Football focuses on defense in recruiting class

Head coach Jerry Partridge and his coaching staff searched high and low, near and far and were able to reel in 24 recruits from six different states. The Griffons went heavy on defense, with 17 of their 24 recruits playing on that side of the ball. “There are really some good, young, talented kids,” said Partridge. One of the best athletes coming with this year’s class is defensive lineman Evan Davis. Davis is from Cincinnati, Ohio and previously played at Iowa Central Community College. “The main thing I liked about Missouri Western was the community,” said Davis. Davis believes he has the ability to play a multitude of positions next year for the Griffons. “They say I’ll be playing in a stand-up position,” Davis said. “But, I am also willing to play a five technique.” In an interview with gogriffons.com, Partridge talked about the kind of athlete he was getting in Davis. “He is an immediate need athlete,” Partridge said. “He has length, big hands and room for growth. He will help our defensive line next year and is a plus pass rusher.” Western is also bringing in Davis’ teammate from Iowa Central, quarterback Corey Bertini. The recruiting trail took the Griffons to LaVista, Nebraska. There, they were able to get twins, Alex and Adam Atkinson to commit to Missouri Western. Alex averaged four tackles per game and was the 46th ranked defensive end in the state of Nebraska. Adam also averaged four tackles and totaled four sacks last season. Coming from the St. Louis area is linebacker Tyler Burrus. Burrus, standing at 6 feet and 200 pounds, finished his senior season with 46 tackles and an interception. Also signing with Missouri Western is his teammate, Kyle Berry. Coming from right here in St. Joseph is offensive tackle Jacob Olson. Olson played his high school football at Central. “This was a good o-line class,” said Partridge. “Three good tackle bodies.” The concern going into recruiting for Western was what kind of players would they get after having a down year in 2015. “It scared me a little bit because it was one of our lesser years on the field,” Partridge said. The coaching staff believes that the future is bright for these future Griffons. These 24 kids will be a part of a Griffons team that will be trying to find their way back into the playoffs and once again compete in the MIAA. “I’d say there are 10 that have the chance to be All-MIAA guys,” said Partridge.

Western looks toward Oklahoma road trip

The No. 8 Griffons completed the home court sweep in a blowout fashion by beating Lindenwood 93-50 and Lincoln 82-51. Now they will hit the road to face the Northeastern State University RiverHawks and the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos. The last time Western met both Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma was at the Fieldhouse early in the season. The Griffons went on to dominate the RiverHawks with a 39 point 88-49 victory but would steal a win over the Bronchos by just eight points, with a score of 77-69. This time Western will face both teams on the road, beginning with Northeastern State. Assistant head coach Roger Smith believes that the 11th place MIAA team can be difficult to handle. “They’re a team that’s just scary,” Smith said. “They’re a team that, when they get going, they can light it up from the three-point line.” If the game comes down to three pointers, the RiverHawks will rely on guards Cailyn Long and Kylie Looney. The freshman lead their team in three-pointers made with 41 and 35 and are the third and fourth leading scorers on the team, respectively. The Griffons have their own threat beyond the arch in guard Sarafina Handy. Handy leads the team with 52 three-pointers followed by guards LaQuinta Jefferson and Dwanisha Tate with 20. Jefferson also leads the team in overall points with 475. Western continues their Oklahoma tour against the Bronchos, and knowing their past history this season, Smith knows the game will be a long fight to the end. “It was a battle the first time we played them. It will be a war when we go back there,” Smith said. Central Oklahoma currently sits at fifth in the MIAA and has already clinched a spot in the conference tournament, along with Western. The Bronchos play well at home with only three losses to accompany six wins, thanks in large part to their leading scorer, guard McKenzie Solberg. She scores 15.2 points per game on 45 percent shooting and is the only player on her team that averages double-digit points. Western has three players averaging in double digits, led by Jefferson with 22.6, Handy with 14.3 and forward Mili Koyamainavure with 11.8. The Griffons are still positioned at the top of the MIAA but are closely followed by No. 5 Fort Hays State. Each road game will be crucial for them to hold onto number one in the conference. Western faces Northeastern State on Thursday Feb. 11 at 5:30 p.m. and squares off against Central Oklahoma on Saturday Feb. 13 at 1:30 p.m.

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.

Griffons defeat Blue Tigers at Fieldhouse

[caption id="attachment_26629" align="alignnone" width="220"]Senior Kevin Thomas goes up for a shot against the Lindenwood defender. Thomas scored eight points and pulled down three boards in the game. Senior Kevin Thomas goes up for a shot against the Lindenwood defender during Thursday's game. Thomas scored nine points and pulled down three boards in the game.[/caption] Missouri Western gained more than just a win on Saturday night at the Fieldhouse. The team was finally able to climb out of the MIAA cellar. The Griffons took down Lincoln 76-68 and improved to 8-15 on the season. The Griffons scored first in the game, but Lincoln then went on a 16-2 run. Coach Brett Weiberg used a timeout to let his team regroup. “I’m more disappointed in how we played in that first five minutes of the game, than in any other part of the game,” said Weiberg. After the timeout, the Griffons went to their bench. This is when the game turned for Missouri Western. Currie Byrd came off the bench and scored five points on the Griffons next two possessions and led them on a 10-5 run. “I was proud the kids were able to dig us out of that hole,” said Weiberg. It wasn’t until the eight-minute mark of the half that the Griffons were able to tie the game on a Wes Mitter three-point shot. After going up 28-25 on their next possession, Trey Sampson then made one of his five first half three-pointers. “I guess you could say I was feeling it,” Sampson said. Sampson wasn’t the only one; the Griffons made nine of their 15 three-point attempts and took an eight-point lead into halftime. The bench players scored 18 of the teams 41 first half points. “Our bench is phenomenal, they’re always getting up for the team,” said Sampson. The Griffons dominated the second half, leading by double digits for most of the second half. Western led by 21 points with 8:25 left in the half, and seemed to have put the game away. Lincoln had other plans though, slowly climbing back into the game. They used their interior offense and Griffon fouls to make it a five-point game with 32 seconds left. “We didn’t shoot very effectively in the last five minutes of the game, said Weiberg. “But, we used a lot of clock.” Sampson sunk 3-4 free throws, finishing off Lincoln and giving Missouri Western their 8th home victory. Sampson led the team with 22 points and played all but four minutes of the game. Byrd was second on the team with 14 points in only 19 minutes of action. The Griffons travel to Oklahoma this week to take on Northeastern State University Thursday and the University of Central Oklahoma on Saturday.

Western defends conference lead at home

The Griffons have lost two of three coming into this week’s slate of games. After a big win over Fort Hays State, Western failed to defend their home court against Nebraska-Kearny and then lost a close one to Pittsburg State. After that two-game skid, the team got back to their winning ways Saturday in Joplin against Missouri Southern, taking down the Lions 71-70, giving the team their first win at Southern since 2008. The Griffons swept the season series against Southern, going 2-0 and winning by a combined three points. The team was ranked No. 5 in the NCAA Division II Top 25, but after suffering two losses the team fell to No. 9 in the poll. “It was a good win for us coming off of two losses,” head coach Rob Edmisson said. This week the Griffons take on two teams sitting near the bottom of the MIAA standings. Thursday they will battle the Lindenwood Lions at 5:30 p.m. at the Fieldhouse. The Griffons last played Lindenwood on Dec. 18, winning 79-77. The Lions are led by junior guard Kassidy Gengenbacher. Gengenbacher is third in the MIAA, averaging 18.8 points per game. Senior forward Miliakere Koyamainavure believes the Lindenwood offense starts and ends with Gengenbacher. “I feel like if we can slow her down, the entire offense will breakdown,” Koymainavure said. The Griffons will counter with LaQuinta Jefferson and her MIAA leading 22.6 points per game. “Offensively, if we push the ball down in transition we can score a lot,” Koymainavure said. The Griffons will have Friday off before welcoming Lincoln University to the Fieldhouse at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The Griffons dominated Lincoln in their first game this year, 85-62 and will hope for the same kind of success this weekend. Lincoln will be coming in after a victory against Northeastern State and are led by junior guard Hunter Yoakum. Guard Chelsea Dewey knows that they will be in for a battle on Saturday. “They’re still battling for spots, just like we’re battling,” said Dewey. “We just got to grind it out.” The Griffons will need victories against both teams to keep their lead atop the MIAA, with Fort Hayes sitting within half a game of them. Fort Hays will also be at home this week with games against Central Missouri and Southwest Baptist. “Seven conference games left, everything is tightening up,” Edmisson said. “This time of year everyone is tired and sore.”