Nationally-ranked Central Missouri’s hitting attack proved too much for the UNO baseball team, as the Mavericks fell 7-1 to UCM in the MIAA championship game on Sunday afternoon at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. UNO dropped to 35-20 on the season, while the Mules improved to a record of 45-8.
With the win, No. 5 Central Missouri earned the MIAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament. Regional play begins next week, and the entire 64-team field will be announced tonight at 9 p.m. on NCAA.com.
Matt Curtis (10-0) earned the win with a three-hit, seven-inning effort on the mound. Curtis, who allowed one run, struck out four batters with no walks. UNO junior Brandon Winkelmann (1-3) took the loss, surrendering four runs on seven hits over four innings.
As a team, Central Missouri pounded out seven runs on 11 hits with no errors committed. UNO finished with one run on five hits with two errors. Junior Mark Waldron finished 2-for-4 at the plate.
UCM took a 2-0 lead off three hits in the top of the first. Bret Schwartz walked and Tyler Ruch had a bunt single, and both runners moved into scoring position with a double steal. Nick DeBiasse then sent a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Schwartz, followed by Jon Wegener’s RBI single to left center that plated Schwartz.
UNO got on the board in the bottom of the first, as freshman Caleb Palensky hit a solo shot to pull the Mavericks within one. The blast was Palensky’s fourth of the year and his second of the tournament, as he hit his first career grand slam on Saturday afternoon against Emporia State.
The Mules put up another run in the top of the third, extending the lead to 3-1. They pushed it to 4-1 in the fourth, as Will Mulligan scored on Schwartz’s sacrifice bunt, then made it 5-1 in the sixth when Tyler Anthony had an RBI double through the right side to score Specht.
UCM held Nebraska Omaha hitless until the seventh inning, when Waldron registered a single for the Mavs’ second hit of the game. With no outs, senior Jed Hanson keyed another single to right field, but Central Missouri doubled off Hanson at second while Waldron advanced to third with two outs. The Mules stopped UNO in its tracks, however, immediately getting the third out and halting the hopes for a rally.
In the ninth, DeBiasse had an RBI single that plated another run, and Ruch scored on a sacrifice bunt by Wegener to make it 7-1.
In the bottom of the ninth, junior Brady Hohl led off with a single to left center, but the Mules turned a double play to cut off the effort. Waldron then singled up the middle, but UCM forced a groundout to quell any hopes of a Maverick comeback and taking the 7-1 victory and the conference title.
Nebraska Omaha is now 6-4 all-time in MIAA Tournament history and has played in two championship games over its three years as a member of the league.