Mavs’ Dunnington makes most of chance to start
Colorado Mesa baseball coach Chris Hanks saw an opportunity to find another spot starter, so he gave another pitcher a shot.
Tyler Dunnington made his first collegiate pitching start Thursday night and picked up his first victory with the Mavericks in a 14-4 rout of Colorado Christian at Suplizio Field.
The 17th-ranked Mavericks (28-8, 22-5 RMAC) improved to 21-0 at home this season. Mesa hosts the Cougars in a doubleheader at 3:30 p.m. today.
“He’s waited his turn,” Hanks said. “He works hard every day. His last two outings out of the bullpen were real good. We had a short week, (and) we didn’t think (Matt) Delay could turn around. We thought Tyler earned the right to start a game in our program.”
Dunnington is the ninth pitcher to start at least one game for the Mavericks this season.
“At this point, with that spot, we might go with matchups anyway (for an extra spot start),” Hanks said. “It’s part of our plan. The more guys you have starting games going into postseason play gives you more options, so they aren’t starting their first game in tournament play.”
Dunnington went to the College of Southern Idaho as a second baseman and started pitching in relief there. He transferred to Mesa in 2012 and had pitched 4 1/3 innings in four appearances this season prior to Thursday’s start.
He was told Monday he’d start the series opener.
“It was (a surprise),” Dunnington said. “I was ready, though. It was something I wanted to do.”
The senior right-hander (1-0) limited the Cougars (7-30, 6-21 RMAC) to two runs on four hits in five innings.
He ran into trouble in the third inning when he walked two batters and gave up two runs on a bases-loaded base hit.
“That was the longest I’ve gone in a game, so I had to gather myself,” Dunnington said. “It was a good experience. Hopefully I can build off that.”
Hanks and pitching coach Jeff Rodgers had a plan in case Dunnington struggled, but he worked through it and went the five innings Hanks wanted.
By then, the Mavericks had a 4-2 lead and continued to add to it.
Nate Robertson singled and scored in the fifth on Derrick Garcia’s squeeze-bunt single for a 5-2 lead.
Mesa scored three more runs in the sixth. Austin Kaiser doubled home a run for his first hit of the game and extended his hit streak to 13 games. Jordan Liester followed with a two-run double.
The Cougars came back with two runs in the seventh off Mesa reliever Tyler Ehlers, cutting the deficit to 8-4.
The Mavericks added six runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 14-4 lead. Sergio Valenzuela, Garrett Carpenter and Kaiser each drove in one run. Garcia added a two-run single, and Kevin Mitchell doubled home a run.
Garcia was 3 for 5 with four RBI to lead the Mavericks. Mesa had 15 hits, including eight doubles. Mitchell had two in the seventh alone.
“(Garcia) has the ability to hit,” Hanks said. “We thought that from the beginning.
“He joined us at the (spring) semester. It takes guys a while to get comfortable. Hopefully he’s starting to find it. That would really help.”
Kaiser was 2 for 5 with two RBI and is hitting .515 for the season, which still leads all of Division II baseball.
Colorado Mesa’s men assured themselves a first-round bye in the RMAC tournament today with an 8-1 victory over CSU-Pueblo at the Elliott Tennis Center.
The Mavericks (11-7, 4-1 RMAC) swept the doubles matches and won five singles matches in the makeup dual, which was rained out Sunday. Mesa finished second in the RMAC.
“That was a huge win for the men,” CMU coach Dan MacDonald said. “It was big having Blake (Demond) back. He brings positive energy. Everyone was focused. We knew the doubles would be huge. We’ve been working hard in doubles.”
The Colorado Mesa women secured an outright RMAC regular-season title with a 9-0 victory over CSU-Pueblo.
Natalie Martin persevered for a 6-2, 2-6, (10-6) victory at No. 1 singles. Kaylee Davis won 7-5, 6-3 at No. 2 singles.