MESA STATE BASEBALL TEAM HEADED TO WORLD SERIES IN CARY, N.C.
Aaron Guinn threw his glove as high as he could, the dugout emptied and a dogpile ensued.
Pretty soon, the Mesa State College senior pitcher was on the bottom of the celebration after the Mavericks defeated Wayne State (Neb.) College 8-2 on Sunday at Suplizio Field to win the NCAA Central Regional title and qualify for the NCAA Division II World Series for the first time in school history.
Mesa State (43-13) plays Belmont Abbey (N.C.) College (38-24) at 11 a.m. (MDT) on
Saturday in the opening game of the World Series in Cary, N.C., in a matchup of two first-time qualifiers.
“That was a big win for us,” senior third baseman Andrew Martinez said. “They are a great team. They played well all weekend. We took advantage of some of their mistakes. (Craig) Lanzarotta robbing that home run knocked the wind out of their sails.”
Lanzarotta deflated any hopes the Wildcats had of rallying and forcing an if-necessary game when he snagged a potential two-run home run for the third out in the top of the fifth inning.
“I thought it was a routine pop fly,” the senior center fielder said. “It carried and carried. Next thing I know, my back’s up against the wall, I jumped and somehow got hold of it.”
Right fielder Mike Provencher, confirmed the swing of emotion after the catch.
“It was straight excitement, seeing the team get up, knowing we had a great shot of taking that game,” Lanzarotta said. “It took the breath right out of them.”
Lanzarotta’s play denied the Wildcats their best chance of a big hit against Chris Shea.
The junior was making his first appearance since April 25 and his first start since March 22.
“I was ready,” Shea said. “Coach and I talked about a month ago. He said he wants me ready for a big game. I wasn’t expecting this game, but I was expecting to throw sometime.
“I like the big games, it’s where I’m comfortable. It helps me focus.”
Hanks had a feeling Shea would come through.
“I told him over a month ago, he was the rubber guy. He would help us win a championship,” Hanks said. “We basically had a No. 1 arm on the mound today in Game 4. They had to throw their whole staff and boy, he answered the call, didn’t he?”
Shea (3-0) had pitched 232/3 innings, with four starts, prior to the regional championship. Sunday, he limited Wayne to one earned run on five hits in seven innings.
“Wow. That’s all I can say,” Wayne coach John Manganaro said. “He’s pitched 20-some innings all year, is that what the stats say?
“He changed speeds, hit his spots, kept us off-balance and made big pitches in big situations. The defense played outstanding. We hit the ball really hard, and (they) turn three double plays and take two runs away when (they) rob the home run.”
Shea worked out of a first-inning jam when Wayne’s leadoff hitter, Justin Hemauer, reached on an Austin Buck error. Eric Bond lined out to shortstop Matt Bodenchuk, who threw the ball away trying to double up Hemauer.
Shea, though, got Northern Sun Conference player of the year Joe Wendte to ground out to Buck and Treye Hacker to ground out to first.
Kevin Becker gave Shea some help, leading off the bottom of the first with a home run. The Mavericks’ offense broke loose in the third, scoring five runs to take a 6-0 lead.
Buck led off with a single and advanced to third when Becker singled on hit-and-run.
“Becker handles the bat as good as anyone on the club,” Hanks said. “We decided to get the runner moving on a hit-and-run, and he hit it where the fielder left.
“If you can execute those things, you can suck the life out of the other team because there is no way to defend the play.”
Martinez drove home a run on a sacrifice fly and Bodenchuk, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, added an RBI double and scored on a sacrifice fly. Lanzarotta finished it with a solo home run.
Provencher homered in the seventh for a 7-0 advantage before Wayne responded with two runs in the eighth.
Guinn shut down Wayne in order in the ninth, striking out Josh Yost to ignite the celebration.
“This is unbelievable,” Vickers said. “It would be one guy one day, then someone else the next. This is an unbelievable team to be a part of. We’re going to the World Series.”