Missouri Western downs Lincoln

The Lincoln baseball team slowed down the high-octane offense of Missouri Western State University — in a manner of speaking — during Friday afternoon’s game, and the Griffons still managed to put up 15 runs.

Missouri Western, which started the week second among Division II teams with a .391 team batting average, didn’t meet that mark. Granted, they missed it by just .005, as the Griffons were 17-of-44 (.386) in a 15-5 win at Lincoln Field.

“Every one of their kids can hit it, they swing it good up and down the lineup,” Lincoln coach Jim Dapkus said. “And they have not only the potential to drive for doubles, but also home runs.”

The Griffons put up runs early and often, scoring two in the first inning, four in the second and two each in the fourth, fifth and sixth. A three-run ninth closed out their scoring.

“I told the guys, ‘You’re going to be challenged by a very good team and if we can play like we’re capable of, we’re going to be in the games. But if not, they’re going to have a lot of guys in scoring opportunities.’”

It was a case of the latter from the start, as the first four Griffons reached safely while scoring the two first-inning runs.

Lincoln closed the gap to 2-1 in the bottom of the first when Ben Stewart singled and scored on Clint Cashen’s double, but that would be as close as the Blue Tigers would get.

The Griffons, ranked 20th in one Division II poll and 22nd in another, took over the game with that four-run second. And they did it with just two hits, taking advantage of two Lincoln errors — both on the same play — and three walks.

“You look at the score and we obviously cannot afford to give them anything in terms of bases, because it just compounds the problem,” Dapkus said.

The lead reached 10-1 before Lincoln scored again, as the Blue Tigers got two runs in the fifth. Josh Kennedy’s two-run double plated Ben Stewart and Cashen after both had drawn walks.

But Missouri Western came right back in the top of the sixth and went up 12-3.

“We’d get a run or two and then we’d go right back out there and most likely give it right back to them,” Dapkus said. “Any chance we have of getting any momentum, we cannot maintain it for a game right now.”

In the bottom of that inning, the Blue Tigers got a solo home run from Andrew St. Pierre, the first long ball of his Lincoln career.

Lincoln crept to within 12-5 in the eighth when Logan Smith doubled, stole third and scored on a balk.

But the Griffons got three in the top of the ninth to close out the scoring.

“The way we’re set up, it’s hard for us to get to 15 runs,” Dapkus said. “If we can keep it within five, six, seven, we’re OK.”

Missouri Western had some huge individual performances. Leadoff hitter Michael Schulze went 5-for-6, No. 2 hitter Bubba Dotson was 3-for-4 with four RBI, and cleanup hitter Nate Ramler went 2-for-5 with four RBI.

“It’s tough when you’re dealing with two to three baserunners per inning in terms of trying to keep a team from scoring,” Dapkus said.

Smith was the only Lincoln player with multiple hits — he went 2-for-4 — as the Blue Tigers got outhit 17-9.

“Guys were getting decent at-bats today, but we’re just putting way too much pressure on ourselves and it’s not a fun way to play,” Dapkus said.

Blake Jones started and took the loss for the Blue Tigers. He threw 106 pitches before exiting after just 41⁄3 innings, giving up 10 runs (eight earned) on nine hits. He walked four and struck out five.

Darren Lasley followed and gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out three. Jacob Busch worked an inning, allowing one hit and one walk, before Kennedy pitched the ninth and gave up three earned runs on three hits and a walk. He struck out one.

The Griffons, who are off to the best start in school history, improved to 22-4 overall and 17-1 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. The Blue Tigers dropped to 2-17 and 2-14 in league play.

The teams will play a doubleheader today starting at 11 a.m.

“Hopefully we can get somebody to go out there in the first inning and keep it quiet and then hopefully get some at-bats going,” Dapkus said. “It’s a great group of kids, but they’re just not having a lot of success right now. It’s a tough way to do it.”

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