Lions outlast Hornets, seek sweep Sunday

Mar. 9—Missouri Southern was behind 7-5 heading into the bottom of the fifth. It was the second time the baseball team had trailed during Saturday's home contest with Emporia State on Warren Turner Field.

The Lions (19-4, 7-1 MIAA) scratched across three runs in the home half of the inning on two hits, two batters reaching on error and a walk, to take an 8-7 lead. The offense added three more in the seventh thanks to a leadoff triple, a single and then a two-run home run from Drew Townsend. They kept that 11-7 lead and earned the Lions a fifth straight win.

"The offense was able to get runs when we needed to," MSSU coach Bryce Darnell said. "We didn't pitch as good as we needed to today. I think we walked or hit 12 guys and that's just not good."

Southern did walk 11 batters and hit one for a total of 12 free baserunners. The Hornets (12-10) managed 10 hits for the day as well.

One of those hits was a timely grand slam to put ESU ahead 7-5 in the top of the fifth.

The grand slam came after Laif Hultine came in with the bases loaded, inheriting three runners. The first batter he faced, freshman Logan Myers, sent a pitch over the outfield fence to put the Hornets ahead.

"Laif did great. Those runners weren't his and he made a bad pitch and their guy made him pay but I thought he was good. Really made one bad pitch and that's baseball," Darnell said.

Hultine settled in to pitch the last 4 2/3 innings of the game and not allow another run. He surrendered a total of five hits, walked two batters and hit one while striking out three. He picked up the win to move to 1-0 on the year with two saves.

"Once we got back on top I knew I just needed to take it one pitch at a time and execute my job and execute the pitches that were called for me," Hultine said.

Trent Harris, Brandon Overman and Keaton Anderson each pitched an inning-plus on Saturday, and in that order. Overman replaced Harris after recording four outs. Overman got the next five outs and only surrendered a walk while striking out two batters.

The Lions were led by four players with three hits each — Henry Kusiak, Will Doherty, Ethan Clark and Nate Mieszkowski. Doherty led the team with three RBIs and Kusiak, Clark and Mieszkowski scored twice each.

MSSU and ESU finish up the series with a 1 p.m. start on Sunday. MSSU has a chance to sweep the series and season series, as it will not meet Emporia again during the regular season.

Cale McCallister is getting the start on Sunday as the Lions try for that sweep. McCallister is 2-1 in five starts so far this year. Darnell noted that he's coming off of his worst outing of the year but coach looks for his senior to bounce back on the bump.

That last outing was an 11-9 win for the Lions over Newman back on March 3. But McCallister only lasted 1 2/3 innings giving up five hits and three runs. That raised his season earned run average from 2.66 to 3.68. The lefty has a chance to lower that some.

"I just have to come back out and — not really change anything — just get in the right mindset, just be myself and just throw strikes," McCallister said. "That's the most important thing about tomorrow, is just getting the sweep and continuing to win."

McCallister noted that he thinks this team has shown glimpses of how good it can be but that it hasn't reached its full potential. But he says that's a good thing because it's better to be at your best come April as postseason play approaches.

Hultine added that the squad is in a good "head space" and are mentally strong but would like to go on the road and earn some more wins away from home. It will have chances for that next week at Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma, on Tuesday and at Pittsburg State University Friday through Sunday.

Darnell said he has been most impressed by his team's consistent competitiveness 23 games into the year.