Hornets hold off Mavericks
CARY, N.C. — The chances came early, then disappeared.
The Mesa State College baseball team left more runners stranded in the first two innings than
it scored the entire game in a 5-2 loss to Emporia State (Kan.) University on Monday in the NCAA Division II World Series at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
“They left the door open for us in the first two innings and we didn’t cash in,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said. “We left the bases loaded the first two innings. The (Ben) Graham kid they brought in really pitched the heck out of it, kept us off-balanced and over-powered us a little bit.
“I think it was the sixth or seventh, we got two runners on and couldn’t get the bunt down. That was a good opportunity to get back in the game. We couldn’t execute. They pitched a little better, swung it a little better and played defense a little better. We’ll have to bounce back.”
The sixth-ranked Mavericks (44-14) left a total of 12 runners on base, in all, including seven in scoring position.
Graham, Emporia’s sidearm right-hander, came in relief of starter Tyler Applehans and shut out Mesa’s potent offense. Graham (8-3) limited the Mavs to four hits, one walk and struck out five in 61/3 innings. Diego Soto picked up his second save in as many World Series games with two strikeouts in the ninth.
“Applehans, if he starts out good, he’s going to be really good,” Emporia State coach Bob Fornelli said. “If he struggles a little bit, I think he walked four guys in the first inning and two-thirds. Well, you’re not going to beat a Mesa State team walking people. We always had
Ben in mind to do that. We knew he could come in and give us an opportunity to keep it right where we were.
“He doesn’t walk many guys. You know he’s going to compete.”
Applehans worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning with the help of a double play before giving up two runs on Kevin Becker’s double down the left-field line in the second.
Applehans walked Andrew Martinez before Fornelli made the decision to go to the bullpen.
Graham, though, walked Mike Provencher to load the bases.
“Adrenaline was running through my body,” Graham said. “I didn’t do a good job on the first guy, but I was just trying to throw strikes and get the last out.”
Matt Bodenchuk, who was selected to the ABCA Division II All-American first team on Monday, came up to bat.
Graham, though, was able to strike out Bodenchuk.
“He started me out with a fastball away,” Bodenchuk said. “He basically lived away. He had that good sink to that fastball and back-doored me. He pitched me well. He threw really good pitches.”
The third-ranked Hornets (48-13) took a 3-2 lead in the third on Caleb Williamson’s two-run double. Williamson was 4 for 4 with two RBI.
Emporia State added a run in the fourth and one again in the seventh. The Hornets are off until Thursday and await the winner of a losers’ bracket game.
Mesa State plays Belmont Abbey (39-25) at 5 p.m. (MDT) on Wednesday in an elimination game.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Hanks of facing Belmont Abbey again. “We’re going to have to flush this right away and get focused. Wednesday will be a new day and we’ve got to fight for our life now.”
Hanks said he will likely start Chris Shea or Jason Fronczak.