Baseball earns berth into MIAA Tourney

Senior Juan Hernandez takes a swing during Southerns game against Northwest Missouri on April 18.

Senior Juan Hernandez takes a swing during Southern’s game against Northwest Missouri on April 18.

Cody Thorn

The Missouri Southern baseball team played perhaps its best series of the season and it came at perhaps the right time.

The Lions took three out of four over No. 3 ranked Emporia State this past weekend to not only have an impact in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic (MIAA) standings, but the nationally polls as well.

Southern won 11-4, 12-11 and 11-7 over the Hornets. The lone setback was an extra inning loss, 5-2, Saturday.

“It was a big (series) in the sense we secured our play in the conference tournament,” said Missouri Southern Head Coach Bryce Darnell. “We had good starting pitching, made three or four key plays on defense and hit the ball well, pretty much all weekend.”

“We weren’t concerned about beating a nationally ranked team, we just wanted to play quality baseball and continue to improve,” Darnell said. ” I was very pleased with the crowds we had all weekends. It made for a fun four games.”

The 11-4 win on Friday was the first since 2005 over ESU. Saturday’s 12-11 win was a big rally, as the team was down 11-3 with only six outs to go.

Sunday’s win included 2-run homers by Kenny Hart, Skylar Rawlins and Jacob Taylor. Hart and Rawlins are tied with 9 home runs this season, to lead the team.

MSSU followed that up with a 1-0 and 9-0 sweep over Southwest Baptist Tuesday and sit with a 34-16 record and a 24-10 mark in MIAA play.

Southern locked up a postseason spot in the tournament in Kansas City, Kan., but its opponent isn’t determined yet.

After Tuesday’s win, Southern is percentage points behind Central Missouri (.719 to .706) for second place. Emporia State is first at 26-6 and Nebraska-Omaha is fourth at 25-11.

UCM has more MIAA games left this weekend, while Southern has completed that portion of its schedule.

Depending on the results of that, Southern could be the second or third seed.

The Lions have won 21 of their last 26 games, including four straight after the SBU sweep.

Ryan Verfurth, a senior, tossed seven innings in the 1-0 win and Rawlins had the lone RBI. Kevin Humphrey, a junior from Claremore, Okla., made only his second start and got the win in game two. Taylor had 3 RBI and Zach Caldwell drove in two during the 9-0 win.

With the 34 victories Southern is two wins shy of tying the 2001 team for most wins this decade. That 2001 squad was 36-20.

MSSU can add to that win today starting today when it plays in Kansas City against Rockhurst at 3 p.m. in its regular season finale, a tune-up before traveling back up there next week for the MIAA Tournament.

“We hope to play well this weekend against Rockhurst,” Darnell said.