An unplayable field in Warrensburg left Central Missouri and Pittsburg State to move their Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Tournament best-of-three first round series to Hays, negating the home-field advantage for the No. 2 seed Central Missouri.
Pitt State took an early lead in both games Saturday against No. 7-ranked Central, winning the first game 11-3 at Larks Park but losing the second 16-4 after one horrendous inning doomed the Gorillas.
The teams play the decisive Game 3 at 1 p.m. today.
The Pitt State win broke a 12-game losing streak against Central and was only the 11th victory against the Mules in their 73-game series history.
Pitt State struck first in Game 1 with two runs in the first. Central starter Travis Higgs forced leadoff man Ryan Ventura into a groundout but then Tory Stoffregen was hit by a pitch, Evan Thomas reached on an infield single and Ryan Bilovesky walked to load the bases with Gorillas for Pitt State’s leading hitter, third baseman Brad Foss.
Foss connected on a two-run single up the middle.
Central tied it up at 2 in the second with three powerful hits: a John Oropeza solo home run, a Chase Graskewicz double and a Barrett Noirfalise RBI double.
The Gorillas delivered the big inning in the fourth. It all started with an error by Central shortstop Samuel Domingue on a ball hit by Cody Ball.
With two outs, senior second baseman Austin Lastimado delivered a RBI single to score Ball, who had moved to second on a Luke Bordewick groundout, and then Ventura displayed the pop in his bat with a two-run home run. Higgs plunked Stoffregen for the second time in four innings and Thomas singled to start it all over; with runners on first and third, big man Bilovesky scored Thomas and Stoffregen with a triple, Bilovesky’s first triple of the season.
Baseball depends on momentum and the Gorillas seized it with a 7-2 lead.
Pitt State ended the fourth by turning a 4-6-3 double play on a Noirfalise grounder, as the offense fed into the defense and pitching of Matt Stalcup.
In the sixth, Stoffregen found different success against Central reliever Zach Davis or he took a break from using his body as a pitcher’s target. Stoffregen doubled to left, then Thomas walked to continue putting on runners for the middle of the Gorillas’ order.
Bilovesky struck out but with two down, Foss drove in his third run of the game by plating Stoffregen on a single.
The Gorillas turned another 4-6-3 DP on the Mules in the sixth.
To prove that it might be Pitt State’s day, Bordewick struck out swinging to start the seventh but reached first safely on a wild pitch. Martin reached on an infield single and the Gorillas were back in business. However, Pitt State could not push across its ninth run, leaving Martin at third after Bordewick was thrown out stealing third and Lastimado grounded out.
Page 2 of 3 - Pitt State left Thomas on at third in the eighth.
Ace reliever Ryan McKay came on for Stalcup in the eighth, often a winning combination for the Gorillas like their win at home over nationally-ranked and MIAA champion Missouri Western.
McKay and the Gorillas found themselves in a bases loaded jam in the eighth with two outs and Noirfalise, previously 2-for-3 in the game, up to bat. On a 2-2 count, Noirfalise popped out to Foss to end the inning.
After two straight innings of coming up empty on that ninth run, Lastimado singled home Bordewick in the ninth. The Gorillas collected more insurance than Farm Bureau with Ventura and Thomas picking up RBI for a 11-3 edge.
McKay subdued the Mules in the ninth for the win.
The Gorillas started the second game with a big bang, driving Central starter Kurtis Schuyler out of the game after five batters. The first three and four of the first five recorded hits, three singles and one Stoffregen triple.
Pitt State scored four runs with Stoffregen, Thomas, Ball and Bordewick each recording RBI.
Meanwhile, reigning MIAA Pitcher of the Week George Brandecker had his consecutive scoreless innings streak end at 15 1/3 as Central plated two first-inning runs with two outs on consecutive extra-base hits by Kyle Grieshaber (double), Brad Wilson (double) and Oropeza (triple).
Mules reliever Andrew Urban retired the Gorillas 1-2-3 in the second with strikeouts swinging (Lastimado, Ventura and Stoffregen) and in the bottom half of the inning, Central center fielder Trevor Jones drew Central to 4-3 with a home run to right center and Grieshabar singled home Jon Cotter for a brand new game.
Central went ahead in the third 5-4 and extended its lead to 16-4 in the fifth as the wheels started to fall off for Brandecker and the Gorillas.
The Mules scored four runs before Pitt State recorded an out and Brett Cares relieved Brandecker, who had pitched consecutive shutouts against Emporia State and Missouri Southern before Saturday.
The nightmare fifth continued against Cares and the Gorillas could not get out of their own way, committing three errors in the inning.
Cares did not make it out of the fifth and it took Gonzolo Gonzalez to get the Gorillas out of the nightmare.
Brandecker, Cares and Gonzalez each recorded a single out.
Pitt State moved to 27-22 on the season.
Pittsburg State 11, No. 7 Central Missouri 3
PSU 200 501 003 — 11 16 0
UCM 020 000 100 — 3 7 2
Matt Stalcup, Ryan McKay (8) and Jacoby Martin. Travis Higgs, Zach Davis (4), Reece Ponak (9) and Chase Graskewicz. WP: Stalcup (7-3). LP: Higgs (5-2). E: Barrett Noirfalise, Kyle Grieshaber. 2B: Martin, Tory Stoffregen, Luke Bordewick; Graskewicz, Noirfalise. HR: Ryan Ventura; John Oropeza. SB: Grieshaber. CS: Bordewick. HBP: Stoffregen 2.
Page 3 of 3 - Game Two
No. 7 Central Missouri 16, Pittsburg State 4
PSU 400 000 0 — 4 8 4
UCM 221 0(11)0 X — 16 18 0
George Brandecker, Brett Cares (5), Gonzolo Gonzalez (5), Jake Moore (6) and Jacoby Martin. Kurtis Schuyler, Andrew Urban (1) and Chase Graskewicz. WP: Urban (5-2). LP: Brandecker (5-4). E: Tory Stoffregen 2, Martin 2. 2B: Evan Thomas; Kyle Grieshaber 2, Brad Wilson, Barrett Noirfalise, Trevor Jones, Graskewicz, Jon Cotter, Samuel Domingue. 3B: Stoffregen; John Oropeza. HR: Jones. SF: Luke Bordewick; Cotter, Grieshaber. SB: Graskewicz, Wilson 2, Kevin Gratza, Jones, Oropeza.