Mesa hits the road for Division II regional

Winning its fourth consecutive RMAC tournament title in a four-game sweep and Angelo State losing in the Lone Star Conference championship wasn’t enough to push the Colorado Mesa baseball team to the top of the South Central Region rankings.

The 10th-ranked Mavericks (44-10) drew the No. 2 seed in the six-team tournament, which begins Thursday in San Angelo, Texas, facing fifth-seeded St. Edward’s University (Texas). The Hilltoppers are 33-18. Angelo State will announce game times today.

The Rams (41-13) were ranked first in each regional poll this season, just ahead of the Mavericks. Angelo State plays No. 6 Arkansas-Fort Smith (33-20), with third-seeded West Texas A&M (35-26) playing No. 4 Lubbock Christian (37-14) in the other first-round games at Foster Field, which has artificial turf.

If CMU wins its first-round game, it would play the winner of the West Texas-Lubbock Christian game. A first-round loss would put the Mavericks in an elimination game against the loser of the Angelo State-Fort Smith game.

West Texas A&M defeated Angelo State in the semifinals of the Lone Star tournament on Friday, then beat the Rams in the championship game Saturday as the Mavericks were winning the RMAC title over Colorado School of Mines.

CMU coach Chris Hanks said after the Mavericks’ game Saturday that his team wasn’t going to worry about where the regional was being played. Instead, he said, the Mavs will work to improve so they’re in contention to return to the NCAA Division II World Series for the first time since 2014, when they were the national runners-up.

“We’ve had this thing here the last three years, maybe it would be good for us to go on the road,” Hanks said Saturday, “but I don’t think winning or losing is ultimately decided on that. It’ll be decided by teams’ preparation, how we get ready and perform on game day, obviously.”

After its thrilling 7-6 victory over Texas A&M-Kingsville in the 2014 regional title game at Suplizio Field, Mesa has been ousted early the past two years.

JR McDermott and Tyler Day are healthy now — McDermott made the all-tournament team last weekend with an impressive eight-inning, 12-strikeout, 1-hit performance against CSU-Pueblo, and Day has been the go-to closer, including locking up the championship game.

The Mavericks are road-tested against good teams this season, going 17-5 away from Suplizio Field, including winning three of four at Dixie State to open the season, and splitting at Point Loma Nazarene. Dixie State is the third seed in the West Region; Point Loma did not make the postseason.

Mesa won a school-record 22 consecutive games during the regular season and ran away with its sixth straight RMAC regular-season championship and 23rd overall.

Mesa did not lose a series the entire season, splitting four-game sets with Montana State-Billings, Cal Baptist (No. 5 in the West Region) and CU-Colorado Springs, and going 1-1 against Point Loma.

St. Edward’s won the Heartland Conference tournament Saturday despite being the No. 4 seed, defeating Arkansas-Fort Smith 3-1. The Hilltoppers hit .322 as a team, led by outfielder Romeo Cortina’s .372 average, with 17 doubles and 53 RBI. Stuart Springer is 9-2 with a 3.43 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 14 walks in 81 1/3 innings.

The Mavericks will counter with its deep pitching staff, led by Kyle Leahy (11-0, 1.21 ERA), the RMAC pitcher of the year, and McDermott (8-1, 3.28), both sophomores, and Day (5-2, 3 saves, 2.77 ERA), a senior.

The depth continues in the lineup, headed by sophomore outfielder Bligh Madris. The RMAC player of the year and triple-crown winner (.455, 16 home runs, 63 RBI) was the RMAC tournament’s MVP. Catcher Kyle Serrano is hitting .418 with nine home runs and 32 RBI.


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