Kansas City, here the Gorillas come.
Pittsburg State scored two runs in the 10th inning to earn a 9-7 win Sunday afternoon over No. 7-ranked Central Missouri, winning the series 2-1.
“First of all, it was an outstanding series,” Pitt State head coach Matt Murray said. “Best two-out-of-three that was played out in Hays. I need to compliment Coach Myers and their program in terms of wanting to move the location to Hays and I thought our players responded really well.
“Certainly, had a great performance to start the series off with Matt Stalcup in Game 1. I thought we played really well in Game 1. In Game 2, they came back and took it right back to us. It was interesting going into that final day for Game 3 and I tell you, Cody Wren did an outstanding job in Game 3. I felt like we defended it about as well as we have all year in Game 3 and certainly, we were able to push enough runs across.”
Pitt State (28-22) moves into the final four of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, where the Gorillas will play No. 3 seed Missouri Southern on Thursday in the double-elimination tournament at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.
Pitt State and Missouri Southern clash at 2:30 p.m.
The higher seeds held serve in every series but one, as No. 7 seed Pitt State won for only the 11th and 12th times against perennial baseball powerhouse Central in 74 meetings.
“We just wanted to go in and play the best that we could and leave it all out there,” Pitt State third baseman Brad Foss said. “The pressure really wasn’t on us, it was more on them. Everybody was fired up and ready to go and we played our best.”
“We were all pretty excited,” Wren said of the post-game atmosphere Sunday. “It was a cool experience to go in there and beat Central like that. It’s hard to explain. . . . We knew we could do it. We knew it would be tough so we went in there with the mindset that we could and it fell in our favor.”
The Gorillas last played in the conference tournament in 2004 and had a 12-game losing streak against the Mules entering their series originally slated to be played in Warrensburg but moved to Hays because of field conditions.
Murray spent five seasons assisting Central head coach Tom Myers, himself a great Pitt State baseball player for patriarch Steve Bever, and Murray served as the Mules' recruiting coordinator, responsible for bringing in talent to Warrensburg.
In Murray's first season, the Gorillas, picked ninth in the preseason coaches' poll, have made noise with victories over nationally-ranked Missouri Western, Central Missouri and Drury. Pitt State owns wins against the other three teams left in the tournament, with a 5-4 record.
Page 2 of 3 - “A lot of people thought we were going to be satisfied with just making it,” Foss said. “But, I think we proved a lot of people wrong by going out and beating the No. 2 team in the tournament. I think we still have a lot more to prove in moving on. . . . If we play our best ball, we can play with anybody else on the field.”
The Gorillas and the Lions split their four regular season meetings.
Central Missouri won Game 2 16-4 and the Gorillas responded on Sunday.
“It’s always difficult to play a doubleheader, especially a 9-9 doubleheader,” Murray said. “It didn’t obviously end that way with a seven-inning second game. Unfortunately, I felt like we lost a little bit of our focus in the second game and really didn’t play all that well. Therefore, we were able to regroup that night and accept the challenge of Game 3, of course.”
For the first time in the series, Central drew first blood with a first-inning run. The Mules played a little small ball with its lead runner Samuel Domingue and Brad Wilson delivered a RBI double.
The Gorillas, however, scored one in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth and three in the fifth to build a 7-3 lead.
Foss led off the second with a single and scored on a Jacoby Martin sacrifice fly. Foss moved to second on a Cody Ball walk and to third on a Luke Bordewick sacrifice bunt.
With two outs in the third, Pitt State put together its rally. Evan Thomas singled, then cleanup hitter Ryan Bilovesky connected with a two-run homer, his 11th of the season, to give the Gorillas a 3-2 lead.
Bordewick hit a solo homer in the fourth.
Thomas, Foss and Ball collected RBI singles in the fifth.
Central tied it up at 7 with three in the eighth, highlighted by a Trevor Jones two-run double. Jon Cotter hit a game-tying sacrifice fly.
Neither team scored in the ninth.
Ball and Bordewick led off the 10th with back-to-back singles and No. 9 hitter Austin Lastimado came through with a game-winning two-run single. Ball singled through the left side, Bordewick through the right side, Lastimado up the middle.
Ace reliever Ryan McKay retired the Mules 1-2-3 in the 10th — John Oropeza flied out, Kevin Gratza grounded out and Barrett Noirfalise grounded out.
The Gorillas connected on 17 hits against Mules pitchers Chris Fitzpatrick, Devon Brogan, Dany Coulombe, Jake Heissler and Andrew Urban. Pitt State struggled against Urban on Saturday but seeing him a second time proved different, especially in the 10th.
“From top-to-bottom, we did an outstanding job all weekend of forcing their pitchers to throw it up into the zone,” Murray said. “We felt like we put some pretty good swings on it and I think we were fortunate as well to get some balls to drop. Certainly, offensively I felt like we were clicking pretty well.”
Page 3 of 3 - Baxter Springs native and senior Wren pitched into the eighth for the Gorillas, allowing six runs on seven hits, walking four and striking out three.
“It was a cool experience,” Wren said. “Nerves, everything, it’s a little different. You’ve got to be at your best at that point. Luckily, I’ve been getting a little better after every start and I had my best game of the season this past game.”
Missouri Southern came back from a 1-0 series deficit against Northeastern State, winning both games Sunday at Joe Becker Stadium, 6-5 and 5-3.
Missouri Western swept Fort Hays State, 9-1 and 12-10.
Central Oklahoma swept Emporia State, 4-3 and 9-2.
MIAA Postseason Tournament
Pittsburg State 9, No. 7 Central Missouri 7
PSU 012 130 000 2 — 9 17 0
UCM 110 101 030 0 — 7 9 1
Cody Wren, Ryan McKay (8) and Jacoby Martin. Chris Fitzpatrick, Devon Brogan (3), Dany Coulombe (5), Jake Heissler (5), Andrew Urban (9) and Chase Graskewicz. WP: McKay (4-1). LP: Urban (5-3). E: Samuel Domingue. 2B: Evan Thomas, Brad Foss; Brad Wilson, Trevor Jones. HR: Ryan Bilovesky. SH: Tory Stoffregen, Luke Bordewick; Graskewicz, Jones. SF: Martin; Jon Cotter 2. SB: Stoffregen; Domingue, John Oropeza. CS: Stoffregen, Austin Lastimado; Kevin Gratza. HBP: Wilson. LOB: PSU 8, UCM 6.