Pitching woes down Griffons in two of three

The Missouri Western baseball team spent this past weekend in Russellville, Arkansas, taking on Arkansas Tech University. The Griffons lost two of three games to the Wonder Boys, both by one run. Head coach Buzz Verduzco believes it will be a good learning experience for the team. “You just can’t simulate competition like this in practice,” Verduzco said. The first game of the series started at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Junior Richard Peoples started for the Griffons. His start foreshadowed the kind of pitching the Griffons would receive from their pitching staff over the three-game series. Peoples went 6.1 innings, yielding four runs and six hits. “Not what we anticipated coming from the mound,” Verduzco said. Left fielder Nick Gawly took advantage of the Arkansas Tech pitching in game one. Gawly went five for five with a double, walk and a stolen base. First baseman Cosimo Cannella drove in two runs on his only hit of the game. Western led 6-1 after six innings. It was in the seventh inning that the Arkansas Tech offense came alive, scoring five runs. Western answered in the eighth on an Alex Heuring home run. Arkansas Tech tied the game in the ninth inning, giving the fans in Russellville free baseball. It was in the 12th inning that relief pitcher Weston Caindec gave up an RBI single to Parker O’Dell, giving Arkansas Tech the win. Missouri Western dominated in the rubber match of the series, winning 10-5. The offense scored at least one run in every inning except the second. Leading the charge was Cannella who went 3-3, with a double and four RBIs. Catcher Brandon Downs also had a good day at the plate, going 4-4 with three RBIs. “Our offensive approach was very good,” Verduzco said. Pitcher Alex Clavet received the win for the Griffons. Clavet went five innings, yielding five hits and five runs. Western was able to preserve some of their arms in the second game, using only three pitchers. Chris Estrada started the sixth inning, but after giving up a hit and a walk, he was pulled for Preston Bailey. Bailey finished the game with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts. The staff combined for nine hits, five earned runs, four walks and six strikeouts. Western played the final game of the series on Sunday afternoon and they again fell short, losing 7-6. Arkansas Tech scored a run in each of the first two innings. After the Griffons failed to score in the first four innings, the offense finally showed life in the fifth inning by scoring three runs. Second baseman David Glaude started the scoring with a homerun to right field. Downs followed that up by driving in two runs on with a double. “He seems more aggressive,” said Verduzco. “He was very tentative last year.” Western’s pitching was unable to hold that lead, giving up four runs in the bottom of the fifth. The Griffons' offense was able to get a run in the sixth and two in the seventh, but were shutout in the eighth and ninth. Glaude and Downs led the Griffons with three hits each, combining for three RBIs. Western’s pitching combined to give up 12 hits, six runs and eight walks. Western’s offense showed what it is capable of in this series. They out hit their opponents 36-32, scored three more runs and two more walks than their opponents. The pitching will have to improve if they hope to compete in the MIAA this season. The Griffons had two more walks than Arkansas Tech, and that was with the Western pitching staff combining to hit eight batters. Arkansas Tech batted .323 in the series, with only 13 strikeouts. “We knew that Tech was very good offensively and that it was going to be a test,” said Verduzco. Missouri Western will take another trip to Arkansas this weekend to partake in the HSU Spring Invitational. The Griffons will play at noon Friday against Henderson State University. They will play Ouachita Baptist University at noon Saturday, followed by another matchup with Arkansas Tech at 3 p.m. In the final game of the invitational they will go up against Ouachita Baptist again at noon Sunday.

Balanced pitching staff leads Griffons

Griffon baseball is ranked No. 5 in the conference preseason poll and is back in action for the 2016 season following a 29-21 2015 season and two losses to Washburn in the MIAA tournament. To open the season Western will travel to Russellville, Ark. to face the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys. The players are excited to finally see some regular season action after going through the off-season according to senior Orencio Fisher. “We finally got through the toughest parts of the year, which is fall and winter,” Fisher said. “We all grinded throughout the whole fall and winter and going into the season, I can tell it’s going to pay off.” Last year, the Griffons split their season opener with the Wonder Boys 2-2. This year, Western still expects to be a tough adversary to handle. “It has been really important that we’ve been able to, the very least, get outside and simulate game like action because they [Arkansas Tech] have actually already played a couple games,” Fisher said. “So [we] just [have to] eliminate the butterflies and play with a lot of intensity and we will be a very tough opponent for anybody.” Although the Griffons lost five senior pitchers from last year, head coach Buzz Verduzco believes that this pitching staff will be the team’s most important strength this year. “The biggest thing for us is going to be our [pitching] staff, I think that’s going to be our highlight,” Verduzco said. “This is probably our most complete and probably our most balanced pitching staff since I’ve been here.” There is some speed returning to the lineup as well through Fisher who has been challenged by Verduzco to steal 30 bags this season, he stole 24 the previous year. The Griffons are also bringing back some power into the order with junior David Glaude, who was tied with a team leading 12 home runs in 2015, as well as senior Cosimo Cannella who was in second with seven homers. The series that all of the returners have circled on the schedule is the home opener against Washburn University. Western has to get through their opening series against Arkansas Tech and the HSU Spring Invitational first, but they are already looking towards getting revenge against the team that took them out of the MIAA Tournament last year. “All of the returners from last season are very anxious to return for our home opener against Washburn and beat them,” Fisher said. “We got knocked out 2-0 against them last season in the conference playoffs so we got to come out and prove ourselves and set the tone early for conference play.” Western’s season opener against Arkansas Tech will be on Saturday Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. followed by their second game against the Wonder Boys at 3 p.m.

The Born Legacy

His career as a Griffon has been almost as unique as his name. Banks Born is a redshirt senior pitching as a lefty for Missouri Western. While his career here has been long and hard, the legacy he is leaving behind as the regular season wraps up is one to remember. Born has been playing baseball since his tee-ball days 18 years ago. He played for Lee's Summit West high school in Lee's Summit, Missouri. "My favorite part about baseball is the relationship you create with the guys; it's like you're all family, and all the little superstitions that go along with the game," Born said. In 2011, as a freshman, Born made eight appearances including two starts on the mound. In those appearances, he pitched a total of 10 innings and struck out eight batters. His second season was a little rocky. Born spent the 2012 season sidelined with an injury after making just two appearances. Born came back in 2013 looking stronger. In 10 games, he went 4-0 with a 3.48 ERA and 20 strikeouts. He pitched 33.2 innings that year, giving up 33 hits and 13 earned runs. Unfortunately, his season ended early once again due to injury. In 2014, he made 11 appearances. Over 12.1 innings, he gave up 19 hits, seven earned runs and 10 strikeouts. Born earned a 5.11 ERA and a 2-0 record. In a 19-0 shutout victory over Lincoln, Born struck out two batters in his one inning pitched. Head coach Buzz Verduzco says that Born is a reliable guy on the mound. "Banks for us has kind of been our workhorse," Verduzco said. "He's been that guy who's been a seven-inning pitcher. Any time we're in a seven-inning ball game, we know that we're going to get a lot out of him. We know he's going to be in the strike zone. We know he's going to get a lot of ground balls, which he has." This season, Born has earned quite the stat line. In 12 appearances, Born has pitched a total of 56.2 innings. He's given up 65 hits with 24 earned runs total. He's walked 15 and struck out 22. Born currently sits at 5-1 with a 3.81 ERA. "The most memorable game [was] at home against Missouri Southern," Born said. In that series, Born pitched 5.2 innings. He gave up six hits, but only one earned run. But despite the performance, Western fell 2-1 to the Lions in eight innings. "He's a competitor. He's experienced," Verduzco said. "So, any time we put him on the mound, we know we're going to be in the game. He's done a tremendous job all year. He's kind of been our leader." This season hasn't been exempt from injury for Born. There was a stretch in the middle of the season where he wore a boot on his foot whenever he was off the mound. "I got hit in the foot by a come backer and it swelled pretty good for a couple of days, and we thought there was a hairline fracture," Born said. "It has recovered perfectly fine." Four games remain in the regular season before the MIAA Tournament begins. Born says that he still has some high hopes for the remainder of his career at Western. "On a personal note, all-conference would be really neat and a great honor," Born said. "But, the season isn't done yet and we still can make a run into postseason. Winning the conference tournament would be really special since that's something this program has never done." The Griffons are set to welcome their rival, the Northwest Bearcats, for a four-game series. This weekend is the last home series of the season. On Saturday, the nine seniors will be recognized. First pitch on Friday, April 24, is set for 7 p.m.      

Griffons look to close out road play strong

Griffon baseball will face off against Southwest Baptist in a crucial series. The Griffons have only two teams to play before the MIAA tournament begins. The Griffons come into the series with an overall record of 23-17 and are 16-12 in conference play. Southwest Baptist comes into the series with an overall record of 16-21 and are 10-18 in conference play. Southwest Baptist is coming off three straight losses against Lindenwood. The Griffons have won three straight, beating the second ranked team in the conference, Nebraska Kearney, three out of four times. The Griffons are sixth in the conference and Southwest Baptists is 12th. Head coach Buzz Verduzco says that, despite the injury bug that bit the team midseason, the Griffons are getting healthier and more confident with each game. "I feel comfortable," Verduzco said. "We've played defense all year, so that really hasn't changed. Having Orencio in the lineup everyday, being able to have our bullpen intact and kind of know exactly how our pitching staff is going to line up... a lot of those different things now start to flow a little bit easier compared to what they were when we had Richie [Peoples] out." Senior outfielder Ryan Degner says that this series is big because of home field advantage in the MIAA Tournament. “It’s big, being a couple games back fourth or third seed you get home field advantage," Degner said. "It’s also big coming down the stretch because you want to put yourself in position to get a home field for the MIAA Tournament.” Degner also thinks that he and his team has to keep putting theirselves in a good position to win. “I think we have done a good job in continuing in the battle,” Degner said. “We have to keep putting ourselves in position to win baseball games. It’s not always easy to finish the job, but it always help when we are in position to win the series.” Degner says that they have to start and finish games well. “We have room for improvement on starting games and continuing and then finishing them,” Degner said. “Playing a full nine-inning game is tough to do and just playing a complete game would be where we have to improve on.” The Griffons will play Northwest in their last series of the regular season. Degner says that series is also a big series not only because they are rivals, but because of playoff implications. “It’s the last series against our rivals; with playoff implications, you never know where they are going to be at or where we are going to be at... it’s a big series,” Degner said. “Playing against Northwest, you always want to be the top dog; it's big for us just to finish the season off strong there." Verduzco feels confident as Western readies to close out the regular season. "I think we're prepared now for the remaining eight as we get going," Verduzco said. The Griffons will play at Southwest Baptist in a four game series.

Griffons split series with No. 21 Ichabods

Over the weekend, Western hit the road for a four-game series against the No. 21 Ichabods of Washburn. Western 2 Washburn 3 Game one was a close one for the Griffons. The Ichabods took an early lead, scoring a run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first inning. They rode their 1-0 lead and expanded it to 3-0 in the bottom of the third. But the Griffons made an attempt to rally later on in the seventh inning. First baseman Cosimo Cannella singled to left, scoring left fielder Mitch Thorman and advancing second baseman Dylan Koch. The Ichabods led 3-1, but Western wasn't quite done. Andrew Ramirez, who was pinch hitting for the catcher Michael Yeager, grounded out to third. But his groundout scored Koch, making it 3-2. Western just couldn't scrape up another run to complete the comeback. Western had six hits in the game, but pitcher Grant Woods would take the loss. The Griffons would fall 3-2 in the opening game against the Ichabods. Head coach Buzz Verduzco said the team lacked with adjusting behind the plate. "I didn't think we made as quick of an adjustment to what the umpire's zone was," Verduzco said. "It was a little unorthodox, so we didn't quite do what we needed to do early in the game. We finally did a little bit later, but it became a little bit late." Saturday was the day when Western would truly show their stuff. Western 6 Washburn 4 The front end of the doubleheader was neck-and-neck throughout most of the game. Centerfielder Ryan Degner hit a solo homerun to left. Third baseman David Glaude flied out to center later in the inning to score shortstop Cody Childs. Western took a 2-0 lead after the first inning. Washburn was quick to respond, scoring three runs in the bottom of the 1st including a 2-run homer to center. At the end of the first inning, it was 3-2 in favor of the Ichabods. Western tied the game at 3-3 in the third inning when Thorman came up to bat and singled, scoring Childs. But, once again, Washburn was able to produce at the plate. The Ichabods knocked another homer over the fence to make 4-3 at the end of the third inning. Two huge at-bats sealed the game for Western. In the top of the sixth inning, right fielder Trevor LaHonta doubled to left center. The double scored Koch and advanced Yeager to third. Degner came to the plate with his own double to left center, scoring LaHonta and Yeager. The Griffons took the 6-4 lead and kept it for the remainder of game two. David Anderson claimed the win and Mike Calimeno earned a save. Western 11 Washburn 1 The back end of the doubleheader was not so close. It was a slow offensive start for both teams. Cannella was able to score when Ramirez grounded out to shortstop. It was 1-0 going into the fourth inning. Western tagged on another run when Thorman singled to right and scored Glaude. But the fifth inning is when the Griffons blew open their lead. A 6-run inning gave them an 8-0 lead. The offense for Western wasn't done just yet, however. They scored three more runs in the sixth inning. Washburn just couldn't produce at the plate, only scoring one run in the bottom of the sixth. Western claimed the 11-1 victory and Banks Born took the win, putting him at 3-0 on the season. The Griffons had 11 runs on 14 hits with no errors. "I think offensively, we were doing a great job," Verduzco said. "We made a lot of adjustments coming from the previous game on Friday… We made some adjustments, we became more aggressive and we became more disciplined at the plate. We got a lights-out pitching performance from Born and some of the others that pieced that one together." Western 5 Washburn 12 On Sunday, the Griffons and Ichabods played the final game of the series. Washburn took a controlling 5-0 lead in the bottom of the third after two home runs. Western scored two in the top of the fourth inning. Ramirez singled to right and scored Cannella, advancing Thorman. Koch grounded into a double play later that inning, scoring Thorman. The Griffons tacked on another in the fourth when Glaude grounded into a double play, scoring LaHonta. A 3-run home run for the Ichabods in the bottom of the fifth put the Griffons down 8-3. Ramirez came up with another single in the sixth to score Thorman. But, Washburn added four more runs to their total in the seventh, making it a 12-4 game in their favor. LaHonta was able to score on a fielding error in the top of the ninth, but the run wasn't enough to get the Griffons back into it. Western dropped the last game of the series 12-5. Matt Russell took the loss, putting him at 2-2 on the season. "Any time you go into the last day winning two out of three already, you feel pretty good," Verduzco said. "How we played on Friday, we didn't pitch the ball very well. I was very impressed offensively with how we were able to piece together runs. We got down 5-0, we battled back to 5-3 early in the game. Then we gave up a big home run that kind of deflated us, and from that point on, we never could really recover. That's how the split ended up for the weekend." Western sits at 16-9 overall and 11-5 in MIAA play. The Griffons return to action when they host the Lions of Missouri Southern. Game one of the series is set for Friday, March 27 at 2 p.m.