After the highs of winning a series against nationally-ranked Central Missouri, its rival Missouri Southern knocked Pittsburg State back down to Earth and into the elimination game of the MIAA Final Four with a 9-0 decision Thursday at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
However, senior center fielder Ryan Ventura carried Pitt State on his back in the nightcap, his game-winning two-run home run in the ninth inning highlighting a 4-for-5 performance at the plate, and Pitt State eliminated Central Oklahoma with a 3-1 victory.
It seems like Missouri Southern has Pitt State senior pitcher Matt Stalcup's number this season.
In early March, Stalcup gave up four runs on six hits in four innings against Missouri Southern for his first loss of the season. On Thursday, Stalcup gave up six runs on 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out six. Abell pitched a six-hitter Thursday.
The game was scoreless after the first three innings but Southern busted loose in the fourth with three runs on four hits. Nick Doughty and Michael McCoy collected run-producing singles, Doughty one run and McCoy two runs.
The seventh was the nightmarish inning for the Gorillas — Stalcup began the frame by plunking Shaun Hoover and he worked his way around to score on a sacrifice, a wild pitch and a Dallas Burke RBI single. Sam Ryan doubled Burke over to third and Pitt State made a couple big decisions next: give Stalcup the hook for Jake Moore and intentionally walk Will Wagner to load the bases with one down for the double play.
The appropriately named Tee Helsel found a Moore pitch much to his liking and deposited it for a grand slam and 8-0 lead. Doughty picked up a RBI double and the Lions scored all nine of their runs in two fell swoops.
In the dreaded elimination game, Ventura led off the third with a single and Tory Stoffregen placed a bunt to third baseman Matt Johnson to move over Ventura on the sacrifice. Evan Thomas drew a walk, then Ryan Bilovesky flew out to center for the second out. With two down, Pitt State could ill afford to leave runners on, especially facing elimination.
Unfortunately for the Gorillas, that's exactly what they did as Cody Ball struck out swinging.
Naturally, the Bronchos took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the third.
Sophomore right fielder Luke Bordewick, long out of his batting slump, homered to lead off the fourth and Pitt State did not wait long to knot up the score.
The score remained the same until the ninth and Ventura’s heroics.
Lights out Ryan McKay struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth for his fifth save of the season.
Pitt State plays the loser of the Missouri Western-Missouri Southern game at 2:30 p.m. today.
Page 2 of 4 - Missouri Western 9, Central Oklahoma 3: In the opening game of the Final Four, top seed Missouri Western took care of business and capitalized on five, count them five Central Oklahoma errors.
Bubba Dotson blasted a three-run homer in the second and Brandon Simmons (MIAA Pitcher of the Year) allowed one run on four hits over eight innings of work.
Missouri Western, No. 4-ranked in NCAA-II, improved to 38-8, breaking a nearly 40-year school record for wins in a season. Speaking of school records, Michael Schulze (MIAA Player of the Year) picked up his 84th hit in the first inning, setting the single-season hits record.
In a battle of Missouri directional schools, Western takes on Southern today for the right to go to the championship game Saturday.
MIAA Postseason Tournament
Final Four at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, Kansas City, Kan.
Missouri Southern 9, Pittsburg State 0
PSU 000 000 000 — 0 6 2
MSSU 000 300 060 — 9 12 2
Matt Stalcup, Jake Moore (7), Brett Cares (7) and Jacoby Martin. Brett Abell and Sam Ryan. WP: Abell (5-3). LP: Stalcup (7-4). E: Tory Stoffregen, Brad Foss, Martin; Dallas Burke, Thomas Wilson. 2B: Sam Ryan, Nick Doughty. 3B: Cody Ball. GS: Tee Helsel. SB: Ryan Ventura; Wilson. CS: Michael McCoy. HBP: Evan Thomas; Shaun Hoover.
Pittsburg State 3, Central Oklahoma 1
PSU 000 100 002 — 3 8 2
UCO 001 000 000 — 1 8 3
George Brandecker, Ryan McKay (9) and Jacoby Martin. Hallam, Sharp (7) and Garza. WP: Brandecker (6-4). LP: Sharp (3-1). SV: McKay (5). E: Brad Foss, Martin; Wong 2, Mavroulis. 2B: Malloy. HR: Ryan Ventura, Luke Bordewick. SH: Tory Stoffregen. CS: Ventura; Crabtree. LOB: PSU 9, UCO 6.
On the first day of its Final Four, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association released its All-Conference Team.
The Pittsburg State baseball team earned eight nods, one first team and seven honorable mention.
The lone first-team selection for the Gorillas was senior pitcher Matt Stalcup and the seven honorable mentions are sophomore pitcher George Brandecker, redshirt freshman reliever Ryan McKay, junior catcher Jacoby Martin, senior first baseman Ryan Bilovesky, junior third baseman Brad Foss, senior center fielder Ryan Ventura and junior left fielder Tory Stoffregen.
Entering Thursday, Stalcup led Pitt State on the mound with a 7-3 record, 3.46 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 65.0 innings. Stalcup fanned a single-game school record 15 batters against Central Oklahoma.
Brandecker owns a 5-4 record, 3.72 ERA and 53 Ks in 58.0 innings. His ERA was sub-3.00 before a bad outing against Central Missouri last weekend. Brandecker pitched consecutive shutouts against Emporia State and Missouri Southern, enjoying a scoreless innings streak of 14 2/3.
McKay evolved into the ace of the Pitt State bullpen, owning a 4-1 record with four saves and 39 strikeouts in 34.1 innings pitched and 29 appearances. His ERA stood at 1.57 entering the Final Four.
Martin ranks fourth on the Gorillas with a .341 batting average and the Galena native started 42 games this season as the predominant man behind the plate. He's tied for the team lead in sacrifice hits with eight, along with outfielders Stoffregen and Ventura.
Page 3 of 4 - Bilovesky leads the Gorillas with 11 home runs, his career high and in fact, No. 44 hit more home runs than his previous three years at Pitt State combined. He blasted homer No. 11 in the opening win of the Central Missouri series. Bilovesky's 40 RBI rank tied for second on the Gorillas.
Foss leads Pitt State in batting average at .383 with a team-high 70 hits, 17 doubles, two triples, three homers and 34 RBI.
When leadoff man Ventura gets on base for the Gorillas, it's a different offense and the senior sparkplug leads Pitt State with 53 runs scored and 18 stolen bases. Ventura possesses some pop in his bat, collecting 13 doubles, four triples and four homers entering Thursday.
No. 2 man Stoffregen led Pitt State in hitting for a solid stretch of the season before cooling down to his .358 entering the Final Four. His team-high 18 doubles, team-high five triples and four homers gave Stoffregen a team-leading .581 slugging percentage.
Regular season champs and No. 1 tournament seed Missouri Western dominated the awards portion of the program: Player of the Year (shortstop Michael Schulze), Pitcher of the Year (Brandon Simmons) and Coach of the Year (Buzz Verduzco). The Griffons earned 10 All-MIAA players overall.
Nebraska-Kearney outfielder Anthony Pacheco earned Freshman of the Year.
Player of the Year: Michael Schulze, Missouri Western
Pitcher of the Year: Brandon Simmons, Missouri Western
Freshman of the Year: Anthony Pacheco, Nebraska-Kearney
Coach of the Year: Buzz Verduzco, Missouri Western
SP: Edgar Lopez, Central Oklahoma
SP: Matt Stalcup, Pittsburg State
SP: Brandon Simmons, Missouri Western
RP: Andrew Urban, Central Missouri
C: Chase Graskewicz, Central Missouri
1B: Mike Failoni, Lindenwood
2B: Jimmy Smelcer, Missouri Western
SS: Michael Schulze, Missouri Western (U)
3B: Grant Fink, Missouri Western (U)
OF: Cody Robinson, Northeastern State
OF: Kevin Gratza, Central Missouri
OF: Bubba Dotson, Missouri Western
DH: Horace Johnson, Fort Hays State
Util.: Brian Wuest, Nebraska-Kearney
SP: Travis Higgs, Central Missouri
SP: Dakota McKastle, Emporia State
SP: Brett Abell, Missouri Southern
RP: Trevor Walch, Northeastern State
C: Sam Ryan, Missouri Southern
1B: John Oropeza, Central Missouri
2B: Michael McCoy, Missouri Southern
SS: Samuel Domingue, Central Missouri
3B: Eric Dawson, Emporia State
OF: Aaron Rea, Emporia State
OF: Kyle Simpson, Missouri Western
OF: Ryan Abernathy, Northwest Missouri
DH: Eric McGlauflin, Northwest Missouri
Util.: Kyle Grieshaber, Central Missouri
SP: Ethan Ward, Central Oklahoma; Tayler Davis, Fort Hays State; Ryan Bates, Missouri Southern; Payton Walker, Missouri Southern; Ryker Fox, Northwest Missouri; George Brandecker, Pittsburg State; Taylor Gentry, Washburn.
Page 4 of 4 - RP: Jake Heissler, Central Missouri; Logan Hollingsworth, Missouri Western; Ryan McKay, Pittsburg State.
C: Mike Wilson, Lindenwood; Jake Schrader, Missouri Western; David Weber, Northeastern State; Jacoby Martin, Pittsburg State.
1B: Spencer Shockley, Missouri Western; Ryan Bilovesky, Pittsburg State; Paul Trenhaile, Truman State.
2B: Jon Cotter, Central Missouri; Blake Sturgeon, Emporia State; Chris Santoscoy, Fort Hays State; Landon Young, Southwest Baptist; Taylor Herrington, Washburn.
SS: Cesar Wong, Central Oklahoma; Nathan Prindle, Lindenwood; Kegan Knight, Northeastern State.
3B: Matt Johnson, Central Oklahoma; Brad Foss, Pittsburg State.
OF: Tyler Crabtree, Central Oklahoma; Jared Wright, Central Oklahoma; Brad Wilson, Central Missouri; Jordan Slade, Emporia State; Clayton Garland, Fort Hays State; Jordan Miller, Fort Hays State; Colby Shepherd, Lincoln; Wade Rothermich, Lindenwood; Will Wagner, Missouri Southern; Anthony Pacheco, Nebraska-Kearney; Kyle Singleton, Northeastern State; Tory Stoffregen, Pittsburg State; Ryan Ventura, Pittsburg State; Corban Williams, Truman State; Parker Gibson, Washburn.
DH: Matt Malloy, Central Oklahoma.
Util.: Ryan Busboom, Fort Hays State; Dallas Burke, Missouri Southern; Nate Ramler, Missouri Western; Blake Marino, Truman State.