Northwest tastes troublesome

Oh, how the tables have turned. One day after the Bearcats received word that Randy Gipson took the job as the women's basketball coach, the Northeastern Stater declined to follow through, stating he didn't have the heart to leave Tahlequah, Okla. That says it all -- Northwest Missouri State doesn't have its guy. But Missouri Western does. Friday afternoon, Western A.D. Kurt McGuffin announced the Griffons have hired Rob Edmisson to head the women's basketball program after a dismal 7-20 record. The Bearcats don't have a coach yet after placing right behind the Griffons with four MIAA wins. Good. That's what should happen, especially after sitting back and having to hear their Northwest Missourian sports department criticize the Black and Gold, calling the Mineral Water Bowl the Missouri Western Bowl. Oh, that's funny. So is seeing their coach, well -- not their coach -- leave. Northwest dropped the ball on that one. Why would Gipson not want to be a Bearcat? Is Tahlequah that nice of a place? Is Northeastern that great of a school? Possibly, I've only been there three or four times. That doesn't matter. This isn't about Gipson. It's about the Bearcats. Currently, their softball team has tumbled downwards, their baseball team will finish under .500 it appears and their football team was demolished by Pittsburg State four months ago. I didn't want to do this. I think Northwest has a great program. Its football team used to be superior to Division II. But not anymore. Currently, in head-to-head matchups in all sports, Northwest holds a slim 6-5 record this season. But with four games between the baseball team this weekend, and a one-match meeting with the tennis squad on deck, it appears Western will pass the Bearcats. Edmisson was a hot commodity coming out of Oklahoma City. The guy has over 500 wins in his career and has never had a losing season. Should he continue that trend, Western will benefit greatly. Also, Western's softball team is fighting for a regional championship, the football team looks like a national contender and don't forget Tom Smith and the men's basketball team, he can turn that program around by next season. He's been known to do that. If the Bearcat's school paper would quit with the nonsense about Western athletics, about the coaches on campus and the teams, then a friendly rivalry isn't too far away. But maybe now that they have experienced a little troublesome they will quiet down. Or maybe not. The Bearcats basketball coach, Ben McCollum, was just name Division II National Coach of the Year. That will probably keep them talking for now. But wait, they also lost their last two games of the season -- including a first round exit in the NCAA Tournament to Washburn.

Bell helps baseball improve to 3rd in conference

Coach Buzz Verduzco had a hunch in this past weekend's matchup against Washburn. Hardly anybody agreed with him, however. With two outs and Bubba Dotson on second base, Verduzco decided to pinch hit Jared Bell, who hadn't had a hit all season. It paid off. Bell's walk off single to center field sent Dotson home to seal a 5-4 victory in game four of Missouri Western's four-game sweep against Washburn. "My logic was that [their pitcher] kind of took it to our right handers a little bit," Verduzco said. "Some of the lefty at bats that I felt were a lot more productive against that kid than some of the right  handers. And we had one guy left and that was Jared Bell." Western took a 4-0 lead after five innings, but the Ichadbods scored two runs in the top of the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game at four. With two outs, Bell delivered to give Western the victory and a 19-9 record overall, which includes a 12-6 conference record. Bell's walk off came one day after Jimmy Smelcer's walk off to defeat Washburn 3-2. Western beat Washburn 3-2 in both game one and game two. The Griffons were outhit by the Ichabods in three of the four games this past weekend, and tied game three with six hits. "One thing I can tell you about Jared, he doesn't have a hit but he goes to the batters box and he swings," Verduzco said. "I'll give Jared Bell that. He doesn't get cheated. He's going to up there and get a good pitch, and he's going to swing. And so, sure enough, he got a pitch to hit, drove it up the middle and the rest is history." Western moves up to No. 3 in the conference, right behind No. 1 Central Missouri (23-5, 18-4 MIAA) and Emporia State (19-8, 15-7). Washburn fell to No. 5 with a .500 MIAA record (9-9) and a 13-12 record overall. The Griffons head to Maryville to take on Northwest Missouri State this weekend. Although Northwest is currently sitting at No. 9 in the conference, Verduzco said that the team must be prepared because it is a rivalry game, and those are always tough. The Bearcats hold the second most hits in the conference with 303, just 10 behind Emporia. "It's going to be knock down, drag out, you're going to throw records out the window; it don't mean anything," Verduzco said. Pitching has been stronger than in the years past, according to Verduzco. Brandon Simmons holds a 6-2 record while Ethan Ward (4-1) and Nik Jurado (4-0) help provide depth. Western doesn't return home until Apr. 28 against Southwest Baptist, following 14 straight road games.

Edmisson hired as head Women’s Basketball coach

Rob Edmisson hasn't had a losing season -- ever. In 22 seasons as a basketball coach, that alone stood out as the 48-year-old was waiting to hear back from several schools about a job. When Western sought out to hire somebody, Edmisson was a man the Griffons envisioned. They snagged him off the market Thursday night. Edmisson was hired as the eighth Women's Basketball coach in Western's history after being announced at the Griffon's press conference Friday afternoon, and will take over for Lynn Plett, who was let go after five seasons at the helm. During the search, Western Athletic Director Kurt McGuffin said a winning coach mattered, as well as a Midwest guy and somebody who could build a program. Edmisson fit that description according to McGuffin. "When we look for a basketball coach, we look for the right fit: someone to build a program," McGuffin said. "I kept going back to coach Edmisson. When our job came open, we talked early, and then I kind of went through his background, and I said 'gosh, we know a lot of the same people.' And I continued to call them and get their input on coach Edmisson. And I found what I thought we needed here." The Director of Athletics spent 28 days searching through a list of over 200 applicants. He narrowed it down quickly, and with help from several people, McGuffin brought in two candidates for a visit. Edmisson made the cut to the final two. From there, McGuffin made the decision to go with the former Oklahoma City coach, who was fresh off of a NAIA Championship, having just won it nine days prior. "We're going to take this program back into even higher status," Edmisson said. "Ultimately, our final goal is what I experienced nine days ago -- a national championship. And that's where we're headed." Edmisson hoists over 400 wins as a collegiate coach and another 100 in high school. He led Oklahoma City to a 35-1 record with a talented group that had three Division I players. He took the Stars to seven straight post-season tournaments and topped it off with the 2012 championship. After that performance, he knew it was time to move up. "This isn't going to be just Rob Edmisson show up and all of a sudden we win 30 games," Edmisson said. "It's going to take the whole community to get going. But what we are going to do is get this back to hanging banners. That's our goal; that's our mission. We will get there." Edmisson credited McGuffin as a huge factor in why he chose Western. He stated that the new A.D. is the face of the program, and they immediately shared a bond. McGuffin took over as the head of Western athletics in late October. The Griffons have six available scholarships, and after losing all-time leading scorer Jessica Koch, they need them. Koch, who finished with 1,776 points, is just one of five seniors that the Griffons lose. Returning starters include a trio of seniors in Kallie Schoonover, Alicia Bell and Brittany Griswold, who suffered a stress fracture in her right foot in the final month of the season, ending her junior campaign early. Plett finished his five-year tenure with a 46-89 record, which included a 33-72 MIAA record. He was fired less than 24 hours after Western lost to Washburn in the first round of the MIAA tournament, as McGuffin pointed to change needing to be made. Edmisson will almost certainly show a roster change if he follows the same path he took at Oklahoma City.

Football is back for spring camp

Missouri Western football is back on the field for spring camp which consists of 15 practices over a four-week time span. “I don't know that there's things we want to get accomplished, but we get 15 opportunities to practice football, and everyday we go out there we want to be as good and as sharp as we can be," coach Jerry Partridge said. The Griffons return a plethora of experience on both sides of the ball from last season's 9-3 playoff team. “We've always had guys coming back; I think our program is built that way where we generally have a lot of guys back,” Partridge said. "At least half our starters are back every year it seems like, but there's a unique amount this time.” Western returns senior running back Michael Hill, who was the featured ball carrier last season rushing for 1,384 yards with a 4.8 yards-per carry average and eight touchdowns. Despite his success, Hill treats spring practices like he has a spot to earn. “There's always room to get better, and that's what I try to do every time I go out there,” Hill said. “It doesn't matter that I started last year, my spot can get taken. We have a lot of good backs.” The Griffons return junior quarterback Travis Partridge, who now has a full season as a starter under his belt. This is a luxury that coach Partridge didn't have at this time last season when the spot was vacant. “Last year was an aberration in that category,” coach Partridge said. “A lot of times we have had kids that have started multiple years in their career, so last year was a weird spring not having a starting quarterback returning.” Partridge threw for 1,697 yards and 17 touchdowns with 11 interceptions last season and did major damage on the ground, rushing for 731 yards and eight touchdowns. The offensive line returns seven seniors and, according to coach Partridge, any position is open for competition. Spring practices are a little different for the heavy hitters on the defensive side of the ball. “We don't go real live and physical,” coach Partridge said. “We call it thud which is contact, but we don't take people to the ground and finish off.” The defensive line features David Bass and Ben Pister, who combined for 23 sacks last season. Safety Shane Simpson is back after interception five passes last season, but coach Partridge will be looking to fill the other safety spot that opened up with the graduation of Jack Long. There's a competition to see who replaces NFL-bound All-American kicker Greg Zuerlein between Taylor Anderson and John Schmiemeier. “It's exciting to get back out here I've been ready for it for a long time now,” Hill said. “It's important for us to get more chemistry, we just have to be more united. Nothing is going to be handed to us because we are all back.”

Softball bounces back at home

No. 21 Missouri Western Softball swept MIAA opponents Fort Hays State and Washburn in double headers over the weekend at Spring Sports Complex to improve its record to 29-6 on the season and 12-2 in conference play. The Griffons bounced back and won four straight after losing back-to-back games at Emporia State, their only MIAA losses of the season. “Bouncing back from Emporia was really important for us from a momentum standpoint,” coach Jen Bagley said. “The loss to Emporia took a lot of wind out of our sail, and it stung for quite a few days but it doesn't sting as bad anymore. That's what we needed to do.” Sophomore Jackie Bishop allowed just three hits and pitched two complete games in her two starts to improve her record to 15-2 on the season. Along with Annalee Rubio, each delievered a shut-out game this past weekend. “She continues to be successful for us. Of all the athletes on this team, she is no different and that sting from Emporia really poked the bear,” Bagley said. “How she came out to play today and yesterday is evidence of that and I hope that will continue from here on out.” Bishop struck out 12 and only allowed one hit in game one against Hays, but Western was still down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Blair Stalder hit a sacrifice to score Kim Robinson and tie the game. Keri Lorbert then hit a two-run double to give the Griffons the 3-1 victory. “All of the sudden, you could tell the team was like we cannot lose,” Bagley said. “If we would have lost that, it would have been devastating. When you have momentum on your side that's pretty powerful, and if we would have lost this game, it would have taken a lot to get it back.” The Griffons opened up the second game against Hays with four straight hits, including a three-run home run by Lorbert. Western had a 4-0 lead after the first inning. Rubio pitched a complete game shutout and improved her record to 11-4 on the season while striking out six batters as the Griffons run-ruled the Tigers in the sixth inning and won 8-0. Bishop took the mound in the first game Saturday against Washburn and struck out six batters while only allowing two hits and pitching her fifth shutout of the season. The Griffons won 8-0 in six innings for the second game in a row. “I've just been trying to go out there and focus on hitting my corners,” Bishop said. “It's great to have a great team behind me, and I always have them backing me up.” Western finished with 14 hits in the game including 3-for-3 from Stalder. The Griffons had an 8-2 lead in the second game of the double-header against Washburn after three innings, but the Lady Blues wouldn't go away. Washburn cut the lead to 8-7 in the fourth inning by hitting a grand slam home run and a solo home run. Emily Moe relieved Rubio on the mound, stopped the run, and prevented Washburn from scoring in the final three innings. The Griffons added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning when Erin Widrig scored on a error and won 9-7. They head to Pittsburg, Kan. Friday to play the Gorillas in a double header before going to Joplin, Mo. Saturday to play another two-game series, this one against Missouri Southern.