Tempers flare, Mesa comes through in clutch
A brawl at the plate started everything.
At least it did for the Mesa State College baseball team, which went on to sweep CSU-Pueblo 5-3 and 10-9 in an RMAC doubleheader Saturday at Suplizio Field. Both wins came in Mesa’s last at-bat. One by a home run and the other with a squeeze bunt.
The third-ranked Mavericks (27-5, 17-2 RMAC) found themselves trailing CSU-Pueblo in a pitcher’s duel in the first game of a doubleheader when a play at the plate changed the complexion of the game.
CSU-Pueblo (23-11, 12-7) was looking to extend its 2-1 lead in the third when Mark Sayas attempted to score from third base on a ground ball.
Mesa first baseman Marty Rover alertly fielded the ball and threw home, catcher Grant Vickers secured the ball and was greeted by Sayas coming in hard. The two players collided to the ground, where a struggle ensued. All of a sudden, the dugouts emptied and a melee broke out.
“They made it personal with that fight,” Mesa State senior Craig Lanzarotta said. “That definitely got the tone set.”
“We were a little dead at the point,” Kevin Becker said. “That sparked us.”
After the coaches and umpires worked to break up the fight, the umpires ejected Sayas,
Vickers, three other CSU-Pueblo players and one other Mesa player for their involvement.
Two CSU-Pueblo players and one Mesa player who left the dugout could face a four-game suspension, pending RMAC verification, which included Saturday’s second game. Vickers and Sayas, who were suspended for the second game, will be allowed to play in the series finale at noon today at Suplizio Field.
“That play at the plate, Grant and the Sayas kid got tangled up,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said. “It got rough, the benches cleared and people got ejected. We don’t want that. I don’t think (Pueblo) wants that. Pueblo is a great team. It’s unfortunate that situation happened.”
With the Mavericks trailing 3-2 and two runners on with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Becker put an end to it with a walk-off home run on the first pitch he saw.
“When I was going up to bat, Coach said I had one swing to do something then he’d put on the safety squeeze,” Becker recalled. “I didn’t think I had it in me to do that (hit a home run). I was looking for a fastball; that guy was just throwing fastballs in warm-up.”
Becker got a fastball and hit it to the opposite field for the 5-3 victory.
The junior second baseman came through again in the second game, singling home Chris Cassell in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings. That hit gave him the cycle. It was also his fifth RBI of the game and eighth of the day.
“I didn’t think much of (hitting for the cycle),” Becker said. “I was sitting on another fastball.
He threw a cutter or a slider and I turned on it and it found a hole.
“I want to be in those situations to come up big. When you do, it feels that much better.”
CSU-Pueblo scored another run in the top of the eighth, but Mesa rallied again.
Lanzarotta tripled home Matt Bodenchuk to tie the game and scored on Cassell’s squeeze bunt to end the game.