Mavs, 'Jackets combine for 26 runs in win for MesaSlug fest
A general rule for pitchers: Left-handers hit left-handed and right-handers hit from the right side, protecting their pitching arms from being hit by a pitch.
Garrett Carpenter is not your typical pitcher.
The Colorado Mesa junior left-handed pitcher hits right-handed, which puts his pitching arm out front. Sunday at Suplizio Field, Carpenter, the Mavericks’ starting left fielder/closing pitcher, was plunked in the left shoulder blade in the fifth inning.
“I know. My dad tried to get me to hit lefty, but it always seemed to feel better righty,” Carpenter said. “If they throw at me, I’m just going to wear it. It comes with the game.”
Despite building an 11-1 lead, the Mavericks needed Carpenter to come in from left in the eighth inning to hold off Montana State-Billings 14-12.
After blowing a 10-run lead, CMU coach Chris Hanks was steaming about his bullpen’s inability to pitch ahead and the Mavs’ lack of focus once they got the big lead.
“I think we lost focus,” he said. “It boils down to that. Those guys who came in to pitch for us are better than that. I bet if you go back and look, at least 80 percent we threw a first-pitch ball. We let their hitters have the count early on, and I don’t think it was even a borderline ball-strike call.”
Early on, it was a laugher. Mesa scored three runs in the first inning, with Nate Robertson driving home one run with a two-out base hit to left. Carpenter got two in when he lined a base hit off the leg of MSU-Billings starter Mack Unruh that caromed into left.
Justin Rosales hit a solo home run to left in the second and the Mavs added two in the third.
The Yellowjackets’ pitching was first to implode, with four men used in the Mavs’ five-run fifth inning. Robertson, who went 3 for 5 and drove in four runs, hit a two-run single to left-center.
Cody Lahman was breezing with a three-hitter through five innings, but tired in the fifth, allowing his only run.
“He was really good,” Hanks said. “He dropped off a little, started getting a little tired. It was his highest pitch count of the season (78) and that’s what concerned us.”
The next four CMU pitchers, though, gave up a combined 11 runs on 11 hits.
With one out in the eighth, Hanks had to go to Carpenter.
He struck out three of the eight batters he faced in 1 2/3 innings to pick up his second save of the season and keep his ERA at 0.00.
“We got to see some people. Later on, we would ride Cody another inning or two, but we need to see people and evaluate people and know what we have,” Hanks said. “We have a little more information now, but some of those bullpen guys needed to make some pitches.”
Carpenter came to Mesa as a pitcher/outfielder in 2009, but opted to concentrate on pitching as a freshman. After two games his sophomore season, he had elbow surgery and missed the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Last spring, he went 6-4 as a starter and asked Hanks about the possibility of hitting again this season. After Sunday’s 2-for-4 performance, he’s hitting .500 for the Mavericks (4-3), with five RBI, tied for most on the team.
“My dad influenced it; he always thought I was a better outfielder than a pitcher,” Carpenter said. “It’s fun putting in the work and practice is a lot more enjoyable now. Time flies.
“We have guys on base mostly all the time when I come up right now, so I’m getting good pitches to hit.”
After the Yellowjackets (2-7-1) cut Mesa’s lead to 13-12 by scoring seven runs in the eighth inning, Carpenter led off the bottom of the eighth with a triple to the right-field corner. He scored the insurance run on Moore-Leister’s double, then allowed a one-out double before retiring the next two batters in the ninth.
“The best way I can describe Garrett is he’s just a pure baseball player,” Hanks said. “He has a great feel for the game, great savvy and he’s an extreme competitor.”