Late-inning rally lifts Mavs past Highlands in regional
Colorado Mesa baseball coach Chris Hanks often yells from the dugout to his team to play hard.
With one out in the ninth inning of a tie game Thursday night, Austin Kaiser hit a popup behind second base. The second base umpire froze, the New Mexico Highlands second baseman bumped into him, and the ball hit the ground. Kaiser ran hard out of the box and made it to second base.
Three batters later, Derrick Garcia singled over the right-fielder’s head to score Kaiser for the winning run in a wild come-from-behind 9-8 victory in the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament at Suplizio Field.
“It was unfortunate the umpire got in the way, but that is a part of the game,” Hanks said. “That’s what makes this game so stupid, really. I feel bad for New Mexico Highlands from that standpoint, but it is a part of the game.
“Austin was playing hard. He didn’t have a great night. I think he was pressing. To leg that out was reminiscent of Kevan Elcock running his out last week in the opening game (of the RMAC tournament) against Mines. That’s a controllable. We talk about dominating the controllables. That’s one of them.”
The fifth-ranked Mavericks (41-10) play 14th-ranked St. Edward’s (Texas) at 3:30 p.m. today. The Hilltopppers are facing elimination after a 9-2 loss to Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Mesa was able to win in the ninth after rallying from an 8-0 deficit through seven innings. It was Mesa’s second victory this season after trailing through six innings.
“This is my first time being a part of that,” sixth-year senior Garrett Carpenter said. “We could’ve tucked our tails in and gave up. We kept battling. One hit led to another, and we kept feeding off each other. We were lucky enough to get that win.
“It was just everyone staying positive, Kaiser keeping everyone focused, Jordan Liester having dugout talks and keeping everyone believing.”
The Mavericks scored two runs in the seventh on Garcia’s third home run of the season, then tied the game in the eighth with six runs.
Sergio Valenzuela beat out a throw for an infield hit to lead off the eighth, then Carpenter walked. Kaiser put down a bunt down the third-base line and beat it out. Robertson followed with a two-run single and Highlands pulled starting pitcher Blake Harrison.
Liester greeted the relief pitcher with a run-scoring double. Garcia reached on an error, and another run scored. Highlands made another pitching change to get the first out. Garrett Woodward kept the momentum going, hitting a ball on the chalk line past third base for a two-run double to tie the game 8-8.
“It was a great experience to see our team come back down eight,” Garcia said. “It was great to see.
“We fought real hard the last few innings. To get that W in the end ... it just felt good.”
Garcia was 3 for 5 with four RBI.
New Mexico Highlands (32-21) put its first two batters on base in the top of the ninth, but Carpenter came in to strike out the next two batters. He got the final out with a little help from Garcia, who made a diving stop to field a hard-hit ground ball and tossed it to Robertson for the final out.
“You get to a point as a coach where you decide if you’re going to lose, how are you willing to lose?” Hanks said of Carpenter. “I was willing to lose with him on the mound. If you’re going to go down, you want to go down with someone that keeps the ball down and will compete in those type of things. I trust him.”
The Cowboys built a seemingly insurmountable 8-0 lead behind Harrison. The junior shut out Mesa for six innings before he was pulled in the eighth with no outs.
“He came out and had stuff going in a tough atmosphere,” Highlands coach Steve Jones said. “He gave us every opportunity to win.”
The Cowboys took advantage of three Mesa errors in the third inning for a 3-0 lead. Matthew Chavez gave them a 6-0 lead with a three-run home run in the fourth, and they added two more runs in the fifth on Javier Ledford’s double.
Hanks pulled starting pitcher Matt Delay one batter later. Delay allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings.
The bullpen stopped the bleeding, limiting Highlands to one hit in the final 4 2/3 innings.
West Texas A&M 13, Tarleton State 10: The Buffaloes scored in every inning but one to avenge their loss to Tarleton State in last weekend’s Lone Star Conference championship game.
West Texas leadoff batter Matt Redfearn was 3 for 5 with four RBI and a three-run home run in the fifth.
The Texans rallied with three runs in the seventh and two in the ninth.
Texas A&M-Kingsville 9, St. Edward’s 2: Taylor Taska hit a home run and drove in four runs to lead the Javelinas to victory.
Taska hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning for a 8-0 lead. Dallas Ponder limited the Hilltoppers to two runs on three hits and struck out eight in eight innings.