Home run derby
Mavs hit five home runs in 10-run win over Regis
Colorado Mesa University has made the transition from home-run hitters to base stealers.
The fourth-ranked Mavericks, though, proved they still have some pop Friday night, hitting five home runs to defeat Regis 15-5 in front of 2,873 fans on Little League Family Night at Suplizio Field.
Mesa set the NCAA Division II attendance record last year with 4,122 fans on the Little League night.
The five long balls were the most home runs the Mavericks have hit since the NCAA required programs to switch to the BBCOR bats in 2011. It was the most home runs Mesa has hit in a single game since May 5, 2010, when they hit five in a 16-15 victory over Metro State at Suplizio Field.
“I don’t know what to say about that,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said with a laugh. “The home runs weren’t in the game plan. We’ve taken 100 percent emphasis off the home run the last few years. They were timely hits. I don’t think they were trying to hit home runs.”
At least Kevin Mitchell wasn’t. The sophomore first baseman, mired in a 3-for-23 slump in the past seven games, was working on shortening his swing all week. Mitchell broke out of his slump in a big way, going 3 for 4 with two home runs, a double and four RBI.
“I was just trying to fall in love with the base hit,” Mitchell said. “The power will come as long as I’m looking for base hits.
“Baseball is a weird sport.”
His second home run sparked a seven-run rally in the sixth inning that gave Mesa a 10-4 lead in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference contest. Like his first home run to right-center field, this one was a no-doubter — banging off the green batter’s eye screen in center field for an 8-4 lead.
“I was emotional with that one,” Mitchell said. “I was pumped. I was looking to put the ball in play and score the run from third. That really helped break it open. That’s when it’s easy to hit, when you’re ahead.”
When he made it back to the dugout, the Little Leaguers started chanting his number, ‘Thirty-four! Thirty-four!’
“Kevin has a knack,” Hanks said. “He has some pop in his bat. I believe he can hit. You make decisions on who to play, and we decided to play Kevin tonight. He had a good night.”
Erik Kozel, who was 3 for 5 with two RBI, started the home-run-hitting contest with a leadoff shot in the bottom of the first inning. Mitchell hit his first home run in the second for a 2-0 lead.
In the eighth, 5-foot-10 Tamatoa Demello hit a two-run shot for a 12-5 lead. Nate Robertson added a three-run shot later in the inning.
Although it wasn’t a record-setting crowd, the spectators gave Mitchell and the Mavericks (35-6, 29-2) more hunger to win.
“You go to games like this when you’re little and you experience it from the stands, but experiencing it from the dugout is a whole different thing,” Mitchell said. “There’s no better feeling than playing in a game like this.
“The crowd can get a team going in baseball just as much as any other sport. It’s great having the kids here. It makes it that much better. Hopefully, we gave them something to remember.”
Regis (22-13, 17-12) will throw its ace, Steven Brault, in one of the two games in today’s doubleheader, beginning at 1 p.m.
“This is going to be a good series,” Hanks said. “We’ll be in a battle. Regis has a good club.”