Pitching will be the key for Mavericks in World Series
The Mesa State College baseball team usually is one of the best hitting teams in the nation.
This year is no different.
In fact, the sixth-ranked Mavericks (43-13) are in the top five in NCAA Division II in eight offensive categories. The Mavericks lead the nation in batting average (.383) and slugging percentage (.593). They are second in scoring (10.7 runs per game) and in runs (597). They are third in hits (755) and triples (31).
What helped Mesa get over the hump and qualify for its first Division II World Series, though, is pitching depth. The Mavericks play 10th-ranked Belmont Abbey (N.C.) College (38-24) at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, N.C.
Nine Mesa State pitchers have started at least one game. Yet, only two of them, Brent Lamaster and Chris Carma, have pitched more than 60 innings this season.
“We have better depth than we’ve had on any other pitching staff,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said. “Our team statistics, opposing batting average and ERA aren’t as good as some other staffs. That might be partially because of how we use the staff.
We have eight, maybe nine (pitchers) with dominant stuff. All we’re asking from here
on out is that they bring that stuff.
“We have a couple more guys that can keep us in games. The key will be picking the right guys.”
Hanks picked the right guys in the Central Regional last weekend, including Chris Shea, who shut out Wayne State (Neb.) College into the eighth inning before a blister on his pitching hand became a problem. Seniors Lamaster and Carma pitched well also.
“We’ve got so many talented pitchers,” Mesa senior catcher Grant Vickers said. “This (last) weekend, they showed what they can do. They really locked in and wanted to win. The pitchers were awesome. You got Carma’s A game, Lamaster and Shea.
They got the ball in the right situation and they ran with it.”
With the top-hitting team in the nation, the Mavericks, who have the worst team ERA (6.17) of the eight teams in the World Series, don’t necessarily need another shutout performance, but they will need to avoid a big inning and keep the game close.
“I believe our pitchers need to set the tone and I believe they will,” Hanks said. “They don’t have to be dominant, that’s a plus. They have to keep us in the game and let our offense and defense win. The pitching is key. From the outset, they give us a chance.”
Hanks is tentatively planning on starting Lamaster is the World Series opener. One of Mesa’s biggest tasks is facing the nation’s leading home run hitter in Daniel Kassouf.
The Belmont Abbey sophomore first baseman has 29 home runs in 62 games.
“(The Crusaders) are a team that has played well lately,” Hanks said. “ They got that automatic bid (by winning the Conference Carolinas tournament) and went in (regionals) as a six seed and beat South Carolina-Aiken on their field twice. They’re playing good right now. They’re obviously feeling good.
“What I’m telling our team is, the team that comes off their high and handles the next task at hand is the team that is going to have the most success. ”