Walk-offs down Western in Harding series

Western falls to 3-4 overall after dropping two out of three games in a weekend series against the Harding University Bison. During game one of Saturday’s double-header, the Griffons were able to gain a quick lead in the second inning off of an RBI single from right fielder Trevor LaHonta. The lead was soon erased in the bottom of the third inning when Harding’s Zac Stewart knocked in two runs off of a double to right center. The RBIs from Stewart were only the beginning, as Jaxon Mohr followed with an RBI single to center field. Before Western could stop the bleeding, Stewart scored from third on a wild pitch to give the Bison an early 4-1 lead, but the Griffons would fight back. Third baseman David Glaude hit a homer in the sixth inning to cut Harding’s lead in half. Later in the eighth inning, Western caught a break when the Bison first baseman committed an error that allowed pinch runner Orencio Fisher and first baseman Cosimo Cannella to score, tying the game 4-4. Both teams were held scoreless in the ninth inning, forcing the game into extra innings. The Griffons went three up, three down in the tenth inning to halt their comeback. In the bottom of the tenth, Western quickly dispatched the first two Harding batters before Alan Copeland doubled to center and was quickly driven in by Shane Kinnear to hand the Griffons a 5-4 walk-off loss. Head coach Buzz Verduzco knows that clutch execution is the key to winning close road games. “You get in some of those tight situations and you have to be able to do some of the smaller or detailed things in order to win on the road,” Verduzco said. “Especially on the road, if you have a one-run lead, it’s usually not going to be good enough.” In game two of the double-header, Western did not allow a hit until the bottom of the fourth inning. Harding’s John Chapman led the inning with a single up the middle followed by a single and a walk to load the bases. Chapman scored off of a fielding error by the Griffons’ shortshop Cody Childs, putting Western down 1-0. The Griffons were behind until the top of the sixth inning when designated hitter Mitch Thorman launched a two-run homerun to take the lead over the Bison 2-1. Harding would be held off and the score would remain the same, resulting in a 2-1 series-splitting win for Western. Sunday’s third and final game of the series remained a close battle through its entirety. Pitcher Banks Born effectively held off the Bison batters, allowing only four hits in five innings and recording five strikeouts. In the top of the ninth, Western took the lead after Thorman hit an RBI single with bases loaded, but the lead would be short lived. In the bottom of the ninth, the Bison’s Alan Copeland nailed a walk-off two-run homer to make the score 2-1 and give the Griffons their second walk off loss of the series. Verduzco wants his players to understand that any moment in a game can make a huge difference in the outcome. “We’re trying to get across to our new players, especially the new players, just how one pitch, one play, one mistake can make a huge difference in a game and that’s kind of what happened to us,” Verduzco said. Tough games will be a familiar situation throughout the season according to Verduzco. “It doesn’t get any easier for us because Emporia State comes to town so we really have to be prepared for them,” Verduzco said. “We have our work cut out for us, but if we can tie up those loose ends in the tough part of the game then we can get it done.” The Griffons will face No. 6 Emporia State University in their four-game series home opener beginning on Friday, Feb. 20. Since 2011, Western has seven wins and just one loss in their home opening series.

Griffons split with Wonder Boys

Missouri Western baseball split their first weekend going 2-2 versus the No. 17 Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys in Russellville, Arkansas, this past weekend. In game one, early season rust was evident with Western giving up three errors and losing a close 5-4 ballgame. Grant Woods was the starting pitcher going 5.1 innings and giving up six hits and two earned runs. Notable batters in game one, Ryan Degner and D’Andre Heggie, doubled. David Glaude had his first home run of the early season. The winning pitcher was Ryan Vruggink of Arkansas Tech, who won on less than an inning pitched; the losing pitcher was Josh Lansangan of Missouri Western. Missouri Western won in come-from-behind fashion in game two on Friday.  While the Griffons struck first with another Ryan Degner home run, they quickly fell behind 1-5 to Arkansas Tech in the fourth inning. In the fifth, the Griffons closed the gap with a 2-run inning that had Cosimo Cannella doubling to left center to drive in Orencie Fisher and Cody Childs. Arkansas Tech would add one more in the sixth on a sacrifice fly, making the game 3-6 Wonder Boys. The seventh and final inning was all Griffons. Fisher drove in Child to pull within two. Then, Cannella doubled in the game again to drive in Koch and Fisher, tying the game back up. Brandon Downs then drove in Cannella to take the lead. The Griffons didn’t look back from there as they added two more in the seventh, cruising to a 9-6 win in game two of the four game set. Banks Born talked about team's comeback. “This team, we don’t stop. We saw a door open and we took advantage of it,” Born said. Cannella played big with his four RBIs in the game. A.J. Martinez got his first win of the season and Richard Peoples picked up his first save. Griffons won big in game three on Saturday, beating Arkansas Tech 10-4 in nine innings. Five different Griffons had an RBI as the love was spread around all the batters. Trevor LaHonta and Glaude both lead the way with three hits and an RBI each. One of Saturday’s biggest performers was starting pitcher Born, who went five innings. Born succeeded, only giving up three hits, one earned run and striking out five. “We had a big game plan and we stuck with it, and I believe that if we continue to stick with it from weekend to weekend we will have success through the season,” Born said. Missouri Western also took a page out of last year’s Kansas City Royals figuring out “what speed do” with three stolen bases, one each by Degner, Fisher and Childs in Saturday's first game. The finals of the game were Born earning his first win of 2015 and Skelton of Arkansas Tech getting the loss. Game four of the set was pretty bleak. Our Griffons lost 11-2 in seven innings. Arkansas Tech got out to a lead first, scoring on a wild pitch in the first inning. Western showed the most life in the second when LaHonta singled to bring in Childs to tie it at one, as well as Glaude scoring on a throwing error by the Wonder Boys' third baseman to put the Griffons ahead. After that, the wheels fell off and Arkansas Tech went on to score 10 unanswered runs in four innings. Highlights for the Griffons were LaHonta going two for three in the game with an RBI. Tyler Tuepker got the loss for the Griffons and Jones of Arkansas Tech was the winning pitcher. Big performers of the weekend were starting pitcher Born with his five strikeout win on Saturday and LaHonta for going 8-17 with an average of .470 of the weekend. The Missouri Western baseball team travels to Arkansas again this upcoming weekend on Feb. 7 and 8 to face Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.

Royals, Royals, Royals.

There are over 5,900 students that attend Missouri Western, and only a select few can say they were even born during the last post season appearance by the Kansas City Royals. We have a wide mixture of students from KC and students from St. Louis, which turns into a lot of Royals versus Cardinals fans, and Chiefs versus Rams fans. These two are cross-state rivals in the professional athletics world and the fans are the same way. As many were hoping for an I-70 World Series the Cardinals fell short of recreating the 1985 World Series, in which the Royals played the Cardinals. Walking across Campus lately, you see tons of Royals fans sporting the blue and white wherever they go. Along with those strong blue and white colors you see the strong fans of other teams wearing their colors too. When the Royals entered the playoffs a lot of critics said that their short-ball game would not work in the post-season. Well the Royals were on a mission to prove everyone wrong and have shown that they belong in the post season this year, winning eight straight games going into the series. Each game was more and more nerve racking as the Royals were winning only in extra innings for their first few games. The games were getting so intense that people who don’t like to watch baseball were watching to see what the home town Royals were going to do. The Royals had so much momentum and drive to win that they would do whatever it took. In one game, Billy Butler stole a base. Since when does Billy Butler steal a base? The Royals will be facing the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, with the first game being Tuesday, Oct. 21, and the second being Wednesday, Oct. 22. Fans who will not be able to make it to the games will be watching with friends at parties, watching the games with family at home and listening to the game over the radio at work. The Royals playing well is motivating for their neighbors, the Kansas City Chiefs, to up their play too. Traditionally, Royals fans would be able to make a trip to the stadium and pay $25 for a nosebleed ticket and to enjoy a nice ball game, but not anymore. Tickets for standing room only are reaching the 200’s, and that’s to stand for an entire baseball game. The players don’t even stand for an entire baseball game, which shows you how dedicated the fans are for the old American pastime sport of baseball.

Western Baseball on a Roll

Missouri Western's baseball team continues to show determination with an eight-game winning streak, and they hope to add another win against Fort Hays State University Last season, two games against Fort Hays were canceled, and the Griffons met the Tigers in the first round of the MIAA tournament, winning both games. David Chew expects a win against Fort Hays, but remains cautious. “We expect them to be a good team,” Chew said. “Every year, they have been solid and played us close, and we know we have to come in and play the best of our ability. Currently, Fort Hays is 14-24 in regular season and 11-21 in conference. Despite a losing record, Coach Buzz Verduzco is not taking any chances against the Tigers. “I don’t think they had the season they wanted to have at this point," Verduzco said. "But they have always been good in the league and even though we play them at home, we expect them to be really tough." In MIAA standings, Fort Hays is currently ranked 12th, while Missouri Western is 3rd. The Griffons currently have a solid record of 23-14 and are 19-11 in conference play. Infielder Dylon Koch is prepared for anything against Fort Hays. “I think Hays will be just as tough as any opponent,” Koch said. “The MIAA is a solid conference that has solid competition all throughout the league. If we stick to our identity and play our game, we will be fine against anyone." The season started slow for the Griffons, with three double headers cancelled and a few losses, but they continued to win and put together an impressive record. “For the rest of the season, I expect our team to continue to play as well as we have lately and see how the season unfolds," Verduzco said. "Hoping to qualify for the MIAA tournament at the end of the season." Nothing is official yet concerning the tournament, with Western still having nine more games to play in. The only team who has qualified for the tournament is Central Missouri, with a conference record of 26-6. “Right now, we are focused on the next game and right now, we are playing good ball and doing it at the right time,” Koch said. “When we get to the tournament, we will definitely have as much as an opportunity as anyone.” In the tournament last season, Western defeated University of Central Oklahoma, Pittsburg State University and Missouri Southern State University. The Griffons made it to the NCAA Central Regional, but lost to Southern Arkansas University and Minnesota State University-Mankato. “Even though we have a lot of new players, we have enough returning players and impact players that know what the tournament’s about and how intense it can be,"Verduzco said. I think we will be ready for the tournament and to play our best baseball.” Missouri Western plays Fort Hays in a weekend tournament on Friday, April 25 at the Spring Sports Complex six p.m.

Baseball MIAA Tournament

With the regular season at a close, the Missouri Western baseball team will focus on the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) tournament. Western finished the regular season on a four-game win streak and 24-14 in the MIAA and 28-27 overall. With a 0.632 winning percentage in the MIAA, Western not only locked in a fourth seed in the MIAA tournament, but also earned the right to host in the first round. Following the four-game sweep of Fort Hays State University on Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26, Western learned of their seeding in the MIAA tournament and began to prepare for the first round. Western will play Southwest Baptist University on Thursday, May 1, and Friday, May 2, at Spring Sports Complex, both at 6 p.m. Southwest Baptist, which earned a fifth seed in the MIAA, finished in similar fashion to Western. Southwest Baptist also finished on a on a four-game win streak, but completed the MIAA season 24-15 and 28-22 overall. Western and Southwest Baptist have not played yet this season, but did play three games in the 2013 season with Western winning all three games 10-3, 16-6 and Two other games were scheduled, but were ultimately cancelled. Due to the fact that Western has not played Southern Baptist this season, Buzz Verduzco, head baseball coach, is preparing the best they can. “We will be doing a scouting report of last season,” Verduzco said. “We will focus on our game and worry about our pitching and games plan.” Western already has a good idea of Southwest Baptist, and Verduzco will start preparing around that knowledge. “They have a lot of returners,” Verduzco said. “It’s going to be a tough, tough battle with no guarantees. We need to remember that the game starts out zero zero.” Western is coming into the tournament as reigning champions after their successful 2013 season, but they are still lacking experience. Following the end of the 2013 season, Western lost numerous players, including MLB-drafted players Michael Schulze and Grant Fink. In regards the loss of the large number of players from last season, Verduzco is confident that these losses will not affect the play against Southwest Baptist. “We’ve had a lot of pressure this season from last season,” Verduzco said. “The pressure will not matter much. We are remaining confident, and it should be an exciting game. The other MIAA tournament games are the top-seeded University of Central Missouri hosting the eight-seeded Northeastern State University, second seeded University of Central Oklahoma hosting the seventh seeded Washburn University and third-seeded Emporia State University hosting the sixth seeded University of Nebraska-Kearney.