GUARANTEED: 3-run blast from Rice sends Lions past Bison

May 18—Garrett Rice stepped into the batter's box with runners on first and third and only one out in the bottom of the eighth.

He had one thing on his mind.

"This was my last guaranteed game today so I wanted to do what I can to get another guaranteed game," Rice said.

He did that with a long fly ball over the fence in centerfield to make it 10-7 and send Missouri Southern (44-14) to a victory over Harding University (37-19).

Now the Lions are engaged in Game 2 of the day against Arkansas-Monticello. The Weevils (34-22) haven't lost yet in the NCAA Division II Central Region tournament and they only need one win to take the regional title. The Lions must win Saturday's 5 p.m. game and again Sunday at noon.

"We've battled all year. Tight-knit group. These are the guys I want to play my last games with so just fighting to stay alive," Rice said.

Harding's head coach Patrick McGaha talked about the decision to go ahead and pitch to Rice despite him being 2 for 3 with five runs batted in coming into that eighth inning at-bat.

"There was (a thought to walk Rice). Maybe if we had thrown more strikes out of the bullpen we would have done that. The numbers there were against that decision," McGaha said.

"He got a fastball and Garrett put a great swing on it," MSSU head coach Bryce Darnell said. "You can't really fault them for pitching to him."

Harding actually outhit MSSU 13 to 9. The Lions' pitching staff just limited the Bison more and got out of jams. Harding also walked five batters and MSSU just two.

The game began with MSSU starter Trent Harris working through a leadoff double from Harding's Nathan Bowie. He went on to allow three runs through four innings before trouble came in the fifth.

With two outs, Bison Coulton Doyle launched a three-run home run to left field to make it 7-6. Harris finished the fifth inning with four strikeouts and six runs allowed.

The game was quiet then until the top of the 8th as Javier Lobo for Harding and Michael Moore for MSSU had shut both offenses down.

Moore's 2 2/3 innings of work were important to save some arms for the Lions for Game 2.

Harding scraped a run off of Moore in the eighth after three consecutive hits. Laif Hultine came in to get the last out of the eighth and then retired the Bison in the ninth to earn the win.

McGaha had to pull Lobo despite holding the Lions scoreless for 3 2/3 innings because he'd worked longer than any other outing of the season and thrown a season-high 74 pitches.

Keaton Baird came in and struggled to throw strikes by walking Drew Townsend, hitting Henry Kusiak, and was pulled after throwing ball one to Rice.

Kyle Lane came in and surrendered the three-run homer.

Rice finished the day 3 for 4 with a two-run homer in the first, a two-RBI double in the fourth and the three-run blast in the eighth. He also drew one walk. He totaled seven RBIs.

Chayton Beck delivered from the bottom of the lineup going 2 for 4 with two singles in his first two at-bats.

"I felt comfortable. More comfortable than I've been all year probably," Beck said.

He kept the line moving with a single up the middle in the second frame. Townsend came up next and singled in a run. Beck then singled past third base to drive in Wyatt Morgan and make it 4-3 in favor of MSSU in the fourth.

"That's big when we can get the guys down there to do a little something like that. It helps over the course of a game to get the guys at the top of the lineup up more," Darnell said.

Beck talked about the possible boost getting 10 runs from the offense in Game 1.

"I think that gives us some momentum with the home run from Rice. Hopefully we can keep that momentum going into this next game," he said.

Rice talked about trying to guarantee one more game: "We've got a good core of seniors that love being around each other and playing. We'll keep doing everything we can to keep getting that guaranteed game."