Emporia State and Central Missouri are destined to reach the postseason, and over the weekend, the two national powers played a crucial Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association series.

When the dust finally settled, the Hornets and Mules split their four games. Emporia won 5-4 and 9-6 on Friday before the Mules battled back to win on Saturday, 5-2 and 12-8 at Crane Stadium.

Despite failing to come up with a sweep, the third-ranked Hornets (35-6, 31-5 MIAA) still have a two-game lead over the fourth-ranked Mules in the league standings. And as far as Emporia head coach Bob Fornelli is concerned, his team gained valuable experience over the weekend.

“We got an idea of what it could be like in the postseason,” Fornelli said. “The series with Central has been a great one for the past eight years. They have a great team. We just need to continue to play with confidence and do the little things right.”

The Hornets actually out-hit the Mules in both games on Sunday. They finished with eight in the opener and out-hit the Mules 20-14 in the second game. Dillon Hazlett had three hits in the 5-2 setback as he extended his hitting streak to 29 games, three shy of tying the league record set by Central Missouri’s Brian Whitney in 1998.

Bret Schwartz paced Central (32-8, 27-7) with three hits and three RBI in the first game on Saturday and Kurtis Schuyler improved to 3-1 despite not recording a strikeout. He worked 4 2/3 innings and allowed five hits.

Tyler Anthony paved the way in the nightcap, racking up four hits as the Mules salvaged a split in the series.

One of the biggest problems for the Hornets in the second game on Saturday was that they left 13 runners stranded. The Mules left only six runners on base.

South Atlantic Conference Tournament

Wingate rocked Catawba 7-1 and won the SAC tournament championship for the first time since 1998 on Saturday afternoon at McNair Field.

The Bulldogs clinched their fifth championship in school history and got the job done with an offensive outburst in the fourth inning. Dodson McPherson blasted a three-run home run and lived up to his hype as the conference player of the year.

Wingate (34-20) earned the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and will play in the national tourney for the first time since 2001.

Catawba (39-10) was held to four hits, with Chris Nelson earning the win on two days rest. Nelson went five innings and allowed only one hit while striking out four. He improved to 6-4 on the season.

“If we get a regional bid, we need to be able to pitch well and play sound defensively,” Catawba head coach James Gantt said. “We also have to get production from the middle of our lineup. Pitching and defense will give us a chance in each game, but if we fail to execute offensively, we will not win.”

CIAA Tournament

Winston-Salem State is in its first year of existence as a baseball program, but that didn’t stop the Rams from making history on Saturday afternoon.

WSSU overcame a first-round defeat in the tourney and completed the remarkable run with a pair of wins over St. Augustine’s. The Rams won 7-6 and 3-0 at Whaley Colbert Field on the campus of Virginia State.

Winston-Salem State got a solid pitching effort from John Markley, who was named the MVP of the tournament. Markley earned the save in the first game, getting the last two outs, and pitched seven shut-out innings in the finale as the Rams avenged their only loss of the tournament. St. Augustine’s had beaten the Rams 3-2 in the opening round.

The Rams tallied 15 hits in the opener and built a 7-2 lead before surviving a furious rally attempt by the Falcons.

Alex finished with three hits in the win and a total of six in the two games. His two-run single in the first inning gave the Rams a 2-0 lead they would not give up in the finale.

With the win, the Rams earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.