Mavs sweep Metro St. in doubleheader
Jared Christensen realized the importance of his start.
The Colorado Mesa University senior has seen what it’s like to play the first game of a doubleheader the day after an exciting, energized Friday night game.
“The thing is you come in here and this stadium is packed with 2,000 people,” Christensen said. “It’s real easy to play your best, but you come out here in the middle of the day in front of 15 people, it’s really hard to come out jacked up and energized. That’s what you have to learn how to do. You have to do that yourself, get yourself pumped up.”
The crowd was officially announced at 338 for Saturday’s doubleheader against Metro State, but compared to 2,461 on Friday night, he had a point.
Christensen pitched a shutout through five innings in Mesa’s 3-1 victory, then Dylan Evans followed with a 4-0 complete-game shutout in the second game.
“We got great pitching and good defense,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “We didn’t swing it, but that’s probably a result of them pitching it well. I thought both their kids kept us off balance. They were able to change speeds.”
The No. 24 Mavericks (31-10, 25-5 RMAC) have already clinched an RMAC tournament berth and have a three-game lead over CSU-Pueblo (25-16, 22-9 RMAC), which is in town for a four-game series next weekend.
Christensen knew he needed to set the tone Saturday for the Mavericks to stay on task.
“Waking up this morning, today is going to be tough,” he said. “You try to carry that mentality the rest of the day. Whether it’s tough or not, you already have the right mindset.
“You’re sitting there hoping our team can meet that same focus and energy and score the same amount of runs, but it’s not always going to happen.”
The left-hander gave up one run in the sixth, but the Mavericks had spotted him a 3-0 lead in the fifth. Two runs scored on Jeff Popick’s bunt and Metro’s error trying to throw him out. Popick scored on a fielder’s choice.
Christensen (9-2) allowed one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings. Derek Benham gave up one hit, but picked up his seventh save with 1 1/3 innings of relief.
“(Christensen) really is because most likely he’s not going to hurt himself or pitch from behind too often,” Hanks said of starting him the day after an emotional night game.
Evans followed Christensen with an even better performance.
“That was a tough one,” Evans said with a chuckle. “We always joke around because we’re seniors, we always say we’re going to get two wins to help our team out. So far, it’s worked out. It feels good to pitch behind him being lefty, righty, switching speeds.”
The senior right-hander limited Metro State (11-26, 8-23 RMAC) to three hits and struck out eight in the complete-game shutout.
“Dylan had a disappointing outing against Christian last week,” Hanks said. “He had one bad inning and that dictated the whole game. We challenged him to keep focused and he pitched great.”
Evans (4-1) found trouble in the second inning, giving up a leadoff single, followed by a walk. Metro’s Mitch Gibbons moved them over one base with a sacrifice bunt, but Evans struck out the side to keep the scoreless game intact.
“He got tough,” Hanks said. “That was great to see. I think that was maybe his best outing since the regional against Minnesota State where he was so dominant.”
Metro’s stater didn’t allow a Mesa runner past second base until the fifth inning when he walked three batters.
Mesa’s Dustin Fackrell greeted the relief pitcher with a grand slam into the left-field bleachers.
“When I talked to Skip, he said, ‘What pitch do you want to hit?’” Fackrell said. “I said, ‘A fastball inside.’ When I saw the guy warming up, I wanted a (hanging) curveball and that’s what I got. I just had to put a good swing on it.”
Evans took care of the rest.