April 8, 2011
By David Boyce
When the Northwest Missouri State baseball team takes the field today for the first of a four-game weekend series against Southwest Baptist, Coach Darin Loe wants his team focused on one thing.
Loe wants the Bearcats to play the kind of baseball that improves the team to 2-0.
The weather has been colder than normal this spring in Maryville, but hasn't Northwest played more than one game?
Yes, they have.
But when Northwest lost its third straight game to rival Missouri Western, Loe talked to his team about the halfway point on the season.
The first 25 games of the season were in the books. Of course, the Bearcats wanted a better record than their 6-19 overall mark and 5-14 in the MIAA.
Loe felt it did the Bearcats no good to dwell on the hole they put themselves in. With still half the season left, there was plenty of time to salvage the spring and put together something special.
"I talked to the team that we are going to have a great second half of the season and let the chips fall where they may and move on from there," Loe said.
Northwest won the last game of the Western series 3-1.
"That was a big win for us," Loe said. "We've been struggling swinging the bats a little bit. We were able to scratch out a win. We hit the ball a little better that day. We had great pitching and great defense behind us.
"Certainly, that was one we needed for confidence. We are hoping that leads us into this weekend with Southwest Baptist."
The Bearcats have an opportunity to climb in the MIAA standings. They are currently in 11th place with a 6-14 conference mark. The sixth-place team, Fort Hays State, has nine conference wins.
The top six teams in the conference advance to the MIAA tournament May 12-15 at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.
The Bearcats want to be one of those teams. They can begin their road to Kansas City, by playing well this weekend at home against Baptist, which is currently in last place with four MIAA victories.
"They are probably thinking the same thing. They are probably looking at our record and thinking they can move up the ladder a little bit," Loe said.
"I have not looked at records the last three weeks. I don't look at standings or stats. At this point it doesn't look very pretty.
"Right now we are 1-0 in the second half. Starting on Friday we are looking to go 2-0 and worry about 3-0 after the second game is done."
Loe acknowledges that some of his players are looking at the standings and all the implications that go with wins and losses.
"If we go play good baseball and take care of our business, standings and all that stuff will take care of itself," he said.
Northwest has a month left of regular-season baseball left against MIAA opponents. The conference appears to be really balanced. Even perennial powers Central Missouri and Emporia State each have three conference losses.
There are a bunch of teams packed in the middle. In any given week it appears that teams near the bottom of the standings can take at least one game or split series with teams in the upper half.
"In my12th year, this is the most parity I've seen in this league," Loe said. "You got some teams stepping up and playing good baseball and popping up with wins over the top teams. There were times when the top teams would roll everybody in the conference. Everybody is competing with the top teams and the bottom teams are making their way up the ladder.
"You have to play hard every weekend and every single game. In our situation now, splits aren't going to get us where we want to be. We have to start sweeping some series or try to take 3-of-4 from people and that's hard to do against anybody in this conference."
Beginning today, the Bearcats have a good opportunity to start winning series.
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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