Mavs love Friday night lights
Baseball players love playing under the lights.
Sergio Valenzuela is no different.
The Colorado Mesa junior got his first opportunity to play under the lights for the Mavericks on Friday and made it a memorable night.
The junior from Tijuana, Mexico, went 3 for 5 with two runs scored and two stolen bases to help Colorado Mesa roll to an 11-3 victory over Adams State in the opening game of a four-game RMAC series.
“I was excited to play tonight,” Valenzuela said of his first night game at Suplizio Field. “I’ve never had the opportunity to play here at night, so I was looking forward to it so much. I came with the right attitude and wanted to play.”
It was Mesa’s first home night game of the season, but it didn’t have the same feel as it usually does, because students are gone on spring break. Plus, the game started 50 minutes late after a high school game ran long.
The 25th-ranked Mavericks (18-6, 12-3 RMAC) stole a season-high eight bases. Mesa’s single-game record is 12, set on March 24, 2012.
“The opportunity was there, so we ran a little bit,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “We like to run if it’s the right situation, and we had some good situations.”
Mesa has 44 stolen bases this season, but the Mavs are far off the pace of a year ago when they finished with a school-record 143 steals.
“You scratch where it itches,” Hanks said. “You listen to the game and what it’s telling you to do. Before it’s all over, we might run as much as last year. We don’t know how it will turn out. If it’s there and the right situation, we do it. If not, we won’t.”
Valenzuela not only used his speed to steal bases, he used it to beat out ground balls for base hits, including a bunt in the fifth.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit on the season, so we came out with a dominant attitude,” he said. “We wanted to push it a little bit more, and we showed it on the field today.”
Valenzuela said he ran the 60-yard dash in 6.45 seconds during his senior year of high school.
“I don’t think there’s much to talk about,” he said. “I always try to play my best. I trust my abilities. I trust my speed, so I try to use it every time and take advantage of that. I just want to win.”
Valenzuela led off the first inning with an infield single, advanced to second on an Austin Wallingford base hit, stole third and scored on Austin Kaiser’s sacrifice fly. Wallingford then scored on Nate Robertson’s single for a 2-1 lead.
Mesa broke the game open with four runs in the fourth inning, which included three stolen bases. Two runs scored on sacrifices and the other two on base hits.
The Mavs added two more runs in the fifth, including one on a bases-loaded walk, and three more runs in the sixth for an 11-1 lead.
Matt Delay (3-0) went at least six innings for his fourth consecutive outing. The junior limited the Grizzlies to one earned run on three hits and struck out six batters in seven innings.
“(Delay) was pretty sharp,” Hanks said. “I wouldn’t say dominant, but sharp. He controlled the game. He obviously gave us what we needed to win the game, and that’s what we ask.”
Tyler Ehlers struck out two in one inning of relief. Dustin Robirtis allowed one run to finish up the ninth.
The Grizzlies (10-16, 8-8 RMAC), who scored one run in the first, came back with a run in the seventh and one in the ninth in their first game at Suplizio Field. This is the second year of the baseball program since it was reinstated.
“I think Adams swings the bat OK,” Hanks said. “I told our guys that before the game. I told our guys they’re going to battle at the plate. I wanted our pitchers to be ready for that. I didn’t think we’d cut right through them.”