two-thirds and received his fourth save of the season. “This pitching staff is more dialed in than they’ve been all year,” Verduzco said. Western played their final game of the year against the Bearcats of Northwest Tuesday afternoon. It was one that the Griffons will want to forget as the team dropped the game 6-0 and were no-hit by the Bearcats' starting pitcher. The loss gives Central Missouri a three-game lead over Western. The first place Mules have lost two in a row, giving Western the opportunity to move up in the MIAA standings. Central Missouri is 15-3 at home this season, but the Griffons are 21-3 on the road. The series will showcase the best offense in the MIAA and the conference’s best pitching staff. The Mule’s staff has allowed just 156 runs this season, while the Western offense has outscored the Central Missouri offense by more than 100 runs. “These championships are hard to get. It takes so many things for this opportunity to happen,” Verduzco said.  

Griffon offense keeping MIAA in check

It is nearly impossible to beat a baseball team who is averaging nine runs a game, and that is the lesson that the rest of the MIAA is learning. After a win against Northwest last Wednesday and a three-game sweep of Fort Hays, the Griffons brought their winning streak to seven games. Western traveled to Maryville last Wednesday to face their rivals in the first matchup of the season. The game was tied at one after the first inning and stayed that way until infielder Cosimo Cannella broke the tie with an RBI triple in the top of the fourth. Catcher Brandon Downs drove-in Cannella right after to give the Griffons a 3-1 lead. Northwest scored their last run in the fifth inning. Western added four more runs in the sixth inning, giving them an 8-2 victory. David Glaude led the Griffons with three hits and three RBIs. Pitcher Alex Clavet went six innings, allowing two runs and striking out seven. Coach Buzz Verduzco really enjoyed this victory. “Anytime you can beat the Bearcats, that’s a plus,” Verduzco said. The Griffons traveled to Hays, Kansas last Thursday to start a three-game series against the Tigers. The offense was brilliant again in game one, winning the game 16-7. By time the Hays scored their first run, Western was already ahead 6-0.  The Griffon’s biggest inning came in the sixth when they scored six runs. Second baseman David Glaude was the star offensively, recording three hits and driving in six runs. Left Fielder Orencio Fisher recorded four hits in his five plate appearances. Pitcher Weston Caindec had another solid outing for the Griffons, pitching seven and a third innings and allowing just two earned runs. Caindec threw 117 pitches and the win improved his record to 4-1 on the season. Western was dominant on both sides in game two, winning 13-2 in eight innings. The Griffons' offense continued to do what it does best: score a lot of runs. Glaude, last week’s MIAA Offensive Player of the Week, had two hits, two RBIs and scored three runs. Downs hit a three-run homerun in the sixth, one of 16 hits for Western. Right fielder Kody Matthews had a big day at the plate, collecting five hits in five plate appearances while driving in four runs. “He [Glaude] is a big-time pressure hitter because he doesn’t get excited or dejected,” Verduzco said. “He just goes out and plays, which is really good.” Pitcher Richard Peoples threw seven innings, allowing just two runs and one strikeout. Peoples did find a lot of Tiger’s bats, allowing ten hits in his start. The win was the pitcher's seventh of the season. “I’ve just been sticking with the game plan and trusting the defense behind me,” Peoples said. The final game of the series went a little differently than most of the Griffons' wins this season. The team scored less than four runs—and won the game. Thanks in part to strong pitching, Western won the game 2-1. Fort Hays struck first in the game, scoring their one and only run in the bottom of the first. The Griffons were able to tie the game in the top of the third when catcher Alex Heuring homered to right center field. It was in the sixth inning that center fielder Nick Gawley would score Glaude on a single up the middle, giving Western the run they needed to win the game. Pitcher Evan Jones was the star of the game, pitching seven innings and yielding just one unearned run. Jones allowed just three hits, while striking out three. Pitcher Preston Bailey earned the save, pitching two shutout innings. “The pitchers did an outstanding job here at Hays,” Verduzco said. Tuesday was the second battle between the rival Northwest Bearcats and the Griffons. Western continued to keep their foot on the gas offensively as they dominated Northwest 12-2. The Griffons recored 16 hits as opposed to the Bearcats six and Western's pitching staff struck out six batters while the Northwest staff only whiffed four. The eight game win streak propelled the Griffons into second place in the MIAA. The conference’s second best offense will try to keep the bats going against the University of Nebraska at Kearney on Friday, April 22 at 6 p.m. “We want to keep the same intensity we’ve had on the road this week at home,” Verduzco said.

Explosive scoring makes Western successful on road

It seems like just yesterday the Western baseball team was playing their season opener in Arkansas, but 35 games later the Griffons find themselves sitting in third place in the MIAA. After winning 15 of 17 Western has cooled down just a bit. In one of their most impressive victories of the year, the Griffons downed No.10 Emporia State 8-1 in Emporia. Pitcher Weston Caindec dominated the Hornets in his six innings of work. Caindec held Emporia to one run, yielding seven hits and one strikeout. Infielders David Glaude and Jeremy Alvarado each had two RBIs. It was Missouri Western’s sixth straight win. The Griffons then welcome Lindenwood to the Spring Sports Complex April 1-3. The friendly confines of Griffon Baseball Field have not been so friendly for the home team and this series was no different. Head coach Buzz Verduzco thinks fatigue could have played a part in his team’s struggles. “We just looked a bit tired,” Verduzco said. Western dominated the Lions in game one, winning 11-2. Pitcher Richard Peoples went eight innings and set a career-high in strikeouts with 10. The Griffons received good news when pitcher Tyler Tuepker pitched a scoreless ninth inning. Tuepker made his first appearance since early 2015 when he was forced to have Tommy John surgery. Centerfielder Nick Gawley led Western with three RBIs. The Griffons lost the final two games of the series, 5-7 and 6-9. Two days later Emporia State made their way to St. Joseph and exacted their revenge on Western. The Hornets throttled the Griffons 12-2 in seven innings. The loss dropped Missouri Western to 7-7 at home this season. To counter that record, the Griffons have won 17 of 20 on the road this season. “We just haven’t been the best home team this year,” Verduzco said. “We’re tempted to call everybody and ask if we can play at your place.” The road warriors took the long bus ride down to Edmond, Oklahoma to play a three game series April 8-10 at Central Oklahoma. Western swept the Bronchos and scored 54 runs in those three games. The Griffons found themselves down 9-3 heading into the eighth inning of game one. That’s when the conference’s No.2 offense came to life, scoring seven runs in the inning. Glaude tied the game with a three-run homerun, his second homerun of the game. Alvarado gave Western the lead with his second double of the game. Game two would have made the school’s football teams envious of the final score. The Griffons won the shootout 22-21. “If you left any ball waist-high, you weren’t going to see that ball very long,” Verduzco said. Missouri Western tied a team-record with six homeruns in the game and the two teams combined to hit 14 long-balls. The teams combined to use 17 pitchers in the game. Caindec received the win and was the only Western pitcher to not allow a run. “We were just excited that we got three outs and nobody scored,” Verduzco said. Pitcher Evan Jones started the game, but lasted just one inning after allowing four runs. Hits were not a premium for the Griffon’s offense, tallying 20 hits in the game. Right fielder Kody Matthews led the team with five hits in six at-bats. Matthews also had five RBIs in the game, but it was Alvarado that led the way with seven RBIs—including the game winning RBI in the 10th inning. The Griffons kept on rolling in their final game of the series Sunday, winning 22-2 and finishing the sweep of Central Oklahoma. After tying the team-record of homeruns in a game on Saturday, Western again tied that record with six more on Sunday. Peoples had his second straight solid outing, pitching all seven innings, allowing two earned runs and striking out eight. This gave the reigning MIAA pitcher of the week 18 strikeouts in his last two games. “Richie has been one of our most consistent guys,” Verduzco said. The sweep brought the Griffon’s record to 18-6 in the MIAA and 24-11 overall. Missouri Western trails Central Missouri by four games in the standings with 15 games left in the regular season. The team will travel to Maryville on Wednesday to take on Northwest and then travel to Fort Hays on Friday for a three-game set against the Tigers.

Living a baseball lifestyle

There is nothing in life that compares to your first love—and no, I am not just talking about the girl down the street. For some it is an instrument, for others it may be that girl down the street. For pitcher Weston Caindec that first love was baseball. “My first memory as a child was baseball,” Caindec said. Weston was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. Growing up, there were few things more important to him than family and baseball. Luckily for Caindec, those two things meshed and helped shape him into the athlete and person he is today. “My dad was my coach from t-ball all the way up to high school,” Caindec said. He wasn’t just getting lessons from his father; Weston was also getting batting practice from his mother from the beginning. “My mom always talks about her throwing me wiffle balls from about the time I could walk,” Caindec said. Caindec was born into a close-knit family, learning life and baseball lessons from his parents while also having his grandparents there at each and every game along the way. Weston has two younger siblings, a sister who was adopted from China and a brother who also plays baseball. Caindec was not highly recruited coming out of high school. The Las Vegas native had one offer and it was from Lassen Community College in California. It was that one offer that helped Weston find the path that led him to St. Joseph. For that, he will be forever grateful to the man that gave him his first shot. “That coach was my greatest influence,” Caindec said. “He helped get me to where I am today.” As a child, Weston knew from the beginning that there was nothing else he would rather be, not a doctor nor a lawyer—he loved baseball and that is all he wanted to do. His journey to becoming a baseball player was a difficult one. Having grown up in Las Vegas, he played community college baseball in California before finally landing in northwest Missouri. “It was difficult, but it taught me to get involved and to meet new people,” Caindec said. Adjusting to new surroundings was one of a few lessons that Weston has learned on his path to Missouri Western. A lot of times sports teaches us things that we may not learn anywhere else and baseball has shown him that. “It teaches you to work hard and strive to set your goals,” Caindec said. “Facing adversity and how to change and adapt to the things in front of you.” Weston is still a college student first and is getting his degree in business management. He plans on attending law school back in Vegas once he gets his degree from Missouri Western. “When I graduate I want to be remembered as a nice guy who treated others here well,” Caindec said. “Because they’re not going to remember my stats, but they will remember how I treated them.”      

Griffons hit hot streak

The weather in northwest Missouri has been anything but consistent over the last few weeks. The same cannot be said about the baseball team, which has been hot as of late, winning 15 of their last 18. The Griffons won all four of their games last week, starting with a 6-5 victory over No. 15 Emporia State University. The Griffons trailed by one heading into the ninth inning. Infielder Landon Mason tied the game with a double down the line, scoring outfielder Michael Babbitt. Emporia then loaded the bases on an intentional walk for first baseman Cosimo Cannella. Cannella then sent a deep fly ball to center to score the winning run. Head coach Buzz Verduzco was proud of his team’s effort. “We have this through the course of this season, this never give up attitude,” Verduzco said. Mason led Western with three hits in five at-bats and outfielder Nick Gawley added a homerun for the Griffons. Pitcher Preston Bailey blanked the Hornets in the eighth and ninth to earn his third win of the year. “They’re a good team and it doesn’t get any easier,” Verduzco said. Western then started a three-game series in Tahlequah, OK against Northeastern State University. The Griffons jumped on the RiverHawks early, up 7-0 after four innings. Western scored runs in the first, third and fourth inning helping pitcher Richard Peoples earn his fourth win of the season, going six innings and yielding just three runs on four hits. Pitcher Weston Caindec earned his first save of the year in the 7-4 victory. “Our pitching staff is finally really starting to come around,” Verduzco said. The Griffons’ offense had 10 hits in the game and had three players with two-hit games. Cannella added a three-run homerun in the fourth inning, his eighth of the year. “We hit the ball a little bit, which makes it a lot easier to pitch,” Verduzco said. Western won game two of the series 13-9. For the ninth time this season the Griffons’ offense scored more than 10 runs. Western pitcher Conner Schwienebart earned his first victory of the year, though he allowed four runs in five innings of work. Trailing 6-2 in the top of the fifth, the offense decided it was their time to shine. They came alive, scoring eight runs in the inning to take a 10-6 lead. Outfielder Orencio Fisher had his second straight multi-hit game, going three for five with three RBIs and two homeruns. Mason and third baseman Jeremy Alvarado each added two RBIs in the game. Jared Lloyd started on the mound for Western, but was pulled after allowing four runs in two innings. The Griffons pounded the RiverHawks in the final game of the series, 21-5. The 21 runs are a season high for the team. The team had 24 hits in the game, four short of the school record 28. Western actually trailed 4-1 after two innings, before going on a 20-1 run, with eight of those runs coming in the eighth inning. Fisher continued his hot streak with three hits and an RBI. Outfielder Alex Heuring went four for six with five RBIs and two homeruns. Cannella went four-for-four with five RBIs and crossed the plate four times. Even Jones started on the mound for the Griffons, allowing five runs in five innings of work. Jones improved to 4-0 on the season. Alex Clavet, Blaine Werth and Caindec combined for three shutout innings. With their four victories last week, the Griffons improved to 19-8 overall and 11-5 in the MIAA. Western is tied for third-place with the University of Central Oklahoma and their five straight wins are the best in the conference. The Griffons will host Lindenwood University in a three-game series starting Friday at the Spring Sports Complex. Friday evening’s game will start at 6:00 pm and then the two teams will meet at 1:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. “If we can continue to play like we have been, then I think we can do pretty well the rest of the season,” Verduzco said.