Fifth-ranked Central Missouri won a pair of thrilling one-run games on Saturday at Crane Stadium/Tompkins Field to advance to the South Central Regional Championship game. The Mules beat Southern Arkansas 4-3 in the afternoon before rallying for a 7-6, 12-inning win over St. Edward’s Saturday night to advance to the title tilt.
The Mules (47-8) got on the board first in game one against Southern Arkansas (37-17) with a single run in the fourth when Bret Schwartz (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs HS) scored on a wild pitch. The Muleriders tied the game in the top of the fifth on a Gavan McCauley RBI single.
UCM went back in front with a pair of runs in the sixth. Jordan Coons (Jefferson City, Mo./Jefferson City HS) had a sacrifice fly to break the tie and John Oropeza (Kansas City, Kan./Bishop Ward) had an RBI bunt.
SAU came right back in the top of the seventh to tie the game on a Jody Spain two-run single, but the Mules came back in the bottom of the seventh to regain the lead when Ben Cox (Warrensburg, Mo./Warrensburg HS) scored on a Mulerider throwing error.
Southern Arkansas put two runners on in the ninth with nobody out, but a double play and a pop up ended the threat giving the Mules the 4-3 win.
Kyle Jackson (8-1) (Kearney, Mo./Kearney HS) earned the win after tossing 7.2 innings allowing three runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out five. Travis Unthank (Lenexa, Kan./Shawnee Mission South HS) earned his 10th save of the season after pitching the final 1.1 innings.
Janson Carr (5-3) took the loss for SAU after allowing four runs on four hits in six innings. Schwartz went 1-for-4 in the game to record career hit No. 300, just the third player in MIAA history in the 300-hit club.
In their second game of the day, the Mules went in front of St. Edward’s (37-16) in the first inning of the consolation bracket final. Schwartz singled home Gabe Thibodeau (Laval, Quebec) to give UCM a 1-0 lead.
The Hilltoppers plated a run in the third on a Taylor Johnson RBI double to tie the game at 1-1. Central Missouri scored a run in the top of the fourth on a Ben Cox infield single, but SEU came right back in the bottom half to tie the game at 2-all.
St. Edward’s plated a pair of runs in the fifth to regain the lead. After drawing a one-out walk, Johnson got caught in a rundown on a steal attempt and appeared to be tagged out at first, but was ruled safe and would later score on a single by Adam Shank. The single with two runners on allowed Kyle Harris to go to third and score on a sacrifice fly later in the inning and give SEU a 4-2 lead.
The Mules came back in the top of the sixth with three runs to retake the lead 5-4. Cox singled to right with the bases loaded to drive in a pair and the third run scored when the right fielder misplayed the ball allowing Cox to go all the way to third.
The Hilltoppers responded with two runs in the bottom half to go back in front 6-5. Ransom LaLonde led off the inning with a home run to tie the game and Johnson added an RBI single to put SEU back in front.
The Mules had runners on second and third with one out in the eighth when Chase Graskewicz (Hudson, Wis./Hudson HS) laid down a squeeze bunt to score Brad Wilson (Jefferson City, Mo./Helias HS) with the tying run. Albert Selanders (Overland Park, Kan./Rockhurst HS) tried to score from second on the play, but was thrown out at the plate as he appeared to slide in before the tag.
The Mules got out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a 1-6-3 double play to force extra innings. UCM loaded the bases in the 10th, but a diving stop by Johnson at second base preserved the tie.
Central Missouri put two on with one out in the top of the 12th. A wild pitch moved the runners up to second and third so SEU intentionally walked Cox for the second time in the game to set up a potential double play. After a pop out to first base, Jon Cotter (Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan) drew a two-out walk to force in the go ahead run.
Unthank retired the Hilltoppers in order in the 12th to give the Mules the win and move them into tomorrow’s championship game against St. Mary’s.
Unthank (2-1) earned the win after tossing six scoreless innings of relief and allowing just three hits while striking out four. Paul Smith (2-1) was the tough luck loser for St. Edward’s after a magnificent 12-inning performance. He allowed seven runs on 11 hits with six K’s and four walks while throwing 162 pitches.
Five Mules finished with two hits apiece, including Cox, who drove in three runs.
Central Missouri will take on second-seeded and third-ranked St. Mary’s on Sunday at 12 p.m. in the regional championship. The Mules have to beat the Rattlers twice to win the regional title and earn a trip to the NCAA-II Championships.
Story courtesy of Central Missouri Athletics