Colorado Mesa one step closer to Division II World Series after victory

One win away from Grand Prairie.

Chris Ramirez, the crafty lefty on the Colorado Mesa pitching staff, pitched the Mavericks into today’s South Central Regional championship game with a four-hit shutout of top-seeded Angelo State.

“It was sure fun to be in,” Ramirez said Sunday night after the second-seeded Mavericks’ 4-0 victory. “I just went in like if it was another Little League game, playing where I was on the underdog team playing against the hot team, the popular team that was running super-high. Going in as a child, no record of wrongs, that’s the most important part.

“As a child, you’re having fun and focusing on your craft, and that’s what I focused on.”

The junior was the fourth CMU pitcher to make his NCAA playoff debut a memorable one, following sophomore starters Kyle Leahy and JR McDermott, and senior reliever Tyler Day.

The Mavericks (47-10) play Arkansas-Fort Smith at 11 a.m. (MDT) today, needing only one win to reach the NCAA Division II World Series for the third time in school history and second time in the past four years.

Ramirez struck out 10, two shy of his season high, and didn’t walk a batter. The Rams got the leadoff batter on only twice, on a hit batter in the seventh and a single in the eighth.

The runner in the eighth was erased on a stellar double play by first baseman Kevan Elcock, who went to the ground the stab a low line drive and slapped the bag on his way to double off the runner. No Angelo State runner advanced past second. Two of the four hits Ramirez allowed were doubles, but the Rams couldn’t advance either.

By getting ahead of batters — 18 of the first 23 batters started off down one strike — Ramirez could set up hitters with his fastball and get them out on nasty breaking pitches.

“I didn’t throw a curveball the entire game,” he said. “Just placing my fastball and everything felt pretty comfortable. I incorporated a slider a couple of weeks back that I’ve been working on with Coach (Jeff) Rodgers and it was just working out.”

Mesa broke up a scoreless game in the bottom of the fifth. After walks to Elcock and Zach McLeod, Matt Haggerty bluffed a bunt, then golfed a pitch into shallow left to load the bases. PJ Gonzalez grounded into a double play, but Elcock scored.

A three-run sixth finally broke the game open. With one out, Bligh Madris singled to right, then stole second. Tanner Rempel walked and a groundout to first by Andrew Contreras advanced both runners.

Elcock, who went had two of CMU’s five hits, singled to right, scoring Madris. McLeod laced a double to the gap in right-center, getting Rempel and Elcock home.

Ramirez (9-1) hit the leadoff man in the seventh, but he was stranded at second after a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to short.

With a four-run lead, Ramirez, who normally throws a seven-inning doubleheader game, just kept grinding through batters.

“It helped having the guys behind me. Usually when I’m on the mound, I zone everyone out,” he said. “I was hearing every single cheer and chant from our guys to keep pushing through.”

CMU Chris Hanks has several options to pitch today since the Mavs have used only four pitchers in their first three games. Whoever gets the call, Ramirez will be one of the guys cheering from the dugout.

“It’s definitely not going to be a relaxing day,” he said. “I’m going to be gritting my teeth, nervous and anxious just like every other guy. We’re pretty excited.”


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