Western takes strong bats on road

Missouri Western will make the trip to Tahlequah, OK to face the Northeastern State University RiverHawks on Thursday. The Griffons are 16-8 (8-5) in the MIAA and are in fifth place in the conference. Head coach Buzz Verduzco knows how important every game is in the conference. “Everybody is very, very competitive and every win means a lot,” Verduzco said. “We like where we are, even though we haven’t played our best so far.” The Missouri Western offense ranks third in batting average and will try to continue their strong hitting against the strong pitching staff of the RiverHawks. Leading the charge is infielder Landon Mason with a .446 batting average. As a team, Western has seven players with a .300 or better batting average. After a big series against Truman State, third baseman Jeremy Alvarado leads the team with eight homeruns. Infielder Cosimo Cannella leads the team with 39 RBI on just 36 total hits. The pitching staff for Western has had their struggles, but pitcher Evan Jones has been strong on the mound as of late. Jones is 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA in eight appearances. Alex Clavet is also having a good season on the mound, going 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA in seven appearances. As a staff, they have a combined ERA of 6.22. Northeastern is 13-9 at this point in the season, but share the same conference record as Missouri Western. The RiverHawks will be looking to bounce back after losing two of three to Southwest Baptist University. “They just got done with SBU on the road, so they’re going to be ready for us,” Verduzco said. Northeastern is led offensively by Jon Kamies. Kamies leads the team with a batting average of .356, nine homeruns and 32 RBI. The Griffon’s offense will have a tough task when they face pitchers Daulton Leiker and Brock Stuber, both with a sub-four ERA. This will be the Griffons' first trip to Northeastern since the school joined the MIAA. After the RiverHawks series, Western will have one game against Emporia State before starting April with a series against Lindenwood April 1-3. The Griffons are 10-4 on the road this season. “I’m really looking forward to this weekend,” said Verduzco. “We seem to be playing better on the road.”

Griffons successful over break

The Griffons played 13 games since March 3, going 10-3 in that time. Western is 16-8 overall and 8-5 in the MIAA. At the halfway point of the season, the Griffons find themselves in seventh place. Western traveled to Bolivar to play a three-game series against Southwest Baptist March 3-5. The offense continued to be very productive, scoring 25 runs in the series. The pitching staff continued to struggle, allowing 31 runs in the series. The Griffons took the first game, 16-15. Infielder Cosimo Cannella led the offensive charge, going four for six at the plate and driving in five runs. In game two, the offense was unable to keep up with Southwest’s offense. The Bearcats throttled the Griffons 11-2. Right fielder Parker Mertz was the only Griffon with multiple hits and starting pitcher Conner Schwienabart yielded 10 runs in four and a third innings of work. Western took the rubber match 7-5. It was not easy for the Griffons, scoring six runs in the ninth inning off of Bearcat pitcher Brian Womack. Infielder Jeremy Alvarado led the way with three hits and an RBI. Western’s next series was a doubleheader against Drury University on March 7. The Griffons had it going both offensively and defensively, scoring 29 runs and allowing just seven. Western took game one 15-4. Catcher Brandon Downs went three for four and drove in three runs. Game two went about the same with the Griffons winning 14-3. Outfielder Nick Gawley had two hits and drove in four runs. Head coach Buzz Verduzco believes the mid-week doubleheaders have been good for his team. “We’ve played very, very well in those doubleheaders,” Verduzco said. The Griffons welcomed Pittsburg State University to the Spring Sports Complex for a three-game series on March 10 and 11. Western took care of business, sweeping the Gorillas in convincing fashion. The Thursday matchup saw Pittsburg State jump on the home team early and took a 6-0 lead into the eighth inning. The Griffons offense then came alive, scoring seven runs, and held that lead in the ninth inning. Infielder David Glaude led the team with three RBIs in the win. There were plenty of fireworks offensively in the second game of the series, but it was Western who won 17-10. The Griffons had a season high 18 hits in the game. Once again, Glaude was the catalyst for the offense driving in four runs. Catcher Brandon Downs had a big day at the plate as well. Downs had three hits and four RBIs for Western. “I like how we’re swinging the bats to this point, that part's been really nice,” Verduzco said. In the final game of the series it was the pitching staff who led the Griffons to their 4-0 win. Pitchers Evan Jones, Jared Lloyd and Preston Baily combined nine shutout innings, four strikeouts and just six hits. Glaude went two for two in the game. “Some of those pitchers who were struggling early are finally starting to come around,” Verduzco said. Missouri Western took to the road for a doubleheader at Truman State. The Griffons took both games against the Bulldogs, 6-1 and 19-9. Glaude continued what he started offensively in the previous series. In game one, Glaude had three hits and two RBIs. Pitcher Alex Clavet led the pitching staff on the mound, throwing six solid innings, allowing one run and fanning four batters. The Griffons had themselves a day offensively in game two, scoring 19 runs on 28 hits. The 28 hits were the most by any Missouri Western team in the school’s history. Third baseman Jeremy Alvarado also set new records for homeruns in a game with three and for total bases with 13. Jones did his part on the mound for Western, throwing three shutout innings to start the game. The Griffons struggled in their last series, losing two of three to Missouri Southern State University. Western’s pitching struggled in the first two games, allowing 14 runs in game one and 12 runs in game two. Schweienebart started game one for Missouri Western, allowing five runs over two and two-third innings. Caindec came in to relieve Schweienebart in the third but had much of the same luck, yielding six runs over two and a third. Alvarado drove in Western’s only runs of the game. Game two, Western saw much of the same from their offense and pitching staff. Pitcher Richard Peoples started the game and allowed just two runs over four innings. The Griffons’ bullpen couldn’t keep them in the game, allowing 10 runs over three innings. “We didn’t quite throw the ball how we wanted or play good defense,” said Verduzco. Western was able to bounce back in the final game of the series, winning 12-2. The Griffons finished with 14 hits and seven walks. Alvarado finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, going four for four with five RBIs. Glaude continued his hot hitting at the plate, going three for four with an RBI. Western was able to rest their bullpen thanks to a complete game performance from Jones. Jones allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings. The Griffons are 8-5 in the MIAA and 16-8 overall.

Western struggles in home opening series

The Griffons baseball team dropped two of three in their conference home opener this past weekend. Through their first ten games, the pitching has been the team’s kryptonite. That was on full display this weekend, when the staff yielded six, 11 and nine runs. Head coach Buzz Verduzco knows that his team was close to a much more positive out come. “We were a base hit or a bloop single away from taking two of out of three games,” Verduzco said. Game one of the series was played Friday afternoon. Taking the mound for the Griffons was Weston Caindec. Caindec had a solid outing, going six innings and giving up just three earned runs. Opposing him for Washburn was Mike Hefferan. Hefferan went five innings, while allowing just two Western runs. Washburn struck first with a two-run homerun from David Gauntt. Western would answer in the bottom of the first when infielder Cosimo Cannella drove in outfielder Orencio Fisher on a double. The Griffons would score again in the bottom of the second on an infield single from outfielder Nick Gawley. The game would stay tied at two until the top of the fifth when Washburn then took the lead on an RBI single from Lance Barkley. Western would then answer in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single from Fisher. Western and Washburn stayed tied at three heading into the 10th inning. The Griffons would then send pitcher Richard Peoples to the mound to try and keep the game locked at three. Peoples had no such luck, allowing the Ichabods to score three runs in the inning, giving Washburn their first conference win of the season. Western fell to 1-2 in extra-inning games this season. Cannella and shortstop Landon Mason led the Griffons with two hits each in the game. The two infielders are also leading the team in average, Mason hitting .410 and Cannella second at .405. The second game of the series was not near as close between the two conference foes. The Ichabods jumped on the Griffons early and never looked back, winning 11-2. Conner Schwienebart got the start for the Griffons, going five innings and allowed four runs on five hits. The loss dropped Schwienebart to 0-2 on the season. He wasn’t the only Western pitcher to struggle on the mound Saturday. Peoples made his second appearance of the series and this one netted bat results for the pitcher. Peoples pitched one and a third, allowing three runs and walking two batters. Cannella produced half of the team’s four hits in the game, while driving in one run. Jeremy Alvarado and Mason were the only other Griffons to record a hit. The loss dropped Missouri Western to 4-5 on the season. The rubber match of the series proved to be the most entertaining game of the three. The Griffons were able to grab their first win of the series on a walk-off single from infielder Kody Matthews, giving Western a 10-9 win. Taking the hill for the Griffons was Even Jones. Jones was very solid in his previous start, going five and a third, allowing one hit and zero runs. In his start Sunday Jones allowed four runs over five innings. It was the Western offense that carried them to victory on Sunday. The team combined for 15 hits, six walks and only two strikeouts. The Griffons found themselves with a 3-0 lead after the first inning, getting RBIs from Cannella, Fisher and catcher Brandon Downs. Washburn would strike back with a vengeance, scoring seven straight runs over the next six innings. The scoring in the seventh inning started when Mason scored on a fielder’s choice. That left two runners on base for infielder Jeremy Alvarado. Alvarado launched the ball over the centerfield fence, tying the game at seven. The Ichabods answered in the eight by scoring two runs. The Griffons would dig deep and make their second comeback of the day. Gawley tied the game with a two-run homerun to left field. The rest is history, as Matthews drove in Fisher and the Griffons were able to salvage one of the three games in the series. Verduzco believes that was a great way to end the series. “That was exciting for us because we really, really needed that,” Verduzco said. Mason led Western with seven hits in the series, and Gawley led with four RBIs. The Griffons combined for 29 hits against Washburn. Missouri Western’s pitching staff will try to bounce back this week against Southwest Baptist. The staff combined for an ERA of 8.04 in the Washburn series. The Griffons will travel to Bolivar, MO, on Thursday to take on Southwest Baptist. They will play at 2 p.m. on Thursday, 2 p.m. on Friday and then play the final game of the series Saturday at 1 p.m..

Home opener begins MIAA play

Missouri Western will play their conference opening series this weekend against Washburn at the Griffon Baseball Field. The teams will face off Friday afternoon at 2:00, Saturday at 1:00 and then they’ll wrap-up the series Sunday afternoon at 1:00. Head coach Buzz Verduzco knows this is going to be a to a tough challenge for the Griffons. “Washburn is going to be good, very good,” Verduzco said. Western is ready to get back to work. The Griffons haven’t played a live game since Feb. 14th and even though they have been practicing, it is hard to simulate game speed. “We’ve been trying to keep ourselves in game mode,” Verduzco said. “Keeping everything as game-like as possible.” The Griffons hope to keep the bats going for their first series at home. They have been led offensively by catcher Brandon Downs. Downs is hitting .375 early on in this season, with two doubles, a home run and seven RBIs. Also playing well early on is infielder Cosimo Cannella. Cannella is hitting .370 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in the first two events down in Arkansas. Pitching will be key for Western going into conference play. After an off-season where many believed that this would be the strength of the team, it is time for the staff to put it all together. The staff bounced back in their last tournament after a shaky start in their season opening series against Arkansas Tech. The team ERA is still at 5.81, which puts them at No.8 in the MIAA. “We’re going to have to be very patient with our starting pitching,” Verduzco said. The team will rely on pitcher Richard Peoples to lead this staff as he did in 2015. Peoples was tied for the team lead with five wins, but also led the team with five saves. In the early part of the season, Peoples has struggled, posting an ERA of 5.73 in 11 innings of work. They also have another senior pitcher to rely on, and that is Weston Caindec. Caindec has had a solid start to his final season in black and gold, posting a 2.61 ERA in a little over 10 innings of work. “I love the pressure that was put on us over the off-season,” Caindec said. Verduzco wants his team to just focus on not making mistakes. In this early part of the season, he knows that fixing the little things is key for the Griffons. “We just want to eliminate as many mistakes as we can out there,” Verduzco said. After their series this weekend, the Griffons will travel to Bolivar, Missouri to take on Southwest Baptist University.

Griffons bounce back from season opener

The Griffons bounced back this past weekend to win three of four at the HSU Spring Invitational in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Western was matched up against Henderson State in their first game. After a quite two innings, the Griffons’ offense came alive in the third and fourth innings. Western scored two runs in the third, and then Jeremy Alvarado led off the fourth inning with a long homerun to left field. The offense was just getting warmed up. Next, David Glaude followed that up with a double to center field, driving in two of his Griffon teammates. Cosimo Cannella drove in the next three Western runs, one in each of his next three at-bats. Henderson managed to score two runs in the seventh, but that would end up being as close as they would get. Orencio Fisher put the finishing touches on the game, sending a homerun to centerfield in the ninth. Cannella believes that their strong offense has been in place since the offseason. “We’ve just been sticking to our approach that we set up in the fall,” Cannella said. After four hits in 11 at-bats in the season opener, Cannella followed that up with a 5-for-6 game against Henderson. Cannella led the team with four RBIs. After receiving a loss in the Arkansas Tech series, pitcher Weston Caindec bounced back with a strong performance against Henderson. Caindec went six and two-thirds innings, allowing only four hits and two runs. The Saturday matchup with Ouachita Baptist was a little closer than their first game of the invitational. In a back and forth game, it would take extra innings to decide the winner. Western had a 7-4 lead entering the ninth inning. Pitcher Richard Peoples would give up that lead after allowing zero runs in his first three innings of work. The Griffons would stop the bleeding though, taking a 7-7 score into the 10th inning. There were really no heroes in this inning. The game-winning run came on a pitch that hit Cannella to walk in the run. Brandon Downs led the Griffons with two RBIs in the game. Glaude, Alvarado and Landon Mason all had two hits each. Western finished the game with 11 hits total and only four strikeouts. Conner Schwienebart threw five and a third innings, giving up 10 hits and four runs. Western’s second game Saturday was a rematch of last weekend’s series. Arkansas Tech brought the bats in this game, dominating the Griffons 14-2 in seven innings. Tech’s biggest inning came in the fifth, scoring eight runs and putting a dagger in any hopes of a Western comeback. The Griffons managed only four hits, their only runs coming off the bats of Nick Gawley and Alvarado. Western’s pitching staff was not as bad as the box score may indicate. The staff combined to only yield five earned runs. Alex Clavet gave up one earned run in his three innings of work, walking one and striking out two. Western finished the weekend strong in their final game, and their second against Ouachita Baptist, winning 5-2. The Griffons would strike first in the third inning. Gawley drove in Cannella and Fisher on a single to left. Ouachita pulled starter Kason Kimbrell after the third and brought in reliever Zach Gloff. Gloff shut down Western over the next three innings, keeping the Tigers in the game. It was in the eighth inning that Kody Matthews put the game away, with a pinch-hit three-run homerun to give the Griffons a five-run lead. Ouachita would get their two runs in the ninth inning, but Preston Bailey ended up holding them to just the two runs. Gawley led the Griffons with two hits and an RBI. Evan Jones was the first Griffon started to yield zero runs in this early part of the season. Jones went five and a third, allowing one hit and striking out one. It was a strong weekend for the pitching staff after struggling last weekend. “We really felt like after that first weekend we really fell below our expecations,” Weston said. Western will begin MIAA play this Friday when they welcome Washburn to Griffon Baseball Field.