April 13, 2012
Bearcats battle SBU as final stretch nears
Northwest Missouri State baseball team is in the same type of position that freshman first baseman Steven Garber was in when the season started.
Garber redshirted last year. He got to travel some with the team to conference games to get a taste of what life was like in the rugged MIAA that often produces a team that reaches the NCAA Division II College World Series.
Garber came into this season with an opportunity to be the Bearcats starting first baseman.
“Coaches have put me in a good situation to compete,” he said. “I have had a lot of opportunities. I have missed some opportunities. I have a lot of room to improve on.”
Still, by hitting .299 and ranking second on the team in RBIs with 29, Garber has become one of the mainstays in the Bearcat lineup.
“He’s been doing a nice job. He has just been consistent,” Northwest coach Darin Loe said.
If Northwest baseball team can play consistent in the next four weeks and take advantage of its opportunity, the Bearcats can extend their season into mid-May for the MIAA Tournament.
Northwest begins a four-game series noon Friday with a doubleheader at Southwest Baptist. The teams will conclude the series with a doubleheader on Saturday.
It is an extremely important set of games for the Bearcats, who are 11-23 overall and 10-14 and in a two-way tie for ninth with Pittsburg State in the MIAA.
The top six teams advance to the conference tournament. Baptist is one of the teams Northwest needs to leap over. Baptist is 16-17-1 and 11-13.
“The standings are out there,” Garber said. “The coaches told us not to look at standings or statistics and just worry about what we can control.
“We just have to take it one game at a time and see what happens after each series. I know that is cliché. We are going to worry about what we have to do. We can’t control what other teams do.”
That is the attitude Loe wants from everybody on the team. He doesn’t want the Bearcats to look at the final four opponents - SBU, Pittsburg State, Washburn and Lincoln - and then peek at the standings.
“We talk a lot about competing,” Loe said. “When we come out and compete we are a pretty good ball club. When we take things for granted and look at standings and things like that, we lose our edge sometimes.
“It’s about going out controlling the things we can control and that’s just playing hard, putting good swings on pitches and throwing strikes and playing good defense. If we can do that, we can play with anybody.”
The Bearcats are coming off a nice series in which they split four games last weekend with Missouri Western. The Griffons are currently second in the MIAA.
“Anytime you win, it gives you confidence,” Garber said. “We know we are there. We just put it together against Missouri Western. We competed in every game no matter what went on.”
In the last game of the series, Northwest beat Western 11-1 in 8 innings and had the satisfaction of run-ruling its rival.
Throughout the season, Northwest has been successful in the fourth game of a series. It started in the first MIAA series of the season when the Bearcats beat Fort Hays in the fourth game and won 3 of 4 from the Tigers.
In the next series, Northwest avoided a sweep by winning at Emporia State. The Bearcats also won the fourth game against Missouri Southern and Truman State to gain splits in each of those series.
“I think that has put us in a pretty good situation,” Loe said. “It shows the character of the ball club. If we struggle early in the series, we still have the confidence to strap it on and get game four. It comes from our offense, too. We swing the bat pretty well.
“Now we got to win some seven-inning ball games. That has been our downfall. Hopefully, we turn that around this weekend.”
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