SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – No 1. seed Augustana and No. 2 seed Central
Missouri squared off in a battle of the top teams in the NCAA DII Central Region on Friday in the first of a three-game series. The Mules defeated the Vikings 6-4 with opportunistic baserunning.
With game one in the books, Central Missouri and Augustana will face off again on Saturday at noon with the Vikings needing to win two games in order to advance to the DII National Championship in Cary, N.C.
Despite both teams getting runners on base early, the teams were deadlocked at 0-0 for the first two innings of the game. The Mules got runners on base to start each of the first three innings, but did not break through till the third when they scored four runs in the inning.
Augustana came back in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of runs of their own after JT Mix singled to lead off the inning. Mix found his way to second after a balk by Central Missouri. Two batters later, Ryan Nickel singled to right field to drive in Mix. Riley Johnson was up next and dropped a bunt single to drive in the second run of the inning to draw the lead back to 4-2.
The Vikings and Mules resumed their pitchers' duel in the fourth and fifth innings as both teams were scoreless during the innings. In the sixth and seventh, Central Missouri scored a run in each inning to extend their lead to 6-2.
The Vikings got a run back in the seventh after Michael Svozil singled with two outs in the inning. Nickel followed it up with an infield single that gave Augie two baserunners with two down. Johnson came up and smashed an RBI single to right field. The right fielder was able to corral the ball and throw it back into the infield as Johnson was advancing to second before Nickel was thrown out by the shortstop trying to score from third.
In the ninth inning, Augustana made things interesting when Svozil got on base with a single to right field with two outs. Svozil scored the next at-bat when Nickel worked an eight-pitch at-bat before doubling down the left field line. Nickel then advanced to third on a wild pitch, but the Augustana comeback bid was spurned by UCM's closer.