Mesa cruises to win in first regional game
By taking a free-and-easy attitude into the NCAA Division II South Central Regional tournament, the Colorado Mesa baseball team rolled Thursday to an 11-2 victory over St. Edward’s University.
“It’s been a fun trip so far,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “They’re loose and easy and we put a great emphasis on having fun and playing together. We were as loose as I’ve ever seen us before a regional. I’ve never seen a team as loose, but focused and ready to play.”
It started when JJ Carr beat out a bunt single in the first inning and moved up on a wild pitch. After Kyle Serrano was hit by a pitch, Tanner Rempel hit a towering two-run double to the wall in left-center.
“(Carr’s) drag bunt got us going and helped produce those first runs,” Hanks said.
Carr, who went 3 for 5 and scored three runs, singled in PJ Gonzalez in the third. Serrano doubled, sending Carr to third, and Bligh Madris grounded to second, but Carr beat the throw to the plate.
Rempel grounded into a double play but Serrano scored for a 5-0 lead, plenty of support for Kyle Leahy (12-0), who allowed two runs on eight hits in eight innings. He struck out six and walked only one, and Jett Wodiuk pitched a perfect ninth.
“Leahy was good. I think they had four hits in the first two or three innings, had some hard outs,” Hanks said. “They came out swinging and he settled in a little bit and they didn’t get another hit until the sixth or seventh.”
The Hilltoppers had runners at second and third with two out in the third, but Carr fielded a chopper and forced the lead runner at third, and made a couple of tough plays in the fifth.
“He was a vacuum at third,” Hanks said. “His defense was phenomenal. There were a couple if they get by, they get something going, but he stymied them.”
After the third-inning double, St. Edward’s didn’t get another hit against Leahy until Hunter Courson’s leadoff home run in the seventh, but by that time, the Mavericks had put up 10 runs.
In the bottom of the sixth, Andrew Contreras laced a ground-rule double down the right-field line, Will Dixon was hit by a pitch and Zach McLeod walked to load the bases.
Matt Haggerty, who got the start in center field against lefty Stuart Springer, delivered a two-run double to right-center. Gonzalez followed with another two-run double for a 10-0 lead.
“Hags has the ability to change the game,” Hanks said. “It came down to between him and Keenan (Eaton) and we decided to give him a couple of at-bats and see how his rhythm looked, and then we could go to Keenan. Today we had him in the 9-hole and sometimes pitchers relax when they get down there at the tail end of the order.”
Haggerty also made a diving catch in left-center to prevent extra bases.
Dixon was hit by another pitch in the seventh, but the umpire ruled he didn’t make an attempt to get out of the way, and on the next pitch he crushed a home run to left.
Gonzalez, Madris, Rempel and Haggerty each drove in two runs for CMU (45-10), which plays Lubbock Christian ( 38-14) at 6 tonight, with JR McDermott getting the start. Mesa had 13 hits, including six doubles, two by Rempel, who continued his hot hitting — in the past four games, he’s 8 for 17 with 11 RBI.
Hanks will continue to let the Mavs be their fun-loving selves.
“They’re free and easy and we’re going to keep it that way,” he said. “Angelo is very good; that’ll be a war if we play them, but we’re just gonna have fun with this. They’re playing loose and all they have to worry about is what time the game is and what time do we leave?”
He also said their demeanor stems from Ryan Teixeira’s personality and the effect he had on his teammates before his death in March.
“Ryan Teixeira has a big effect on us, on everybody’s attitude,” Hanks said. “The guys know it’s no fun when you’re stressed out, so we’re going to do what we know how to do and hope that’s good enough. If not, we’ve done our best.”