PITTSBURG — The offense started early and never quit for Pittsburg State baseball in its 10-6 win over Nebraska-Kearney in the series opener Thursday at Al Ortolani Field.
The Gorillas (15-22, 9-14 MIAA) scored runs in the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings, tallying 16 total hits, to take the first of three against the Lopers.
“When you have a mid-week game and you use one of your weekend starters, you’ve got to use what you have,” Pitt State head coach Tom Myers said. “Tacking on runs, adding on runs to build a lead is very important. We had better at-bats once we regained the lead, and had a better approach late in the game to really close it out for us. I thought the offense was fundamentally sound over the last half of the game.”
After taking an early 4-0 lead, the Gorillas saw the margin slip away to a 5-all tie after four innings.
PSU’s offense scored three runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh to shift the momentum in its favor for good.
“Scoring those runs, really what it does more than anything, allows your pitcher to go out there and get ahead of hitters,” Myers said. “It really dictates how we can pitch, and if you can pitch well and play defense with the lead, you’re in good shape.”
Cooper Gardner (5-1) came out of the pen and earned the win in relief of PSU starter Dante Richardson.
Gardner, who entered the game and ended the threat with a runner on second in the fourth, allowed one earned run on three hits, one walk and two strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work.
“I came in and just tried to keep us where we were at with a runner on second,” Gardner said. “Going forward, I was really just trying to get out of innings as quick as I could and give the bullpen a rest for the rest of the weekend.”
Richardson allowed five runs on five hits, four walks and five strikeouts in 3.2 innings on the mound.
“I thought Dante was doing pretty well. Even with his walks, he was around the zone,” Myers said. “Coop came in and just kind of said, ‘No more’ and was really good with his first pitch. When he missed on an 0-0 pitch, it was in a good spot and made the hitter work.”
Dallas Reed broke the 5-all tie after roping a ball to the left-center field gap, bringing Ethan Schlesener home from second and Jake Durossette all the around from first to make the score 7-5.
Colton Pogue singled sharply past the Loper third baseman two batters later to score Reed, extending Pitt State’s lead to 8-5.
“It was big that we didn’t fold when they came back,” Gardner said. “We’ve been working a lot in practice on those situations, trying to get those runners in any way we can. I think it has really helped.”
Pitt State added insurance in the last of the seventh after Brock Zanca came up with a pinch-hit single up the middle with the infield drawn in, scoring Andrew Vogelbaugh, who doubled to left to lead off the inning, to push the lead to four runs.
A balk on the mound from UNK allowed another Gorilla run to score later in the frame.
Pitt State gained the early lead after Hunter Clanin singled home Kilgore in the first.
Brett Macary added an RBI double down the right-field and Durossette brought home a run on a ground out in the second to push the Gorilla advantage to 4-0.
GORILLAS AT THE PLATE
Reed finished with three hits, including a pair of doubles, and drove in a team-high three runs, scoring twice.
Kilgore, Vogelbaugh, Schlesener and T.J. Martin each had two hits in the win.
LOPERS ON THE MOUND
Mitchell Robinson (4-5) took the loss on the mound after allowing nine runs on 14 hits, and five strikeouts in six innings of work.
LOPERS AT THE PLATE
Josh Estrada and Brent Kirsch each homered for UNK
Dallas Schramm doubled in three trips to the plate, driving in two.
Pitt State and UNK meet for game two at 3 p.m. Friday at Al Ortolani Field.
-- Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.