Mavericks go on offensive
Mavericks batter RMAC pitcher of the year
Not even the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference pitcher of the year could slow the Colorado Mesa baseball team.
The seventh-ranked Mavericks exploded for seven runs in the first inning Friday against CSU-Pueblo starter Mike Fabrizio en route to a 13-5 victory in the RMAC tournament semifinals at Suplizio Field.
“I really thought our guys came ready to play today,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “I thought Matt (Allen) gave us a chance from the outset on the mound. Any time you can go three up, three down in the first is a great way to start the game.
“Of course we exploded for seven runs with a little help from some erratic pitching. It’s too bad, I think the Fabrizio kid’s arm is not feeling too good this late in the year. I was proud of these guys.”
The Mavericks (39-10) play for the RMAC tournament title at noon today. Mesa hasn’t lost in the double-elimination tournament.
“You’ve got to have a little killer in you,” Hanks said. “We’ll decide tonight who we’ll put on the mound to start because we’ll go matchups. I think the key to (today) is to pitch ahead, stay out of three-ball counts on the defensive side and battle your tail off at the plate.”
Fabrizio walked or hit four of the five batters he faced before he was pulled without an out in the first inning. The other batter — RMAC player of the year Austin Kaiser — hit a three-run home run off him.
“It felt great, but it’s just like any other opportunity,” Kaiser said. “I tried to bunt the first pitch and fouled it off, then he hung a curveball. At that point, I was trying to put it in play and get the guy to third. I was trying to get contact to put it in play. That was the result. It worked out well.”
By the end of the first inning, the Mavericks had scored seven runs.
Derrick Garcia greeted Jesse Bristow with a run-scoring single. Garrett Woodward, Austin Wallingford and Sergio Valenzuela each had RBI singles in the inning.
“It gave us confidence the rest of the game,” Kaiser said. “I think we had a lot of confidence coming in. We were excited to face him being the second time. He threw well against us last time. I think we were all looking forward to getting another shot at him. To put up that kind of momentum in the first inning was pretty huge for our overall confidence the rest of the game.”
Kaiser was 3 for 5 with three RBI. Nate Robertson was 3 for 4 with a solo home run, a triple and a double. He missed hitting for the cycle by a single.
Mesa added two runs in the second, but the ThunderWolves answered back with two in the third, but they left two on.
Allen (7-1) set Pueblo down in order in the fourth before the Mavs got one run back in the bottom half.
Robertson tripled and scored on Jordan Liester’s sacrifice fly.
In the fifth, Austin Wallingford hit a two-run home run — his second home run of the tournament — for a 12-2 lead. Robertson hit his second home run of the tournament in the sixth, a solo shot.
“They were pushing each other in the dugout to keep that focus,” Hanks said. “I equate (an early lead) a lot to returning the opening kickoff in a football game. That’s a dangerous thing. You watch how many teams lose after doing that. We’re at championship time of the year. Guys know there is a lot more at stake than earlier in the year. I’m proud of them for staying the course.
“We continued to throw strikes and that’s the biggest thing, forcing them to hit into outs.”
Allen allowed five runs on nine hits and struck out five in 6 2/3 innings.
“It was good to get the opportunity,” he said. “I was trying to put our team in position to win.
“I was a little nervous at the beginning, but you’ve got to take it like another game. My arm felt good so that helped a lot.”
Allen started in place of Joey Danner, who needed a cortisone shot in his right arm earlier this week. He injured it last weekend, Hanks said.
Trent Allianic, Tyler Ehlers and Tyler Dunnington didn’t allow a hit or run in 2 1/3 innings of relief.
CSU-Pueblo 9, N.M. Highlands 6: The ThunderWolves bounced back from their loss to Mesa for another shot at the Mavericks.
CSU-Pueblo (29-23) built a 6-1 lead, then added three insurance runs late.
Highlands (32-20) cut Pueblo’s lead to one in the seventh, but couldn’t get any closer.
The Cowboys left 15 runners on base and committed three errors. They were eliminated.
N.M. Highlands 2, Colorado Mines 1: Blake Harrison limited the Orediggers to one unearned run on nine hits for the victory.
The Cowboys scored the game-winner on a wild pitch in the fifth inning.
Mines (24-23) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but didn’t get a runner to third base the rest of the game.
Highlands tied the game in the second on Morgan McCasland’s home run.
Mines was eliminated.