Grand opening: Southern style


John Davidson/The Chart

The Lions swept Upper Iowa State in their home opening series on Saturday Feb. 14 and Sunday Feb. 15 winning 4-3 in the first game, and 6-0 in the second.

Ian Taylor, Sports Editor

Lions welcome in new stadium with win.

Opening weekend for the Lions (2-0) went according to plan; that is, except for the weather, which cut the number of contests from four down to two. And now as this weekend’s State Farm Trophy Series games against Pittsburg State (3-5) loom, so does the possibility of more weather-related cancellations.

“Show up and practice hard knowing that bad weather happens,” said senior Tee Helsel. “We just have to stick together and push through adversity.”

Weather permitting, the Lions open the series today at 1 p.m. against the Gorillas. The showdown is between two teams looking to get back onto the conference radar following a 2014 campaign that saw them finish 13th (Pitt) and 10th (Southern) respectively.

Off to a good start are the Lions after opening the new facility in dramatic comeback fashion against Upper Iowa. Trailing the first game of the day after a two run shot down the right field line by the Peacocks, the Lions were forced to bear down and fight back.

Southern did just that, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth to take the late 4-3 advantage with RBIs from junior second baseman Jackson Cain and the eventual game-winning runs off the bat of sophomore third baseman Richie Gorski.

“Getting two W’s last weekend was huge leading into this weekend against Pitt,” said senior Axel Johnson, “and I feel like our team is hungry and determined to compete at the top of the conference.”

Game two was a different story as Southern shut down its opponents, allowing no runs and on seven hits throughout the entire contest, to win 6-0.

For the Lions, the story of the day was the play from atop the mound. Firstly from senior transfer Tyler Burgess, a former Webb City Cardinal and Missouri State Bear, who took to the rubber on opening day. He proceeded to throw seven innings, striking out nine while allowing three runs on seven hits.

Next was the familiar face of junior Payton Walker and, as in the last two seasons, Walker did not disappoint. He threw seven shutout innings and struck out eight while only allowing six hits on the day.

Up next for the Lions are the Gorillas from 45 minutes down the road, an early season showdown for rival schools as they both prepare for a lengthy season of baseball. For Southern, this is the time to put the pedal to the metal as they look to build on the momentum already established.

“I don’t like Pitt State. No one from Southern does,” said senior Tee Helsel. “We have so many transfers in and out that I don’t think some of the players understand the rivalry … I think the stadium being on campus will definitely help the rivalry expand and stay hard nosed for years to come.”