Shifting into drive
Contreras counteracts infield shift to lead Mavs past Regis at RMAC tournament
Andrew Contreras has seen infield shifts before.
“In the fall World Series this year in intersquads, Coach (Steve) Woytek’s team put the same shift on me, so I’m used to it,” the Colorado Mesa left-handed pull hitter said Wednesday night after the Mavericks defeated Regis 8-3 in the first round of the RMAC tournament at Suplizio Field. “When they have a shift on I don’t really change my approach. I take it as a normal approach. If it gets through, it gets through.”
It got through.
In the second inning, the only shift that mattered was if the owner of the pickup truck his deep, towering home run to right hit had shifted parking spots. In the fourth, his bid for a base hit was fielded by second baseman Max Fabricant, who was playing shallow right field, and Contreras was thrown out despite diving toward first.
But in the sixth, with the Mavericks down 3-2, Contreras laced a single into the right-field corner, scoring Kyle Serrano with the tying run and taking second on the throw. Bligh Madris was held at third, but he and Contreras both scored when Zach McLeod hit the ball to the wall in center for a triple.
Regis center fielder Josh Newell slammed into the wall and hit the warning track as McLeod steamed into third and the ball was thrown in. After several moments, Newell got up and convinced coaches and trainers he was OK, and stayed in the game, but came out in the seventh.
McLeod might have wanted to give the crowd what it wanted and tried to score, but was held at third by Woytek.
“That’s his call, not mine,” said McLeod, who went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs. “I ended up scoring, so it was all good.”
McLeod came home on Lane LaCrone’s infield single, giving the Mavs a 6-3 lead.
The three-run lead was plenty for sophomore Kyle Leahy, who gave up his first home run of the season when Andrew Bryniarski launched one deep into the left-field bleachers in the second. Contreras’ home run tied it in the bottom of the inning, but Regis regained the lead on Ryan Tierney’s home run to left.
“The first home run wasn’t a very good pitch, I missed a spot there,” Leahy said. “The second one just found a barrel on accident. That’ll happen, but we got a win.”
Once the Mavericks got him the lead, Leahy (11-0) said he wasn’t about to give it up.
“I was obviously not happy about giving it up in the first place, and once we had it I wasn’t going to let everyone down and give it up again,” he said. “That was my mindset. I’m going to win this game for us, and we needed a win.”
The three earned runs against him moved Leahy’s ERA from 1.01 to 1.37, but over the final four innings, he was outstanding.
“He got better, didn’t he?” CMU coach Chris Hanks said.
Yeah — seven of his 11 strikeouts came in the final four innings, and he retired the final 11 batters of the game.
“He’s a trooper for sure,” McLeod said. “He’s a good pitcher, everyone sees it. You don’t really need to talk about it.”
The Mavericks (41-10), who play CSU-Pueblo at 3:30 this afternoon, added two more runs in the seventh. JJ Carr tripled into the right-field corner and scored on a single to right by Serrano. After Madris walked, Serrano moved to third on a wild pitch, but Madris was thrown out at second. Pinch hitter Tanner Nieslanik laced a single to center to get Serrano home.
“We just couldn’t get a bunch of hits consistently,” McLeod said. “We’d have one or two here and guys on second and third and can’t move them over, get a groundout or strikeout. At the end we figured it out a little bit. We need a little more energy to start (today’s) game.”
All-RMAC: Colorado Mesa dominated play on the field, and also dominated the selections on the all-conference team. Leahy, who went 10-0 with a 1.01 ERA during the regular season, was selected the pitcher of the year. Madris, who two years ago was the conference freshman of the year, was voted the player of the year after leading the conference in batting average (.449), home runs (14) and RBI (57). Hanks received coach-of-the-year honors after leading CMU to its sixth straight conference title.
Leahy and Madris were joined by five other CMU players on the first team, Serrano, senior outfielder PJ Gonzalez, Carr, senior pitcher Tyler Day and sophomore pitcher JR McDermott.
Madris and Gonzalez won conference Gold Glove awards for their play in the outfield, which go to the position player with the best fielding percentage. Gonzalez made two errors in 80 outfield chances, Madris three in 148 chances, with two of his errors coming when he was playing first base.