Darnell talks about 500 wins, time at MSSU

Mar. 14—The ol' ball coach reached 500 wins earlier this week during a road game at Rogers State University on Tuesday.

That ball coach is 17-year skipper Bryce Darnell of the Missouri Southern State University baseball team.

But Darnell's time as a Lion goes back more than 17 years.

"That's the biggest thing. It's nice that they're all here," he said. "It's a place that's near and dear to me. It's where I graduated from and met my wife at."

Darnell graduated from MSSU in 1997 when it would have still been known as Missouri Southern State College. Ten years later, he replaced Warren Turner as the third coach in program history after Turner's 31-year tenure.

Since then, he's coached in 838 games and holds a 500-338 record as the leader of the Lions. Darnell has plenty of memories and things he recalls from those 838 games.

"Unfortunately, with coaching, you remember the losses sometimes more than the wins," he said.

But he talked about a walk-off win in 2013 over Missouri Western in the MIAA championship being one of his best memories on the field. That walk-off came via a home run that gave the Lions a 6-3 win.

Then he recalled being on the other end in a 2015 loss in the NCAA Central Region tournament that was a low-scoring battle that went into extra innings.

"I think I remember the players more than the games," Darnell said of his memories. "I think that's probably pretty natural. The older you get you think more about the players you've coached and the impact they've had on you."

Each one has made an impact from the ones who have gone on to make the MLB level to the ones that were top-notch teammates and affected the team in many ways.

"I think that's important to remember, that it's about the players," Darnell said. "Without the players, you don't have a job. I think my first five or six years as a college coach, I was probably too hard on the players. I wish I could have the level of maturity that I have now back then. But maybe that's the natural progression."

For Darnell, the more shocking thing isn't the 500 wins but the amount of games he's coached and the players he's coached.

"That's hard for me to imagine. The amount of college games I've coached in," Darnell admitted. "I remember the first game I coached in was at NSU (Northeastern State University)."

He admitted he wasn't aware of how close he was to the 500 mark until a parent said something after win No. 499 on Sunday at Warren Turner Field when the Lions beat Emporia State 11-8.

Darnell doesn't put much thought into the future. He says he feels good and he's healthy, so he's still going to be churning in those wins as far past 500 as he can.

His first chance to go north of the big number is on Friday in the series opener against Pittsburg State University. The Gorillas and Lions will enter play with stellar records.

The Lions (21-4, 9-1 MIAA) bring a No. 9 national ranking at the Division II level into the weekend series. The Gorillas (17-5, 8-2 MIAA) are not ranked nationally and are not receiving votes to be ranked at the moment. But, PSU is fifth in the Central Region polls and MSSU is third.

Both teams are on seven-game winning streaks. One of those must come to an end on Friday.