Regular season title not enough


Sophomore Richie Gorski makes great contact at the plate in a game against Pittsburg State University in the State Farm Trophy Series on April 22, 2015. On the day, Gorski batted 1-5 with one RBI, one run and one walk. The Lions split the season series with the Gorillas going 2-2. The 2010 season was the last time the Lions split or lost the season series (including conference tournament) against the Gorillas.

No. 1 seeded Lions start their journey to the MIAA Title in Joplin

Reunited, and it feels so good; for the Lions (36-11, 26-6 MIAA) it has been a long wait, but after a 2015 season where they throttled the conference competition, the regular season title is Southern-owned for the first time since 1992.

But for this team the journey is far from finished. This weekend opens the postseason competition, and the Lions get underway with a dejavu scenario, playing host to the Northeastern (25-22, 17-19 MIAA) team they just beat three out of four to secure the regular season crown.

“I personally am really ready to play because I didn’t play well this past weekend against them,” said junior Payton Walker. “I think it can be good and bad. We both know what we are going to get when we play but it is still all new. Everyone is 0-0 and there’s no doubt that we will be ready to play.”

This year’s roster, put together by head coach Bryce Darnell and his staff gelled at a moments notice, starting the year off on an 11-game winning streak, all of which were to open the newly named William Turner Field.

The new home for a team looking to establish a new on-campus identity, one they hope will only continue to grow over time.

“What we have this year is a combination of being able play to our abilities … and the narrow foul lines in the outfield making it hard for outfielders to make catches,” said senior Tee Helsel. “The crowd this weekend during night games should hopefully be the best we have seen all year so having this field on campus will be huge for our program.”

While not at the top of every statistical category, the Lions made an impact in a number of key areas, two of which, pitching and defense, were difference-makers where Southern did excel.

From the mound the trio of junior Payton Walker, 7-2 with a 2.84 ERA, junior Cody Hutchinson, who emerged mid-season to post a 9-0 record and a 2.70 ERA and senior Tyler Burgess, who started the year strong, finishing 5-1 with a 5.28 ERA, paved the way.

Quality pitching aided by the conference’s top rated defense, a unit that made only 43 errors, eight better than the next team and good enough for a .970 fielding percentage.

But now, all those numbers return to zero as the conference championship tournament gets under way. This is yet another chance for a roster to establish their name as the semester and season come to a close.

The Lions will look to close out the opening round held here at home as they face off with Northeastern today at 6 p.m.