Solid debut

In first start, Delay pitches Mavs to win

Matt Delay’s first start was delayed a week, but it was worth the wait.

The junior went seven innings in his first start with the Colorado Mesa baseball team to lift the 30th-ranked Mavericks to a 5-3 victory over Regis on Saturday night at Suplizio Field.

Mesa (7-3, 2-1 RMAC) built an early lead against Regis ace Kirby Schwein and held on. Austin Kaiser was 2 for 4 with two RBI. Sergio Valenzuela was 1 for 2 with two RBI. Kevin Mitchell and Tony Audino each had two hits.

Delay was supposed to make his first start last weekend at Colorado Christian, but the game was canceled because of poor weather.

“I came into this game, I had my butterflies, but after the first pitch, they kind of dissipate,” Delay said. “You get a chance to take a deep breath and settle in and go pitch to pitch and see what happens.”

The junior college transfer from the College of Central Florida allowed one earned run on four hits and struck out 13 in seven innings in his first start with Mesa.

“We’ve been waiting to break him out,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “It was his turn to get a shot at starting. We think he’s a guy that could be a No. 1 or a Friday night guy, and he pitched like it tonight.”

Delay (1-0) was sharp from the start, setting down the first eight batters he faced, including five by strikeout. He walked a batter, hit a batter and gave up a run-scoring single in the third before striking out his sixth batter to end the inning.

“(Delay) mixed it up,” Hanks said. “He located pretty well. He changed speeds effectively, and he pitched ahead in the count often.”

Delay, who has a fastball that touches 90 mph, was able to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes.

“That’s something I’ve been working on,” he said. “It’s been a focus of mine. I have a fastball that’s helped me out in the past. The pitching coach here has me focused on throwing sharp, accurate off-speed and mixing things up.”

Delay credited catcher Austin Wallingford for calling the right pitch.

“I shook him off maybe once,” Delay said.

The Mavericks built a 3-0 lead for Delay.

Kaiser tripled home a run and scored in the first inning. Mitchell singled and scored on a Valenzuela sacrifice fly in the second.

Mesa added two runs that proved to be the difference, thanks to a catcher’s-interference call, in the fourth.

With two on and one out, Wallingford hit into what would’ve been an inning-ending double play, but the home-plate umpire ruled the Regis catcher interfered with Wallingford’s swing. Wallingford was awarded first base, loading the bases.

Valenzuela followed with a run-scoring single, then Kaiser beat out a ground ball, allowing another run to score.

“It was huge,” Kaiser said. “It’s little things like that we have to continue to capitalize on. That could’ve been a big momentum shift for them, but we got a break, and we capitalized on it a little bit. Ultimately it was the difference in the game.”

Mesa nearly added to it, but Nate Robertson’s fly ball was run down and caught by the Rangers’ diving center fielder.

“That was our chance to break the game open, and that play kept them in the game,” Hanks said. “If that ball gets down, maybe we can relax a little more.”

Schwein (1-2) didn’t allow another run the rest of the game. He limited Mesa to five runs on 10 hits and struck out three in 7 1/3 innings.

The Rangers (4-6, 1-2 RMAC) pushed one run across in the fifth and hit a home run in the eighth off Mesa reliever Ryan Reno to keep it close, but Dakota Behr retired Regis in order in the ninth for the save.

Mesa plays Regis in a doubleheader at 1 p.m. today at Suplizio Field.


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