Woodward's home run puts Mesa in title game
It doesn’t seem to matter if Colorado Mesa has a lead and loses it or has to rally late.
The fifth-ranked Mavericks keep finding a way to win.
They did it again Saturday in the NCAA Division II South Central Region baseball tournament at Suplizio Field.
Garrett Woodward hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning to lift the Mavericks to a 9-6 victory. Mesa (43-10) improved to 30-0 at Suplizio Field. The Mavericks play for the regional title at noon today with a berth in the NCAA Division II World Series next weekend going to the champion.
“I actually gave Garrett the home run sign. I don’t know if you saw it or not,” Mesa senior pitcher Kyle Davis said with a wry smile. “That was huge. That’s helped with the confidence boost, too.”
With two runners on base and two outs, Woodward came up to bat with the Mavericks trailing 6-5.
He fouled off several pitches from West Texas starter Josh Weyker before smashing a pitch over the left-field wall to give the Mavericks an 8-6 lead.
“It definitely felt great,” Woodward said with a hoarse voice. “I got to two strikes and had to shorten up a bit. I was over-swinging at the beginning. I kept battling off pitches. I finally got a pitch I could hit.”
Colorado Mesa coach Chris Hanks was confident the junior transfer would deliver in the clutch situation.
“Garrett’s a great competitor. That’s why he’s in the ball game,” Hanks said. “For me, that’s enough said. I know he’s one of the kids that will compete. He’s engaged. I know he cares, he’ll battle. For me that’s enough.”
The Mavs’ latest heroics came after West Texas A&M took the lead in the seventh and had a chance to build on it. With one on and two outs, the Buffaloes scored when Garrett Carpenter dropped a deep fly ball. Another run scored on a base hit. West Texas had two runners on when Dylan Dyson fouled off several pitches before flying out to deep right field.
“You never feel comfortable,” West Texas coach Matt Vanderburg said. “Colorado Mesa’s a really good hitting team. We knew that. I liked it when we took the lead. We had the same situation, and we hit the ball hard right at them. Their kid, 3-2, two outs, hit a ball out. I thought Weyker made a pretty good pitch there. You’ve got to give credit to Mesa.”
Weyker (8-6) allowed eight runs on 14 hits in seven innings, and after the Mavericks took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, he kept Mesa’s bats quiet until the seventh.
Mesa’s Sergio Valenzuela led off the first inning with a base hit up the middle. Carpenter and Austin Kaiser followed with bunt base hits to load the bases. Valenzuela scored on Nate Robertson’s single. Carpenter scored on a groundout, then Kaiser scored on Derrick Garcia’s sacrifice fly.
“Our short game has been there all year,” Hanks said. “We got those runs on the board without hitting too many balls out of the infield to do it. Their kid is a good pitcher. He kept us off-balance. We had a chance to get more there, but we didn’t. I realized there was a chance this kid would get better, and he did. He pitched a good game.”
Weyker kept the Mavericks’ bats quiet enough for the Buffaloes to rally against Davis, who gave up four runs on four hits in the fifth to tie the game 4-4.
Davis, who is 23-1 in his career at Mesa, gave up two more runs in the seventh and left trailing 6-5.
“We know we’re going to be in the game when he pitches,” Hanks said. “It’s as simple as that. We know we have an outstanding chance to win when he’s on the mound. That’s been proven over his entire career here.
“I felt he gutted it out. He wasn’t feeling very well before the game. I found that out after the game, dealing with the heat. He kind of ran into a wall there in the seventh. We thought it was time to get him out. He did his job.”
Tyler Ehlers came in for Davis and pitched out of the jam for his first victory this season. Trent Allianic limited the Buffaloes to three hits in the final two innings for his second save of the season.
Texas A&M-Kingsville 7, West Texas A&M 4: The Javelinas (37-19) shut down West Texas A&M after giving up four runs in the first inning to rally for the win.
Taylor Taska, Hayden James and Ryan Scott combined to limit the Buffaloes to one hit after the four-run first inning.
Matt Perez was 1 for 4 with three RBI. Ryan Guedry drove home the go-ahead run on a groundout in the third.
West Texas A&M (37-21) was eliminated.
Texas A&M-Kingsville 8, Tarleton State 6: Taska hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the fourth to lead the Javelinas to victory and a rematch with Lone Star Conference rival West Texas A&M.
Taska was 3 for 5 with four RBI in the game.
The Javelinas took an early 5-0 lead, but Tarleton State came back with a five-run third inning to tie the game.
Tarleton State (30-24) was eliminated.
Notes: Colorado Mesa seniors Tyler Dunnington, Dustin Robirtis and Andrew Malone went through the graduation ceremony Saturday morning prior to the game. They graduated this semester with Kyle Davis, Austin Kaiser, Jordan Liester, Garrett Carpenter, Joey Danner, Cody Lahman, Roman Chavez, Joey Capistran and Kennedy Kinkade.
Mavs’ sophomore Tony Audino made his first appearance since tweaking his hamstring in the regular-season series finale against Colorado School of Mines. The third baseman came in as a defensive replacement in the eighth.