McDermott, Day pitch Mavs past Chaparrals

Stellar pitching and defense, and one big swing, has the Colorado Mesa baseball team two wins away from its ultimate destination.

JR McDermott, in his first NCAA playoff appearance, retired 12 consecutive Lubbock Christian batters at one point Saturday night. Tyler Day, also making his NCAA debut, shut it down over the final 3 1/3 innings in the Mavericks’ 3-2 victory in the South Central Regional.

“Oh, boy,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “Day was hitting 96; they have the radar gun on the outfield wall and he hit 96 four, five, six times. He was good. JR really competed. Shoot, they got an infield hit, a bunt in no-man’s land and a dying quail down the line in right.”

Both pitchers were injured last season just before the playoffs began, forcing CMU into a makeshift rotation. It’s just the opposite this season, with the pitching staff dominating the Chaparrals (35-18) as the Mavericks (46-10) remained the only undefeated team in the tournament.

They play for a spot in the championship game at 6 tonight against the winner of this morning’s elimination game between top-seeded Angelo State and Lubbock Christian. West Texas A&M defeated Angelo 2-1, the Buffs’ third straight win over the Rams dating to last week’s Lone Star Conference tournament. In the completion of a lightning-delayed game from Friday, Arkansas-Fort Smith bounced St. Edward’s from the tournament 15-12.

Fort Smith faces West Texas at 2:30 this afternoon, with the winner advancing to Monday’s title game.

Had he not been injured, McDermott would have drawn the start in last year’s regional opener against Lubbock Christian at Suplizio Field.

“That’s what we told JR last night at our meeting. We went over Lubbock and said, ‘Well, JR, you finally get to pitch in the regional game you were supposed to pitch last year,’ ” Hanks said. “He would have been our guy in the opener. He was motivated.”

The only two runs Lubbock Christian scored came after the only two walks McDermott issued. Ryan Rogers drew a leadoff walk in the second and Chase Simmons doubled down the line in right. Bligh Madris’ throw to second was on target, but it hit Simmons and shot into left field, allowing Rogers to score.

McDermott (9-1) struck out Caleb Koedyker, the first of 12 straight he retired through the fifth inning. He allowed two runs on three hits and struck out seven.

With one out in the third, CMU’s Matt Haggerty singled up the middle. PJ Gonzalez followed with a line shot over the left-field wall for a 2-0 lead.

Two runners were stranded in the fourth when Haggerty just missed squaring a ball up, flying out to center.

“He pulled off the ball just a little, just missed it,” Hanks said. “If he stays on it just a tiny bit, he hits it out, he was on that kind of swing plane. They made good pitches and got out of trouble a couple of times, but our pitching was dominant tonight.”

Madris provided a huge run in the fifth after Gonzalez and JJ Car hit back-to-back singles and Kyle Serrano bunted them over. The Mavs’ cleanup hitter drove a ball deep to center for a run-scoring sacrifice fly and a 3-1 lead.

Brandon Urquizo ended McDermott’s string of consecutive Chaps retired in the sixth by beating out an single headed up the middle that shortstop Zach McLeod kept in the infield. Another walk and a bunt single toward third loaded the bases and Rogers lifted a fly ball to right to cut Mesa’s lead to 3-2.

Day came out of the bullpen and got Simmons to ground to short. McLeod made a diving stop and, from his knees, shoveled the ball to Andrew Contreras to end the threat.

“Zach’s play up the middle and the flip ... if that gets through, the game’s tied,” Hanks said. “That was a game-saver.”

Day, who picked up his fourth save of the season, struck out four of the next six batters.

In the ninth, he knocked down a sharp ground ball to the mound and threw out the leadoff batter, but then walked Rogers. The next two batters became his fifth and sixth strikeout victims (he faced 10 batters), moving the Mavericks closer to their second regional championship in four years and third in program history. Lefty Chris Ramirez (8-1) will likely start for the Mavericks tonight.

“I’m proud of the guys; they kept their composure,” Hanks said of how CMU came back after the bad-luck play in the second. “They were talking about moving on to the next play, don’t let things get you down, and they didn’t.”


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