Mavs lose, will play Highlands

Matt Kuchenbecker hit a sacrifice fly to center field in the bottom of the 11th inning Friday night and Danny Miller beat the throw to the plate to give Minnesota State Mankato an 8-7 victory over Mesa State.

The loss drops the Mavericks (37-19) into the losers’ bracket of the NCAA Division II Central Region tournament, where they’ll meet RMAC nemesis New Mexico Highlands at 3 this afternoon in an elimination game.

It will be the 11th meeting between the teams this season — Mesa State holds a 6-4 series lead, but lost the most recent game, 8-6 on Sunday in the RMAC tournament championship game.

The Cowboys, who were stunned 11-2 on Thursday night in the first round, came back Friday morning to knock Nebraska-Kearney out of the tournament 9-3.

Mankato (42-13) plays St. Cloud at 11 this morning in the winners’ bracket.

Greg Anderson’s home run in the top of the ninth inning tied the game at 7-7, and after Mankato put runners at first and second, Jack Amidei came on in relief of Taylor Hamilton.

Amidei immediately got Kuchenbecker to ground to short, starting an inning-ending double play, but the Mavericks went down in order in the top of the 10th.

Mankato took a 6-1 lead after four innings but Mesa State started chipping away, scoring three in the fifth and two in the sixth to tie the game at 6-6. In the fifth, Kevin Becker singled to right and Brett Nigbur doubled down the left-field line.

Chase Moore flied out to left, scoring Becker, and Jeff Popick was hit by a pitch. With two out, Anderson walked to load the bases and Brian Bello hit a two-run single down the left-field line.

Popick, who went 3 for 4 and drove in three runs, had a two-run single up the middle in the sixth to score Shelton, who singled to lead off the inning, and Becker, who beat out a bunt.

Mesa State had a chance to break the tie in the top of the 11th when Bello singled with one out, and after Austin Buck flied out to center, Bello stole second.

Shelton, who went 3 for 7, struck out.

Miller doubled to left-center with one out in the bottom of the 11th and Berner reached on an error to set up Kuchenbecker’s game-winning fly ball.


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