Mavs’ title bid derailed

RMAC tournament crown slips away from CMU with loss to 'Wolves

CSU-Pueblo’s Mario Sanchez is tagged out at second base by Colorado Mesa University second baseman Braden Box in the Mavericks’ 6-1 win on Sunday. Box and Colorado Mesa went on to lose to the ThunderWolves later in the day at Suplizio Field, 7-5, to give CSU-Pueblo the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament title.

Colorado Mesa University dominated the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference during the regular season, but it couldn’t top it with a conference tournament title.

The second-ranked Mavericks (44-9) forced a second game with CSU-Pueblo on Sunday at Suplizio Field, but they lost the momentum. The ThunderWolves (32-20) defeated Colorado Mesa 7-5 in the championship game to receive the NCAA Division II automatic qualifier. Mesa defeated CSU-Pueblo 6-1 earlier Sunday.

It is the first time the ThunderWolves qualified for the NCAA postseason since 2009 when they won the RMAC tournament title on their home field.

“We were in the championship game last year with Regis and ran into a hot club,” CSU-Pueblo coach Stan Sanchez said. “It was our turn this year. We had our ups and downs with this team and had struggled. We fought through the adversity and got into position. I think our last four weeks have been outstanding baseball.”

CSU-Pueblo senior pitcher Jeremiah Struble, the RMAC tournament MVP, led the way, picking up his second win of the tournament.

Struble limited Mesa to five runs, three earned, on five hits in 6 2/3 innings — three days after throwing a complete game in CSU-Pueblo’s 4-1 victory over Metro State on Thursday. He threw 208 pitches in the four days.

“The first game I had great command and was feeling it,” Struble said. “Right now, there is so many emotions, it’s hard to feel pain. I threw probably over 100 (pitches). Three days rest is not really what you have in mind, but when you’re amped up and feel you can go, I was ready to go. No regrets.”

Mike Fabrizio, who threw a complete game Friday in a 6-5 victory over Regis, shut out Mesa for the final 2 1/3 innings for the save.

The ThunderWolves got three complete-game performances in their five tournament games.

“Incredible,” Sanchez said. “They wanted the ball. Our script was Struble go five and Mike four.”

The ThunderWolves put up five runs in the second inning to take a 5-2 lead and held on.

Cody Lahman, making his second start of the season, gave up six hits in the inning. Five of them came with two strikes on the batter.

“We didn’t pitch well in 0-2 counts,” Hanks said. “The second inning was a killer. We didn’t make good enough pitches.”

Colorado Mesa rallied to get within a run in the seventh.

Austin Kaiser beat out a bunt for a two-out base hit, and Erik Kozel and Braden Box were hit by pitches to load the bases. CSU-Pueblo pulled Struble for Fabrizio, but CSU-Pueblo shortstop Cameron Buckles mishandled Garrett Carpenter’s hard-hit ground ball. Kaiser and Kozel scored to trim Pueblo’s lead to 6-5.

The ThunderWolves added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on Mario Sanchez’s home run.

Mesa had two on with no outs in the eighth, but Kevin Mitchell’s line drive was caught, and Colton Little was doubled up at second. Mitch Corwin then hit a fly ball to deep center field for the third out.

“We ran ourselves out of a couple innings,” Hanks said. “Mitchell hits that line drive in the eighth, and we get doubled up. We could’ve done a better job base running.”

The Mavericks forced the second game with a 6-1 victory earlier Sunday.

Winning pitcher Joey Danner limited CSU-Pueblo to one run on 10 hits and struck out seven in a complete game.

“It felt good,” Danner said. “I felt like I was back to the success I was having earlier this season. All my pitches were working. My fastball was my best pitch.”

Nate Robertson gave the Mavericks an early lead with a two-run home run in the first inning.

Mesa added four runs in the sixth with aggressive “small ball.”

Mitch Corwin led off with a double and scored on Kaiser’s single. Braden Box showed bunt, then singled to score Kaiser. Kozel scored on the back end of a double steal, then Box scored on Garrett Carpenter’s sacrifice fly.

“We’ve been using small ball all day, and it’s been working out,” Box said. “It’s just another opportunity to take advantage because we have been bunting well.”


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