Mesa falls to Mankato on walk-off home run
The Colorado Mesa University baseball team got its offense going early, but it wasn’t enough.
The Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks rallied from an early three-run deficit Friday with a 7-5 walk-off victory over Colorado Mesa in the NCAA Central Regional at Franklin Rogers Park in Mankato, Minn.
“We played great; we executed the short game and had some timely hits,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “If we would’ve played that sharp (Thursday), we might have won. None of us should feel bad about how we played today.”
No. 26 Colorado Mesa (39-16) lost for the sixth time in the past seven games.
“We tried everything we could,” Hanks said. “We encouraged them, we pushed them, we gave them rest. We couldn’t shake it.”
No. 8 Mankato (46-10) is two wins away from advancing to the NCAA Division II World Series. Mankato defeated Regis 1-0 in the first round Thursday.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mankato catcher Nolan Johnson came through with a two-run home run to win the game against Colorado Mesa.
Mesa closer Derek Benham was one strike away from getting the third out and extending the game into extra innings.
“He got the hitter to swing and miss on a slider and went back to it, but it didn’t break,” Hanks said.
Colorado Mesa had an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the ninth with two on and one out, but Erik Kozel flied out to left field, and Austin Kaiser lined out to second base.
Kozel hit in the leadoff spot instead of Colton Little because of an injury to two-hole hitter Braden Box.
Box broke his left foot in Thursday’s loss to New Mexico Highlands when a base runner slid into Box’s foot on a bunt play, Hanks said. Box finished the game, but had trouble walking on it by Friday morning.
Freshman Nate Robertson played shortstop in Box’s spot. Robertson was 2 for 4 and didn’t have an error on defense.
“We decided to flip the lineup a bit,” Hanks said. “I wanted to have some speed at the top. Kozel gave us a lift. Kozel and Robertson played well. They gave us energy.”
Kozel led off the game with a walk and scored on Jeff Popick’s double. Mitch Corwin followed with a RBI double and scored on a groundout.
Mankato came back with four runs on five hits in the fourth for a 4-3 lead.
Mesa regained the lead, 5-4, in the sixth with two runs, both on sacrifice bunts.
Mankato tied the game with a double and a single in the bottom of the sixth.
Jeff Popick was 2 for 4 with one RBI in his final game. Dustin Fackrell was 1 for 4 with one RBI in his final game.
Colorado Mesa fell five stolen bases shy of tying the program’s single-season record.
Colorado Mesa played its best round of the NCAA Division II national championship, but the Mavericks remain in 11th place with a three-round score of 1,032 at Persimmon Ridge Golf Course in Louisville, Ky.
Colorado Mesa senior Jessica Berve is tied for 46th with 250. She shot 82 on Friday. Michelle Stripp is tied for 49th with 252 after a third-round score of 80. Jennifer Hilts is tied for 55th with 256.
Nova Southeastern (Fla.) University has a nine-stroke lead on Florida Southern College for the team title. The fourth and final round is today.
Daniela Ortiz of Nova Southeastern leads the tournament at 224, followed by teammate Abbey Gittings at 225.