Gayman, Doherty power Lions to 9-5 win over Gorillas

May 9—PITTSBURG, Kan. — Cole Gayman and Tanner Leslie went head-to-head on the mound at Al Ortolani Field for the second time this season. This time, it was in the MIAA tournament on Thursday evening.

The two aces for their respective staffs, Missouri Southern State University and Pittsburg State University, started this contest the same way they did the one back on March 15.

The games were scoreless until the Lions broke through on Leslie both times. On Thursday, they did so with a two-RBI triple from cleanup hitter Will Doherty in the bottom of the third. MSSU went on to tally nine runs in the game and claim a 9-5 victory.

Leslie came into Thursday after a seven-inning, one-run performance against Rogers State University (Claremore, Oklahoma) last week and had showcased his talents all season as the Gorillas' top arm.

"He's a real good pitcher. He's an awesome pitcher. The first four innings are what you would expect of two good pitchers going after each other," MSSU head coach Bryce Darnell said.

This win puts No. 2 Southern (40-13) up against No. 5 Washburn at 11 a.m. Friday in Pittsburg. The Ichabods routed the top seed in the MIAA, the University of Central Missouri, with an 11-1 run-rule victory on Thursday.

"It's good to win the first one and obviously we're playing a real hot Washburn team that's stroking the ball," Darnell said. "They go down to Edmond and beat them (University of Central Oklahoma) and then come here and beat Central Missouri. They're obviously playing great right now."


Gayman allowed a leadoff single to PSU's Josh Holmes and immediately knew what he needed to fix.

"That second pitch where he hit it, I kind of left it too much on the plate. So after that I was like, 'I have to hit corners. I have to hit spots.' Because today, again, I was just trying to let them hit it to our guys," Gayman said.

He must've been dialing it into his spots around the edge of the zone after that. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound right-hander retired the next 15 batters in a row.

"He was outstanding. He got 15 in a row after the first hit? That says enough right there," Darnell said.

The next hit came from Daegan Brady. It was one of those the pitcher and infield can't do a thing about. Brady swung all the way through on the ball but the weak contact and hitting it straight into the turf sent it dribbling about 10 feet up the third base line.

It was in no man's land as catcher Chayton Beck had to hustle to get to the ball. He fired the ball to first but there was no chance of getting Brady as he hustled down the line.

That was a moot point as two consecutive ground balls led to a fielder's choice at second and then a double play to end the frame. The Gorillas had only hit the ball out of the infield five times through the first six innings with just two hits and no walks.

"I thought Gayman pitched a great game like he always does," PSU head coach Bob Fornelli said. "We thought he probably should have been (MIAA) pitcher of the year anyway, and he wasn't. But he competes every time he (Darnell) hands him the ball and was really good again tonight."

Gayman got five ground balls to his third baseman, Doherty, off of PSU's bats. Doherty talked about defending behind a pitcher like him.

"It's unreal. The kid is so good. He's been good for us all year," Doherty said. "Weak ground balls. Light fly balls. All year. When he's on the bump it's like we're guaranteed a win if we hit."


MSSU's offense ended up with seven runs off of Leslie through 4 1/3 innings of work. Five of those came in the fifth inning where Leslie struggled to get outs.

"Tanner (Leslie) wasn't as good as he needed to be and didn't pitch with enough conviction to give us a chance to be successful," Fornelli said.

It started with the triple to the centerfield fence from Doherty after PSU centerfielder Holmes dove and missed the catch to score two runs.

"Big hit to make it 2-0. The team needed it. Frankly, I needed it to get confidence," Doherty said. "

MSSU then tacked on five more in the fifth. The inning began with Beck trying to sneak a bunt in for a hit. He wasn't able to get it down a line and instead bunted a routine ball to Leslie for an out.

Then it was the top of the lineup with Drew Townsend digging in. Townsend sent a laser shot over the right field fence to make it 3-0.

Ethan Clark followed with a single up the middle. Henry Kusiak drew a walk. Doherty got an infield single deep into the hole at shortstop and everyone moved up safely to load the bases. Garrett Rice lined a ball over the shortstop's head and drove in Clark and Kusiak to make it 5-0.

Doherty finished the game 3 for 5 with a single, double and triple and three RBIs. Kusiak was 3 for 4 with three runs scored and a walk. Townsend was 3 for 5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Clark finished 2 for 4 with two runs scored.


After Nate Mieszkowski was hit by a pitch, Treghan Parker drew a walk to bring a run in and make it 6-0. A sacrifice fly from Drew Davis added another run to make it 7-0.

The rest of the Lions' scoring came in the sixth inning. Doherty powered a ball to the opposite field that landed just inside the foul line and hopped over the fence for a ground-rule double, scoring Clark. Then Rice added a sac fly to make it 9-0.

"We were just able to connect. Everybody was hitting today. We got runs when we needed to," Doherty said. "If you do that, you win ballgames."

Darnell talked about scratching across late runs and the importance of that.

"To extend the lead, those are huge. As you can tell, they're a good offensive club," he said.

Southern was about an inch away from earning a run-rule victory when Mieszkowski came up with runners on second and third with two outs in the sixth leading 9-0. He hit a hard line drive that PSU's Dylan Kurahashi-Choy Foo had to leap and snare to avoid the run-rule.


Kurahashi-Choy Foo came up in the seventh and hit a solo home run off of Gayman to make it 9-1. Gayman had to battle through that inning after walking two batters and hitting one to load the bases. But he didn't allow anymore offense.

Cale McCallister pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief and surrendered four runs on a two-RBI double from the Gorillas' Nixon Brannan in the eighth and a two-run homer from Brady in the ninth.

Kyle Moore closed the game by recording the last two outs.


No. 3 PSU will get No. 1 Central Missouri, which saved its best two pitchers for the end of the weekend by pitching its No. 3 starter in Jack Scott. MIAA Pitcher of the Year, Conner Wolf, will be going against the Gorillas Friday. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.

"We're going to see one and two. The best two guys in the league (Gayman and Wolf). We'll see what happens. We feel good with (Gage) Singer running out there," Fornelli said.

The Gorillas are ranked eighth in the region by the NCAA coming into the week. Only eight teams make a regional tournament. Fornelli says his team has to win to continue playing past this weekend.

"We have to win a game. Even though we're playing the No. 1 and 2 teams in the region, we have to win games," he noted.