The third-ranked Mules out-hit No. 4 Lander 11-4 and capitalized on two Bearcat errors, but missed opportunities proved costly as UCM fell to LU 4-3 in walk-off fashion in the World Series opener late Saturday night and in to early Sunday morning.
The Mules (42-14) got a scoring chance right out of the gate with a pair of singles in the top of the first. UCM had runners at the corners with one out, but a pair of strikeouts ended the threat. Lander (43-14) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning when Zach Daly homered on the first pitch he saw.
The Mules tied the game in the third thanks to the first Bearcat error. Dylan Farrell had a two-out single and was able to come all the way around to score when Jake Alexander’s single to right got under the glove of the right fielder and rolled all the way to the warning track.
Central Missouri had runners at second and third with one out in the fifth, but a pair of strikeouts ended the UCM threat and kept the game tied 1-1.
The Mules took advantage of another Lander error in the eighth to grab a 2-1 lead. Matt Elliott led off with a walk. Dylan Farrell followed it up with a bunt single, but a throwing error on the play allowed both runners to move up to second and third with no one out. Following a groundout to the pitcher and a strike out, Elliott came dashing home on a passed ball to put the Mules in front. UCM had second and third with two outs in the inning, but an infield popout kept the lead at just one run.
In the bottom of the inning Lucas Williams got a pair of strikeouts to start things off, but then issued a walk and on a full count to the next batter, John Mangum smashed a home run to left to put the Bearcats in front 3-2.
The Mules fought back in the top of the ninth, however. Matt Safranek had an infield single to lead things off. A single to right by pinch-hitter Collin Nevil allowed pinch runner Dusty Maas to go to third giving UCM runners at the corners with one out. Elliott then placed a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single to bring home Maas with the tying run. Nevil and Elliott both moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch, but a pop out and a strike out kept the game tied.
In the bottom of the ninth Gatlin Minick led off with a walk for Lander. He went to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a groundout. Will Jones then singled to deep left to bring home Minick with the game-winning run.
Andy Muehlberger (1-1) took the loss for UCM after allowing one run after walking the leadoff batter in the ninth. Tyler House tossed five innings, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out five. Lucas Williams allowed two runs on one hit in three solid innings of relief. He struck out six.
Brandon White (4-2) earned the win for Lander tossing one inning of relief, allowing one run on three hits with two strikeouts. LU starter Sam Linn allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings. He struck out nine and walked only one.
Elliott, Farrell, Alexander and Safranek all had two hits apiece for the Mules. UCM left nine runners on base in the game.
With the loss, the Mules drop in to an elimination game on Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. against Franklin Pierce.