Mesa State baseball team tops rival ThunderWolves
This is a baseball team that responds.
So Jared Christensen wasn’t too concerned when he gave up a pair of runs in the fifth inning Sunday against CSU-Pueblo that cut Mesa State’s 4-0 lead in half.
“I gave up those two runs in the fifth, but I had total confidence in our team that they were going to put up some runs and take care of us,” the Mavs’ left-hander said after the Mavericks clinched the series with an 8-2 win at Suplizio Field.
“It’s very comforting. You can go up there and kind of relax. You can flush those two runs, forget about them, because your offense is going to take care of you.”
The Mavericks scored four runs with two out in the bottom of the sixth, then turned things over to the bullpen for an 8-2 win and a 3-1 series win over the rival ThunderWolves.
“I think the character of our kids is pretty good, they’re dependable guys in a lot of ways, off the field and on the field,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said. “That might be an indication. I don’t know if you ever really know until you get into a competitive setting. They’re responsive; they’re kids you can count on in a lot of ways.”
Mesa State (9-5, 7-1 RMAC) has dominated the first two conference series against two of the other top teams in the RMAC, sweeping Metro State and taking three of four against Pueblo.
“I’ll take 7-1 against those two programs, without question. They’re both good clubs and it’s going to be a battle down the stretch.”
Jeff Popick, who went 2 for 4, drove in the Mavs’ first two runs with a sharp double to left-center, started their response in the sixth with a base hit.
With two out, Joe Schmidtbauer singled and Brian Bello loaded the bases when he smacked a base hit off the glove of relief pitcher Joey Juarez.
Peter Arakawa struck out, but for the second time this season, the Mavs not only reached base but scored a run on the strikeout-wild pitch when the ball sailed to the backstop.
“We work on it all the time,” Hanks deadpanned.
Popick scored, then Ken Evanson walked in a run and Erik Nordine lashed a two-run hit to right-center.
“We don’t want to back down from a challenge,” Popick said. “We’ll hit against it and the plan is to succeed against it, but we won’t back down from it.”
Between the Mavs’ two-run first and four-run sixth, Bello hit a two-run home line to left in the fourth after Colton Schoelkopf singled and moved up on a wild pitch, one of three by the ThunderWolves.
Conversely, Christensen struck out seven in six innings for his first win, scattering seven hits and walking only one. Mike Sutton, Derek Benham and Taylor Hamilton each threw one scoreless inning of relief.
“They can really swing it,” Christensen said. “I was trying to keep them off balance and keep them guessing. Coach (Jeff) Rodgers was doing a great job of calling pitches. Sometimes when you’re pitching you get in that zone and Coach Rodgers sees things that sometimes I don’t and he calls pitches and places it where they might not expect it.”
Hanks was more than happy with Christensen’s big game.
“He’s not a hard thrower, but he changes speed and his command is so good,” Hanks said. “He really gave us an opportunity those first five innings. We got two (runs) quick and then had a difficult time scoring and he kept throwing up zeros, throwing up zeros, throwing up zeros. It was a great outing for him.”
The series win keeps the Mavericks in command of the Mountain Division of the RMAC, two games up on Pueblo and three on Metro. Regis is 7-1 in the Plains Division.
“We’re excited because in the conference, Pueblo, we have a little bit of history with them and Metro is always tough,” Popick said. “To sweep Metro and take three from Pueblo, those are good teams and those are good wins. Moving on, everyone should feel confident and strong about our program right now.”
Lauren Cross hit a two-run home run and singled home two more, Sara Jordan added a solo home run and picked up her sixth pitching victory in a split with Chadron State.
Mesa State’s 13-hit attack in the first game at Chadron, Neb., led to a 10-1 lead, with the Eagles helping out by committing five errors.
Gabi Parra had a two-run double and Cross and Shannon McClenahan also doubled for the Mavericks. Parra and Dani Vallie each went 2 for 5 and drove in two runs.
Jordan gave up 11 hits, but only one run, and struck out four to improve to 6-1.
Mesa’s rally came up short in the second game, costing the Mavericks (10-7, 8-4 RMAC) a 7-6 loss and sweep of the series.
Chadron took a 4-0 lead off Ashley Pulido (1-2) in the first inning, hitting a pair of home runs, added two in the third and one in the fourth for a 7-1 lead.
Cross, though, hit a one-out home run in the sixth and Lita Romero singled home two more to cut the Eagles’ lead to 7-4. With one out in the seventh, Jordan walked and Cross hit her third home run of the day to pull Mesa State within one run.
The Eagles pulled starting pitcher Christina Lewis and replaced her with Stephanie Townsend, who got Megan Smith to fly out to left and Lisa Pille to fly out to right for the save.
By winning the series 3-1, the Mavericks pulled into a first-place tie in the West Division of the RMAC with Adams State. Mesa State is back home this weekend, playing a four-game series Saturday and Sunday against the University of Nebraska-Kearney.