Strong 1st impression
12-run first inning sets tone for Mavs in rout
Lesson for all young baseball players: Do not wear your sunglasses on your cap on a bright, sunny day.
Sure, it looks cool and all your teammates are doing it. But when you’re playing third base, staring into the western Colorado sun in late afternoon, those sunglasses would serve you better sitting on the bridge of your nose than the bill of your cap.
CSU-Pueblo’s Chris Devery learned that the hard way Thursday in the first inning against Colorado Mesa in the RMAC tournament at Suplizio Field.
After PJ Gonzales walked to lead off the Mavs’ half of the inning, JJ Carr hit a soft liner to third. Devery, his sunglasses secure on his cap, seemed to see the ball off the bat, then looked up as he prepared to make the catch. Right into the sun.
The ball hit the heel of his glove and dropped to the dirt. Carr reached on the error, and the wheels came off for the ThunderWolves.
The CMU students howled in delight, chiding Devery, who took the shades off his cap, cleaned them off and wore them until the sun went down.
The sun went down on Pueblo’s season when the Mavericks (42-10) jumped all over the mistake, scoring 12 runs in the first inning — yes, you read that correctly — on the way to a 19-0 rout.
“We kind of talked about playoffs, we want to really start stepping on people’s throats. When he started walking guys we wanted to make sure we capitalized on free bases and try to get as many runs as we can get,” said second baseman Andrew Contreras, who did his part, going 3 for 3 with a single, double and triple.
“They were giving us all those free bases. I think again, everybody did their part and if we can keep playing as a team and keep things simple like we have been we can keep rolling.”
Tanner Rempel, who was part of a lineup CMU coach Chris Hanks settled on before he went to bed Wednesday, then swapped out, then, 20 minutes before game time written back in, proved Hanks’ gut instinct right with a bases-loaded, two-run single after Gonzalez scored on a balk.
Contreras banged a run-scoring single off the wall. Will Dixon squeezed home Rempel and Zach McLeod singled up the middle, scoring Contreras.
After one-third of an inning, starter Bret Ricklefs was out with the Mavericks up 6-0, and Zach Visinoni was in. He didn’t fare much better, only getting one out on a sacrifice fly by Carr. Ricklefs (3-3) was credited with giving up seven runs, Visinoni five.
Kyle Peeler, who came on after Rempel’s second hit of the inning, a bases-loaded double, gave up a double to Contreras before Dixon grounded out to mercifully end the 16-batter, 40-minute half inning.
“That’s a good way to start a ballgame; that doesn’t happen very often,” Hanks said. “As a coach what I worry about in that situation is a guy losing focus and start walking people. Then instead of 12-nothing, it’s 12-2 and 12-3, but JR (McDermott) stayed on point and just shut them down.”
The bottom of the first took so long that McDermott went down to the bullpen to warm up again.
“You gotta love the run support, maybe not 12 in an inning,” he said with a grin. “That was a very long inning.
“You’re in there celebrating with the guys, but I also sit down on the bottom and try to focus, try not to watch it. I was watching and I’m kind of getting excited, and when two outs came around I was like, all right, I have to start getting warm and getting ready.”
He didn’t cool off — instead, he pitched one of his best games of the season, no-hitting the ThunderWolves through 5 2/3 innings, giving up a single to right in the sixth. He was lifted after eight innings, throwing 111 pitches. He walked four and struck out 12, seven through the first three innings.
“I was ready,” he said. “It sucked last year because I didn’t get to play, I got hurt before the playoffs, so this was my first playoff outing in college. I was excited for it and just got after it.”
Hanks subbed out every position player, and all but five players got at least one hit. Rempel drove in five runs in the first inning, both Elcock twins, Kevan and Trevor, tripled — in the same inning — and Josh Shapiro came off the bench and hit a three-run home run in the eighth. Of Mesa’s 17 hits, eight were for extra bases. Tanner Nieslanik also tripled, one of four three-baggers for the Mavericks, who seem to be hitting on all cylinders.
“Our guys are feeling it and our team is coming together really well. I’m not surprised it happened today,” Shapiro said.
“You don’t expect that, but it’s always fun to be a part of it, for sure.”