One tough out: Mesa State’s Evanson making habit of coming through in the clutch

Ken Evanson has been there when the Mavericks have needed him this season, and if the junior third baseman repeats last weekend’s performance, Mesa State could advance in the Central Region tournament.

Every time the Mesa State College baseball team needed someone on base last week, there was Ken Evanson.

When they needed someone to drive in a run, Evanson was at the plate.

“Of all our hitters, he’s one of our toughest outs, one of our toughest with two strikes and toughest with something on the line, with runners on,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said.

“I think I just defined a clutch-type hitter. I love to see him come to the plate with runners on. He’ll do something to probably score a run.”

Evanson, a junior third baseman who transferred from Los Medanos (Calif.) College this year, went 12 for 25 with six RBI and eight runs scored, two doubles and a home run last week in the RMAC tournament. The Mavericks will need another week like that if they want a return trip to the NCAA Division II World Series.

Mesa State (36-18) plays Winona State (36-14) at 3 p.m. today in the first round of the Central Region tournament in Farmington, N.M.

“He’s not as loud as some other guys with what he does,” Hanks said. “You look at the box and go, whoa. He’s kind of like the basketball player, you look at the box and he’s got 30 points and you don’t remember him scoring those points. He’s always around the bucket. (Evanson) is always there.”

Evanson came to Mesa State as an all-conference shortstop but got off to a slow start during fall practice. With freshman Colton Vaughn winning the starting job at short, the coaches moved Evanson to third.

Then Vaughn got hurt and was lost for the season. Austin Buck and Evanson shared time at short, and then Buck missed some time with turf toe.

The Mavs needed to shore up the corner at third, so when Buck returned, back to third went Evanson. Something clicked.

“There’s been missing pieces all season until a few weeks or so and we really started clicking,” said Evanson, who is hitting .374 with 34 RBI, 13 doubles and 13 stolen bases.

As he’s gotten more and more familiar with Division II pitching, Evanson has gotten more and more aggressive at the plate.

“The swing started to feel good. Sometimes it just happens at the right time,” he said. “That’s good. I haven’t been here and seen the talent in the regional or anything like that, but I think we have a really solid team and we can do something really special this year.”

The Mavericks like how things are shaping up for the regional, especially since they’ll be facing a team from the Northern Sun Conference in the first round instead of another RMAC club.

“Oh, yeah. We’ve played Highlands 10 times,” Hanks said. “I don’t even know if we need to take any scouting charts on them (to Farmington), we know them so well. There’s a freshness to playing a team we haven’t played, no doubt.”

Evanson, for one, is ready to play someone different.

“There’s no expectations there,” he said. “You don’t know what their team is all about and you don’t have any preconceived ideas. You just go play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

With a berth to the World Series on the line, the Mavs are eager to start playing for another trip to Cary, N.C.

“I think there’s definitely a focus that’s needed by our staff and our players,” Hanks said. “Everybody knows what’s on the line. The key is to still have fun and play loose but with a high level of focus. That’s the difference-maker if we can do that.”


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