Rice makes up for errors with walkoff double in 9th; Lions top Bison 7-6

May 16—No. 7 Harding University delivered some drama in the ninth inning of Thursday's Central Region matchup with No. 2 Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

The Bison struck for four hits and three runs to tie the game at 6.

But Garrett Rice delivered a one-out double to the fence in center field to drive in Will Doherty and claim the 7-6 win in the opening round.

The senior first baseman talked about being able to make up for a couple of errors with that hit.

"I was looking for something to do damage with. Looking for a way to make up for what I did earlier in the game," Rice said.

He did exactly that with a center-cut fastball on the first pitch of the at-bat.

The win will send MSSU on to face No. 6 University of Arkansas at Monticello, which defeated No. 3 Arkansas Tech University earlier in the day 11-9.

"I really felt like if we got out of that ninth inning tied, we had a good chance to win. That ball was really hit hard by Garrett. Will (Doherty) had a grindy at-bat and Garrett found a gap," MSSU head coach Bryce Darnell said. "It's a long road if you don't get the first one. Not that it's not doable, but it's a lot harder. It was very important to get this one."

Cole Gayman started and got his 11th quality start in 16 starts this season. Gayman pitched into the eighth and got all but the last five outs of the game. He struck out two batters, walked two and hit two more while surrendering six hits. The Bison scored three runs on him but only one was earned.

Harding made things interesting with four hits and three runs in the ninth inning to narrow the deficit and force Darnell to go to Kyle Moore for the final out to relieve Laif Hultine.

Harding's Sebastian Martinez delivered the game-tying hit off of Moore to make it 6-6.

Hultine had recorded four outs before Harding started to pick up some hits off of him in the ninth. Moore eventually got out of the inning and the Lions got back-to-back hits from Will Doherty and Rice to win the game.

MSSU started strong with two runs in the first inning with a two-RBI single from Rice. It added a run with a double down the right field line by Henry Kusiak to make it 3-0 in the third. The next batter, Doherty, singled in two more to make it 5-0.

Harding's starter Maddox Long struggled early against the top of MSSU's batting order. Long then settled in to pitch seven innings and keep the game close. The Bison trailed 6-3 when he came out.

"That's his MO — to gut one out and go deep in games," Harding head coach Patrick McGaha said. "When you're struggling a little bit that's when you find out how much heart you have. For him to get us through seven was huge."

Harding faces Arkansas Tech at 1 p.m. The two teams split their six games this season in Great American Conference play.