May 23—It wasn’t the desired ending for Pittsburg State in its gutsy run in the MIAA postseason baseball tournament.
But that’s typically what happens to teams that run into No. 2 Central Missouri this season.
The top-seeded Mules erupted for 15 hits while its pitching staff kept PSU at bay en route to an 11-2 win in the championship game on Saturday afternoon at Warren Turner Field in Joplin.
UCM (39-6) capped a 3-0 weekend in the conference tournament, all but securing the top seed in next week’s NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament that the Mules will host in Warrensburg.
PSU (30-16), which made Saturday’s championship by claiming back-to-back wins in elimination games against Rogers State and Central Oklahoma on Friday, will wait to see if its performance over the weekend lands it a spot in the six-team regional tournament.
“I tip my hat to our players,” Pittsburg State coach Bob Fornelli said. “They played hard and competed throughout the weekend. Yesterday, we had to come back (in both games). Then we came out this morning and we just didn’t play very well. But Central Missouri is a great team, great program. We wish them well, and we just want to find a way to join them next week. I think we’ve earned it.”
The Mules, picking up their ninth consecutive win, scored early and often as they plated two runs in the first inning, four in the third, one in the fifth, three in the sixth and one in the seventh. The Gorillas drew no closer than five runs after the third inning.
“Pittsburg State is a good team, and we were fortunate to get some important two-out hits when it mattered,” UCM coach Kyle Crookes said. “You like to be playing well and feeling good about yourself in the postseason. It certainly helps. and not to be super results-oriented there, but we’d like to continue to build off what this is.
“It matters I think — especially in the postseason — who’s playing the best when it means the most. It’s not always the best team. So there’s certainly work to be done, and you’d like to feel good going into a regional tournament that you know is going to be every bit as competitive as this one was.”
Five of UCM’s 15 hits were of the extra-base variety, with MIAA Player of the Year Dusty Stroup accounting for one home run and a double while tournament MVP Josh Schumacher had two doubles and Scott Wolverton one double. Stroup finished with a pair of hits and a team-high three RBI.
“He’s a talented player, he works hard and he’s a great person,” Crookes said of Stroup. “He’s done it all year, and he’s obviously very important to this team.”
UCM was just as dominant out in the field as its pitching staff limited the Gorillas to four hits. The only damage by the PSU offense came on RBI singles by Aaron Gerdes and Cruz Aranda in the first and fifth innings, respectively.
Starter Conor Dryer moved to 6-2 on the season after surrendering two earned runs and four hits in five innings of work. He also struck out seven.
“I’m really proud of Conor,” Crookes said. “The first inning was a little rough on him after he gave up that one run. But he settled down and gave us a chance to add some runs. Really happy with him for doing that because there’s a lot of pressure involved with any championship game.”
UCM relievers Cole Young, Hunter Little, Grayson Senn and Harrison Babbitt tossed one scoreless inning apiece.
PSU starter Clay Westbrooks took the loss after allowing four earned runs and four hits in 2 1/3 innings. Justin Root, Zach Curry, Chandler Mauldin and Caleb Rogge surrendered a combined six earned runs in relief.
“They’re a really good offensive team, and we were down in our pitching staff,” Fornelli said. “But I thought we battled. It could have gotten worse, to be honest with you. But we kept battling. … just not enough horsepower to get it done.”
The Gorillas had four players named to the all-tournament team in Blain Ohlmeier, Garrett McGowan, Dawson Pomeroy and Greyson Pinkett.
Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.