Morning Sun
  • Gorillas head for home stretch

  • Here we are in the last week of the regular season in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association for baseball and softball.

    The Pittsburg State Gorillas, baseball and softball, are in the midst of postseason hunts.

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  • Here we are in the last week of the regular season in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association for baseball and softball.
    The Pittsburg State Gorillas, baseball and softball, are in the midst of postseason hunts.
    The baseball team stands in eighth place after being in the five spot until a four-game losing streak to Emporia State and Lindenwood. The Gorillas struggled offensively over a three-game sweep by Lindenwood and return to home, sweet home Al Ortolani Field for their last five regular-season games against rivals Missouri Southern and Northwest Missouri.
    The Gorillas and the Lions play their doubleheader at 5 p.m. today.
    Pitt State, 23-19 overall and 19-17 MIAA, fits in with a group of several teams ranging from a .600 winning percentage to .500 — Missouri Southern (21-14 MIAA), Central Oklahoma (21-15), Northeastern State (23-18), Fort Hays State (19-17) and Southwest Baptist (17-17).
    The softball team stands at ninth in the conference, one spot outside the playoffs. The Gorillas (24-20, 12-12 MIAA) host conference foes Southwest Baptist and Central Missouri this weekend.
    Truman State (13-11 MIAA) and Central Missouri (13-11) are both tied in the spot immediately above Pitt State, which could make Saturday a do-or-die for the postseason when the Jennies meet the Gorillas at the PSU Softball Complex for a doubleheader.
    Back to baseball.
    The Gorillas are 15-8 at Ortolani Field and finished 8-11 on the road. That 15-8 home mark equals a .650 winning percentage for a team with a .548 mark.
    On the season, junior left fielder Tory Stoffregen leads the Gorillas in several statistical categories: batting average (.378), doubles (16), triples (4), RBI (41), slugging percentage (.601) and on-base percentage (.459). He ranks second on the Gorillas in runs scored (38) and hits (56).
    Brad Foss ranks second with a .370 batting average and 15 doubles, and he leads the Gorillas with 57 hits.
    Ryan Bilovesky has been Pitt State's leading power hitter all season and his career highs this season include 47 hits, 10 home runs and 34 RBI.
    Evan Thomas ranks second with both four homers and 37 RBI.
    Senior ace Matt Stalcup owns a 5-3 record with a 3.29 ERA and leads the MIAA with 81 strikeouts in 52.0 innings. His 14.02 strikeouts per nine ranks No. 2 in Division II, a statistical category he until recently led in.
    Of the five Gorilla starters this season — Stalcup, Eric Hansen, Cody Wren and Jake Stevenson — George Brandecker owns the lowest ERA of the bunch at 2.89. He's fanned 47 batters in 46.2 innings and he's one of only two Gorilla pitchers, along with Wren, to pitch a shutout. Brandecker tossed his shutout last week against Emporia State, the Gorillas' last win.
    The Gorillas have relied heavily on Ryan McKay from the bullpen. He leads the way with 24 appearances and his statistics include a 1.73 ERA, 31 strikeouts in 26.0 innings, .190 opponents' batting average and three saves.
    Page 2 of 3 - James Fitzgearlds started his season on pace for club and perhaps conference records in saves but he's been stuck on six since March 30. With only three appearances in April, his ERA jumped from 5.82 to 8.41.
    The rival Lions feature a balanced offense with eight players at 20 RBI (Will Wagner 32, Michael McCoy 29, Sam Ryan 29, Tee Helsel 26, Nick Doughty 25, Shaun Hoover 23, Thomas Wilson 23, Dallas Burke 20) and a ninth (Dane Kolkmeyer) with 16.
    Utility player Dallas Burke plays incredible defense wherever he's at on the diamond, recording a 1.000 fielding percentage with 113 putouts and eight assists. He plays right field or behind the plate for the Lions.
    Freshman pitcher Payton Walker, a Carl Junction (Mo.) native who pitched in high school against the likes of Kansas schools Colgan, Frontenac and Pittsburg, leads the Lions with a 5-4 record and a 2.89 ERA with three complete games and a shutout.
    Walker earned MIAA Pitcher of the Week honors on Tuesday for his one-hitter Saturday against Southwest Baptist. He was a bad hop away from a no-no.
    Unlike their rival Gorillas, Missouri Southern owns a winning away record at 12-9. Plus, the Lions had the experience of winning four neutral games against Montana State-Billings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Twins, to open their season. The Lions won 13 straight at one point this season.
    Pitt State and Missouri Southern split a doubleheader in early March, Pitt State 4-1 and Southern 5-2.
    The Gorillas last made the postseason in 2004.
    Before its conference showdowns this weekend, Pitt State was supposed to play Arkansas Tech on Tuesday and Newman on Wednesday but rain, rain, rain canceled both twinbills.
    After enduring a nine-game losing streak, the Gorillas have won seven of their last nine, including a win over nationally-ranked Fort Hays State. Pitt State swept Nebraska-Kearney, split with Missouri Southern and swept Lincoln last week, good for a 5-1 record.
    Offensively, senior third baseman Katelyn Birchfield leads the Gorillas with 38 RBI on eight home runs, eight doubles and 43 hits. Her best game was seven RBI against Washburn, the win that ended the nine-game skid.
    Tiffany Brown leads the Gorillas with a .352 batting average and became the first Gorilla to reach 50 hits this season — 20 of her hits count as extra-base, 11 doubles and nine homers. She leads the Gorillas in slugging percentage (.620) and on-base percentage (.435).
    Kreslee Ketcham, who started out her season around the Mendoza Line, used a major batting tear (hits in 12 consecutive at-bats, three straight 4-for-4 games) to settle in over .300. She rates second on the Gorillas in average (.348), second in hits (49), first in homers (10), third in RBI (32), second in slugging percentage (.603) and second in on-base percentage (.423).
    Kyndel Shelburn, one of the best young pitchers in the MIAA, won her ninth game of the season on Saturday and crossed the 150-strikeout barrier, now at 155 after 23 appearances and 18 starts. Shelburn owns a 2.49 ERA and opponents bat .197 against her.
    Page 3 of 3 - Samantha Grove improved her seasonal record to 6-3 with a shutout Saturday against Lincoln, her first shutout since 2011 and her second career.
    Track and Field
    The Pitt State men remained No. 7 and the women dropped three spots to No. 21 in the USTFCCCA NCAA Division II National Championship Rankings.
    Track events on the schedule this week include the Drake Relays Thursday-Saturday and the MSSU Williams/Laptad Invitational on Friday.
    The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Outdoor Championships are coming up in the first week of May.
    Nationally-ranked women: 8. Emily Ballock, 400 hurdles, 1:00.56 (PQ); 30. Lauren Ouderkirk, 400 hurdles, 1:02.93; 31. Randi Pierce, high jump, 5-5 3/4; 4. Larissa Richards, shot put, 49-3/4 (AQ); 2. Richards, discus, 181-0 (AQ); 30. D’Andria Blow, discus, 142-6; 16. Richards, hammer, 172-8 (PQ); 16. Amber Kloster, javelin, 141-10 (PQ); 23. Aimi Orton, javelin, 136-7 (PQ); 28. Monica Wuertz, javelin, 134-2 (PQ); 33. Tessa Westhoff, javelin, 132-0 (PQ).
    Nationally-ranked men: 25. Keenan Soles, 200-meter dash, 21.40 (PQ); 18. Adam Volkert, 10,000 run, 30:23.21 (PQ); 30. Ryan Ramler, 400 hurdles, 53.65; 2. Crow-Soles-Riffel-Utsey, 4x100, 40.23 (PQ); 5. Jeff Piepenbrink, pole vault, 16-8 (PQ); 28. Colbie Snyder, pole vault, 15-9; 34. Josh Phillips, pole vault, 15-7 3/4 (PQ); 10. Soles, long jump, 24-3 1/2 (PQ); 11. Kyle Utsey, long jump, 24-1 (PQ); 13. Steven Mann, long jump, 23-11 3/4 (PQ); 6. Marquise Cushon, triple jump, 50-1/2 (PQ); 27. Soles, triple jump, 47-9 1/4 (PQ); 2. John Talbert, discus, 186-8 (AQ); 7. Shane Lundquist, discus, 174-3 (PQ); 24. Cody Holland, discus, 166-3 (PQ); 11. Talbert, hammer, 190-11 (PQ); 22. Luke Wilson, hammer, 182-6 (PQ); 14. Garrett Cantrell, javelin, 197-10 (PQ); 30. Adam Farnow, javelin, 187-10 (PQ); 24. Piepenbrink, decathlon, 6,455 (PQ).

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