The Central Missouri baseball team gave itself plenty of opportunities to score for the second straight game at the Division II College World Series.
This time, the Mules took advantage of them.
Two days after leaving nine men on base in an opening loss to Lander, coach Kyle Crookes’ Central Region champions stayed alive in the double-elimination national championship tournament Tuesday with a series of big hits and productive outs that led to to a 6-0 victory against Franklin Pierce.
Ethan Westphal and Tayler Ross combined for a six-hit shutout on the mound to send CMU into another elimination game against Southern Indiana on Wednesday at 10 a.m. CDT. The game was originally set for 2 p.m. but was moved up because of weather concerns.
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“Both days we had people in scoring position all game long,” said third baseman Cole Distler, who drove in three of the runs with a single and two sacrifice flies. “But today we finally executed, did the little things right and did what we had to do to push runs across the plate.”
Distler’s sacrifice flies came in the second and fourth innings to give the Mules a 2-0 lead. Each time, his RBIs drove home Bennett Oliver from third base.
Oliver, CMU’s cleanup hitter and home run leader with 24, was coming off a nightmare performance against Lander in which he struck out all four times he came to the plate. But he got back into the groove against Franklin Pierce with a double and two singles.
“I think the first game a lot of us got caught up trying to be the guy that did something good for the team,” Oliver said. “There were a couple of situations where we were pressing a bit.”
Oliver might have gotten into a similar situation Tuesday after getting into a two-strike hole in his first at bat. But teammate Jake Alexander got picked off first to end the inning, giving Oliver a fresh count to start the bottom of the second.
This time, he doubled down the right field line to break his slump.
CMU (43-14) extended its lead with a bases loaded walk to Dylan Farrell in the seventh and a two-run double in the eighth by Jackson Schnurbusch.
That was more than enough support for Westphal, whose only real trouble came in the seventh when he worked out of a second-and-third, one-out situation by coaxing a popup and a strikeout.
Ross then came on the record the final six outs for the save that extended the Mules’ season at least one more game.
“Our team is pretty good under pressure situations,” Westphal said. “We’ve been doing it all year in tight games and coming out on top most of the time.”