Carlquist gives Mavs chance to win title today

Mesa State College’s Blake Carlquist, left, makes it safely to second base as he watches the batter run to first over his shoulder in the top of the fifth inning of Saturday’s game at Suplizio Field.

Blake Carlquist doesn’t worry about how many at-bats he gets, the Mesa State College senior simply makes the most of them.

He came through in the clutch, not once, but twice Saturday, leading the Mavericks to a 14-7 victory over Wayne State (Neb.) College in extra innings of the NCAA Central Regional baseball tournament at Suplizio Field.

Mesa State (42-13) plays for the Central Region title at noon today with a chance to advance to the NCAA Division II World Series for the first time in school history. The NCAA Division II World Series is May 23-30 at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

Carlquist was due to bat with one runner on base and two out in the eighth inning and Mesa State coach Chris Hanks thought about pinch hitting Corey Todhunter in Carlquist’s place, but stayed with Carlquist.

The Delta native came through with a home run to cap a four-run rally and give Mesa a 7-5 lead.
Hanks stayed with Carlquist, partly because he wanted a left-handed hitter in the situation.

“They were having great success pitching us away,” Hanks said. “Corey is a kid that can easily stay on the outer half and drive the ball the other way. Their kid struck out (Craig) Lanzarotta with a slider, so we wanted to neutralize the slider. I wanted to leave a lefty in there, besides
Blake Carlquist is one of the best, if not the best, competitor on the team. I’ve known that for five years. He’s the ultimate team player and he’s always ready to play.”

Carlquist said the home run was the biggest hit of his life … until his next at-bat in the 10th inning.

“That was the highlight of my career for about 15 minutes,” Carlquist said. “Skip (Hanks) told me that he was going to chose between me and Todhunter and go with his gut. As I was rounding third, I told him, ‘Good gut.’ ”

Wayne State (44-14) rallied to tie the game to force extra innings, only to see Carlquist come through with a RBI double to score Grant Vickers, who reached on an error, for the winning run in the 10th.

Austin Buck kept the inning going with a two-run double, then Kevin Becker singled home Buck to keep the inning going. Andrew Martinez drew a walk then one out later, Matt Bodenchuk hit a three-run home run for a 14-7 lead. Bodenchuk has 89 RBI for the season, tying a Mesa State single-season record.

That made Aaron Guinn’s job of finishing the game much easier. The senior closer (5-3) limited the Wildcats to one unearned run on two hits in three innings.

“It’s one of those things, all right, let’s score so I can shut it down,” Guinn said. “I envisioned myself shaking Grant’s hand at the end of the game and that’s how it worked out.”

“I think I almost kissed you too,” Vickers said.

“Me and Vicks are pretty close,” Guinn said.

The Mavericks could face Wayne State in the championship after meeting for the first time Saturday.

The clubs, who each had more than 20 hits in its first two games of the regional, found themselves locked in a pitchers’ duel early.

“Chris Carma was outstanding today for a guy that had a rough end to his season,” Hanks said. “I’m really proud of him.

“Their kid is really good. That’s a definition of a pitcher right there. He changed speeds, he located pitches where he wanted to. He really didn’t give us much to handle and Carma answered that. He did the same thing. He kept us in the ball game when we weren’t producing runs.”

Carma pitched into the seventh inning before Wayne tagged him with five runs on 12 hits.

Wayne State starter Chad Moreland went 71/3 innings, giving up six runs, four earned, on eight hits and struck out six.


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