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MSSU baseball's season ends in Central Region championship

May 20—Missouri Southern State University earned a 10-7 win over Harding University to begin the day on Saturday. That set up a championship match in the Division II Central Region tournament with University of Arkansas-Monticello.

A quick six runs in the second inning put the No. 6 Weevils at an advantage. It appeared the No. 2 Lions were poised for a comeback after four runs in the fourth frame.

But UAM head coach John Harvey immediately went to his bullpen after the fourth and that may have been the difference in the game as his team went on to win 11-4.

Dylan Vail gave the Weevils four innings of relief and only allowed one hit. Then Kyle Roop, who hadn't been used all weekend, came in to close the game with a perfect inning.

"It was big. And that's the benefit of winning those first two games," Harvey said. "Winning that second game (Friday), I think we understood how big that game was. To come through the loser's bracket, you have to use so much more pitching."

Southern was on the opposite end of that pitching situation. Having lost to Monticello on Friday, the Lions had to play an extra game and it's pitching staff was depleted. Almost everyone in the bullpen had been used to some degree over the weekend.

"Absolutely. You have to put guys in spots you don't want to have to put them in," MSSU head coach Bryce Darnell said. "Playing from behind in the second game was hard. Credit to our guys for coming out and competing hard but ultimately didn't have enough."

The Lions felt they let one slip on Friday after leading 4-0 heading into the bottom of the 7th. The Weevils rallied for five runs in the inning and the Lions couldn't gather anymore offense in the final two innings.

"We got beat by a good team. Probably let one get away (Friday). They beat us today," Darnell said.

Maxim Mrakovcic got the start for Monticello on Saturday and pitched through four innings allowing four runs on four hits and one walk.

The big blow was a three-run home run from senior Drew Davis to make it 6-4. Prior to that, Treghan Parker had singled in Garrett Rice to get the first run on the board for the Lions.

Darnell's goal was to use multiple arms in Game 2 in a limited fashion and to see who could get him outs consistently.

Senior Jacob Davis started for MSSU but was pulled in the second inning after struggling a bit. He pitched 1 1/3 innings allowing five runs on two hits and three walks. Brandon Overman made his first appearance of the weekend but only lasted 1 2/3 innings and surrendered four hits that led to three runs.

Kyle Kaempf recorded four outs and allowed one run. Laif Hultine got seven outs and allowed a two-run home run to Kirk Woolf. Aron Harrington came in to get one out and Cale McCallister got the last three outs.

The Weevils' outfield defense also made an impact as DeShaun Cordova, Roc Hawthorne and Kirk Woolf were flying all over the place to make running catches and keep the Lions's hard-hit balls from falling for extra-base hits.

Coach Harvey and the Weevils will meet No. 1 Central Missouri in the Super Regional in Warrensburg.

"Keep doing what we're doing. Keep grinding out at-bats. Keep throwing strikes. On paper, they look really good. We'll have our work cut out for us. But I think we're going to have to score with them a little bit," Harvey said.

The Lions end 2024 with a 44-15 record. The Weevils are now 35-22.