The Pittsburg State Gorillas enter the final weekend of the regular season 24-20 overall and 12-12 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
Seemingly non-stop rain Friday pushed back a scheduled 1 p.m. start today back two hours, as of late Friday afternoon. The Gorillas moved their Friday doubleheader against Southwest Baptist to Sunday, a noon start, because of the anticipated correctly rain.
Pitt State comes in at ninth place — only eight teams make the MIAA postseason — and today’s opponent, the Central Missouri Jennies, sits in a seventh-place tie with Truman State at 13-11 in conference play.
Southwest Baptist, meanwhile, dwells in the MIAA cellar with Norman’s mother and the Bearcats own a 4-44 overall, 0-24 MIAA record, plus a 38-game losing streak. Southwest Baptist last won in February, playing in the North Alabama Invitational in Florence, Ala. — the Bearcats enjoyed a three-game tear with victories over North Alabama, Wisconsin-Parkside and Miles. The Bearcats play a twinbill against Missouri Southern today, weather permitting.
After enduring a nine-game losing streak of their own, 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.
This is the final homestand for the Gorilla seniors.
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.
Samantha Grove improved her seasonal record to 6-3 with a shutout Saturday against Lincoln, her first shutout since 2011 and her second career.
The Jennies are led offensively by Jakki Prater — .330 batting average, 37 hits, 10 doubles, six home runs and 34 RBI. Braylyn Bivens (24), Alex Groeger (20), Medora West (19), Ashlea Bengtson (18), Emily Bybee-King (14), Kristen Heil (12) and Jill Lucas (11) have double-figure RBI totals.
The Jennies have been effective on the bases, 87 steals in 95 attempts. Bivens leads with 24 steals and Ali Jo Rogers (17), West (16), Brittany Knabe (11) and Bengtson (10) have combined with Bivens for 78 steals.
Page 2 of 3 - Prater, a much lesser Maddie Holub, heads the Jennies’ pitching staff with a 8-5 record, 2.39 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 102.1 innings. Katie Shockley owns a 5-4 mark with a 2.96 ERA and Jessica Wilkes adds a 6-2 record and 3.54 ERA.
Entering today, Southwest Baptist has been outscored402-69, outhit 493-193 and outhomered 38-11. The Bearcats have walked 66 and struck out 249 times, while opponents have 156 walks and 106 strikeouts.
Caitlyn Cooner leads in batting average with a .275 mark and only six hitters bat above the Mendoza Line, contributing to a .185 team batting average.
Alandria Jensen and Tori Lamkins lead the Bearcats in RBI with 15 and 14, respectively, and Cooner adds nine. Lamkins and Jensen have combined for seven homers, Lamkins four and Jensen three.
The Gorillas have more of a footing on a postseason spot in baseball than softball — in seventh place entering the final weekend. Like softball, the top eight teams qualify for the MIAA Tournament.
Coincidentally, today’s opponent Northwest Missouri helped out Pitt State with a doubleheader sweep of Fort Hays State on Thursday. Fort Hays and Pitt State were tied early this week at 19-17 in conference play — Pitt State split with Missouri Southern on Wednesday and Northwest Missouri swept Fort Hays. The Bearcats come into the weekend series (two games Saturday, one Sunday) on a seven-game winning streak.
Pitt State and Northwest Missouri are scheduled for a first pitch at 3 p.m. today and 1 p.m. Sunday, a doubleheader today and single game Sunday.
Nebraska-Kearney and Southwest Baptist trail Pitt State by three games. The Lopers host the Bearcats for a three-game set this weekend.
The 24 wins for the Gorillas this season are the most since 2007 and the Gorillas are on the cusp of their postseason appearance since 2004, a good start for the Matt Murray Era.
Scheduled starters this weekend are Matt Stalcup (5-3, 3.29 ERA), Cody Wren (3-5, 5.63) and Jake Stevenson (2-4, 7.11).
Two of the three starters this weekend are seniors, Stalcup and Wren. The Gorillas will be honoring their 10 seniors in-between games Saturday — Stalcup, Wren, Ryan Ventura, Nick Whetzell, Brett Cares, Gonzolo Gonzalez, Austin Lastimado, Eric Hansen, Ryan Bilovesky and Jake Moore.
Bilovesky is the lone four-year Gorilla, who has put together a career year his senior campaign. No. 44, affectionally known as “Bilo,” leads the Gorillas with 10 home runs, a total more than his previous three seasons combined, and contributes a .313 batting average, 33 runs scored, 47 hits and 34 RBI.
Only Cody Robinson of Northeastern State, Grant Fink of Missouri Western and Brian Wuest of Nebraska-Kearney have more home runs in the MIAA. Robinson leads the conference with 15 roundtrippers.
Stalcup 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.
Page 3 of 3 - The Bearcats’ seven-game tear includes two wins over Nebraska-Kearney, three over Lincoln and two over Fort Hays. Additionally, the Bearcats won three straight before consecutive losses to Emporia State — 10-2 over their last 12 only improved the record to 21-25 and 18-22 MIAA.
Eric Swain and Eric McGlauflin lead the Bearcat offense, not in batting average — McGlauflin at .287, Swain .278 — but power and run production. McGlauflin and Swain share the home run lead with six, Swain 36 RBI and McGlauflin 31.
In addition to Swain and McGlauflin, seven other players have reached 20 RBI — Ryan Abernathy 27, Brandon Huske 25, Charlie Krueger 25, Tyler Durant 22, Steven Garber 22, Cameron Bedard 22 and J.J. Baccari 20.
Durant leads the Bearcats with a .345 batting average and Abernathy leads with 45 runs scored.
Northwest Missouri owns a 6.10 team ERA and Ryker Fox leads with a 5-4 record and a 4.19 ERA.