Baseball looks for berth into post-season play, faces Bearcats

Senior Derek Ezell goes for the bunt during Southerns 6-4 win against Fort Hays on March 22.

Dani White

Senior Derek Ezell goes for the bunt during Southern’s 6-4 win against Fort Hays on March 22.

The Missouri Southern baseball team, in the thick of a race for an MIAA postseason playoff berth, has some key games coming up down the stretch of the season.

Heading into to games this weekend, the Lions are 18-13 overall and sport a 10-6 mark in the MIAA, which has the team in third place.

The top four teams in the standings make the post-season tournament in Kansas City, Kan., later this spring.

Southern is coming off an impressive win in its last game Monday, a 4-0 victory over Central Missouri, the No. 19 ranked team in the Division II polls. That win came in the nightcap, after the Mules won the first game, 2-0.

Perhaps the biggest headline to come out of the win was the pitching of C.J. Maffei.

The junior shutout the Mules for the first time in five years, which snapped a streak of 162 games for Central Missouri without a shutout loss.

It was only the fourth shutout in the last 19 years for the UCM.

That game, though, is in the rearview mirror and the Lions focus now turns to Washburn, playing on April 4-5 in Topeka.

The Ichabods are 12-12 on the season, 6-6 in the league play, but are currently on a three-game losing skid. Two of those losses, though, came against No. 3 ranked Emporia State.

“Washburn is a solid team coached by an experienced coach (Steven Anson),” said MSSU Head Coach Bryce Darnell. “It is always a great test playing road games in the MIAA. Washburn is one of the teams we are fighting against for one of the top four spots that make the conference tournament.

“Right now, we are worried about Washburn and not given much though to SBU or Pitt State.”

Southern will toss four veterans against the Ichabods this weekend, starting with junior right-hander Garrett Groom, who is 2-2.

Ryan Verfurth, a senior right-hander, toes the rubber in the second game. The Crowder College transfer sports a 2-4 mark.

Carter Lance, a junior right-hander with a 4-1 record, will start the third game of the series.

Maffei, a transfer from Labette County Community College in Parsons, Kan., is 5-3 and will toss the final game.

At the plate, the Lions have three players batting .350 or higher this late in the season.

Zach Caldwell, an outfielder, is pacing the team with a .388 average. Derek Ezell and Jacob Taylor, both infielders, are both batting .371.

Southern continues on the road April 7 in Bolivar against Southwest Baptist University and then April 10 in Pittsburg, Kan., against the Gorillas.