Help wanted; postseason dreams dwindling


Beth Hammons

Junior Skylar Hill throws a pitch during his one and two-thirds inning of work against Fort Hays State on Feb. 27. The Lions won the game 12-8

With only a single four-game series left in the 2014 regular season, against Nebraska-Kearney (27-16, 21-15 MIAA), the fifth team in the MIAA, the Lions (23-23, 16-20 MIAA) find themselves in a place most did not expect as the pitches started flying to open the year: a place called .500, or in 2014 Missouri Southern baseball terms, purgatory.

On the cusp of the postseason tournament, the same one that was claimed in magical fashion last season, the Lions are currently on the outside looking in, and in need of some help. That’s something no team ever wants to rely on, but in sports desperate times call for desperate measures, and Southern needs every inch of this ruler.

“Our mindset going in this weekend is that we can’t afford to lose a single game,” said senior Beau Phillips.  “We have to do whatever it takes to win.”

A season of high expectations quickly grew in anticipation as a transfer-heavy lineup mashed through the early schedule on their way to a 12-0 start.

Clicking on all cylinders, the Lions lit up the scoreboard while the starting pitchers dealt from the top to the bottom of the rotation.

The team left the memory of a year past in the rear-view mirror, that is, until the MIAA competition began to outlast them unfortunate contest after unfortunate contest.

Falling victim to a slew of nail-biters both at Joe Becker Stadium, where the Lions have a 17-10 record, as well as away from home, where the team has struggled to mount a 6-13 total this year, Southern could not seem to get a key hit as the bat’s temperature turned from “lavalike” to “Eskimoish.”

The problem was evident in the stat line as the Lions brought with them to the plate a total of nine home runs, worst in the MIAA and 19 behind this weekend’s foe, a team average of .292 and only 60 doubles, 49 behind the competition.  

Still, in the end, tough losses are a part of baseball, making it obvious there must be an undertone to the drop-off for the Lions this season, and that drop-off shows itself in the results versus quality competition.

Out of the 12 games played against the top three of the MIAA rankings this year, the Lions have a 2-10 record. Those losses came in competitive fashion but they are losses nonetheless, and as Southern makes the trip to Loper country to face Nebraska-Kearney once again, the Lions take on top-tier MIAA talent.

The Loper team is ranked in the top five in hitting (.320 team average), and the top five in pitching (4.49 team era), a formidable challenge, but one Southern has to overcome to keep the postseason hopes alive.  

 “We just have to treat it like the first week of the playoffs,” said senior Drew Noble.  “All we can do is play our best ball and hope for the best.”