Mesa tops Pueblo, wins 9th straight
Neither a lightning delay nor CSU-Pueblo could halt the Colorado Mesa University baseball team’s momentum.
The sixth-ranked Mavericks rallied Friday night behind their defense and small ball for their ninth consecutive victory, 11-6 over the ThunderWolves at Suplizio Field.
Shortly after a 52-minute lightning and rain delay with the game tied 4-4 after four innings, CSU-Pueblo took the momentum against Cody Lahman, who came in for starter Nolan Snell, in the fifth.
The ThunderWolves (15-13, 11-8 RMAC) scored one run on a groundout for a 5-4 lead and had two runners on with two outs when Mario Sanchez drove a pitch into the left-field corner. One run scored and another was coming home when Nate Robertson’s relay throw from Austin Kaiser nailed Chase Lacomb at home plate for the third out. Pueblo led 6-4.
“That corner is kind of tricky,” Kaiser said. “Sometimes (the ball) will get caught in the corner like it did. Sometimes it will bounce off the wall. I was anticipating it ricocheting off the wall, but it stuck there. I did what we’re taught to do, coming up throwing and hit our cut-off man and let it go from there.
“It was huge momentum. That’s a close play at the plate, they’re going to feed off that (if he scores), but we killed the rally.”
The Mavericks (24-5, 18-1 RMAC) got the momentum back in the bottom of the sixth, starting with Kaiser’s bunt single.
“I read it at-bat by at-bat,” Kaiser said. “I read that (the third baseman) wasn’t playing me in at all. It’s a good opportunity to lay one down and get something going.”
Jake Kluge followed with a walk and Colton Schoelkopf put down a perfectly placed bunt single toward third to load the bases.
“I knew I was going to come up and bunt for sure,” Schoelkopf said. “I was just looking to get the sacrifice down and move the runners over. It happened to be in the right spot where no one got to it.”
Pueblo shortstop Cameron Buckles mishandled a ground ball by Braden Box, allowing one run to score.
Colton Little’s pop fly fell in front of the Pueblo right fielder Scott Hoyt, who slipped on the wet grass, allowing Kluge to score. Hoyt overthrew the shortstop and another run scored for a 7-6 CMU lead.
The Mavericks pushed three more runs across on a groundout, sacrifice fly and single for a 10-6 lead. Little singled home an insurance run in the seventh.
That was plenty for the Mesa bullpen.
Lahman (5-0), Dakota Behr and Aaron Corwin combined to limit the ThunderWolves to two unearned runs on three hits and struck out six in five innings of work.
“The bullpen did good coming out,” Schoelkopf said. “Lahman did really well coming off the rain delay. Having to sit around and come back out, I thought he did really well.”
Snell allowed four runs on two hits, four walks and two balks in four innings before the lightning delay.
“I would’ve liked a better start out of Nolan,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “He was too erratic. We’ll work on that. He was much sharper last weekend. Maybe he was too charged up being Friday night at home and Pueblo.”
The teams play a doubleheader at 1 p.m. today at Suplizio Field.