The Pit crew

Student cheering section gives Mesa a boost at Suplizio

Members of The Pit make some noise during a recent Colorado Mesa game at Suplizio Field. Thanks to the support of their fans, the Mavs have gone undefeated at home — a good sign with Mesa hosting the South Central Regional tournament this weekend.



QUICKREAD

NCAA South Central Regional

1) Colorado Mesa

Qualified: Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference automatic bid.

Record: 40-10.

National Ranking: 5 (Coaches Poll); 5 (Writers Poll).

Coach: Chris Hanks, 15th season, 640-291.

Regional history: CMU is making its 14th appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Mavs won the 2009 region title to advance to their first World Series.

Leading hitters: Austin Kaiser (.511, 11 HR, 56 RBI, 27 SB), Nate Robertson (.370, 6 HR, 41 RBI, 24 SB), Jordan Liester (.439, 7 HR, 41 RBI).

Leading pitchers: Matt Delay (8-0, 2.54 ERA), Joey Danner (6-2, 3.22 ERA), Kyle Davis (7-0, 3.48 ERA).

About the Mavericks: Colorado Mesa leads the nation in hitting with a .358 average and is second in slugging percentage (.526). This is the seventh time in the past 11 years Mesa has won 40 games. The school record is 49 set in 2007. Mesa has three players who rank in the top 150 in the nation as toughest to strike out. The Mavericks are 30-4 this season when they score six runs or more in a game.

2) West Texas A&M

Qualified: Lone Star Conference at-large bid.

Record: 35-19.

National Ranking: receiving votes in both polls.

Coach: Matt Vanderberg, fifth season, 137-100.

Regional history: This is the Buffaloes’ first appearance in the Division II tournament.

Leading hitters: Tyler McKnight (.391, 1 HR, 26 RBI), Beto Rodriguez (.316, 6 HR, 37 RBI), Nick Chapman (.376, 4 HR, 35 RBI).

Leading pitchers: Dylan James (8-3, 2.40 ERA), Scott Cone (7-2, 4.07), Joshua Weyker (8-5, 4.48 ERA).

About the Buffaloes: West Texas A&M set a single-season school record for wins this season. The Buffaloes won 12 of their first 14 games, but they have lost nine of their past 14 games. West Texas lost two of three games to CSU-Pueblo in Pueblo to open the season in February. Senior outfielder Tyler McKnight’s brother, Ian, played for Mesa. James is their ace. He has 114 strikeouts in 90 innings.

3) Texas A&M-Kingsville

Qualified: Lone Star at-large bid.

Record: 34-18.

National Ranking: receiving votes (coaches); 16 (writers).

Coach: Jason Gonzales, sixth season, 179-138.

Regional history: Kingsville is making its fifth regional appearance.

Leading hitters: Taylor Taska (.342, 7 HR, 37 RBI), Derrick Walls (.370, 22 RBI, 24 SB), Ryan Guedry (.333, 0 HR, 28 RBI).

Leading pitchers: Denver Diefenbach (9-4, 3.32 ERA), Dallas Ponder (7-2, 3.46 ERA), Matt Rhodes (6-3, 4.28 ERA).

About the Javelinas: Texas A&M-Kingsville hosted the South Central Region last year. The Javelinas won 10 of their final 13 games to win the Lone Star Conference regular-season title, but they finished 0-2 in the conference tournament. They were 8-9 against the rest of the teams in the regional tournament this season. Guedry played on the Navarro (Texas) College team that won the 2011 JUCO World Series.

4) St. Edward’s

Qualified: Heartland Conference automatic bid.

Record: 39-14.

National Ranking: 14 (coaches); 22 (writers).

Coach: Rob Penders, eighth season, 299-147.

Regional history: St. Edward’s has made three appearances in the NCAA tournament and won one region title (2013).

Leading hitters: Wes Koenig (.417, 8 HR, 58 RBI), Ransom LaLonde (.321, 3 HR, 28 RBI), Dylan Watts (.303, 3 HR, 41 RBI).

Leading pitchers: Brannon Easterling (11-4, 0.98 ERA), Collin Sherrod (10-1, 1.81 ERA), Dalton Brown (7-1, 1.94 ERA).

About the Hilltoppers: St. Edward’s won the South Central Region title last year to advance to the World Series. The Hilltoppers have one of the best pitching staffs in the country with the best team ERA in Division II (2.26). Easterling pitched for Temple (Texas) College in the 2010 World Series. Pitcher Kyle Seithel was on the Crowder (Mo.) College team in the 2010 JUCO World Series. He pitched against Mesa in the regional tournament last year and got a no-decision.

5) Tarleton State

Qualified: Lone Star automatic bid.

Record: 29-22.

National Ranking: not ranked.

Coach: Bryan Conger, sixth season, 182-129.

Regional history: The Texans are making their third appearance in a regional and second since 2011.

Leading hitters: Jared Musgrove (.387, 0 HR, 18 RBI), Rustin Thomas (.343, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 16 SB), Alvaro Moreno (.351, 3 HR, 37 RBI).

Leading pitchers: Garrett Kelly (4-1, 2.04 ERA, 5 saves), Colton Burleson (4-5, 3.10 ERA), Robert Baker (7-6, 3.54 ERA).

About the Texans: Tarleton State has won eight of its past 10 games. The Texans went 3-0 in the Lone Star Conference tournament, defeating West Texas A&M 4-3 for the championship and the NCAA automatic berth. Kelly was the Lone Star Conference tournament MVP with two saves in the tourney. Tarleton State is 26-0 when leading after six innings.

6) N.M. Highlands

Qualified: Rocky Mountain Athletic at-large bid.

Record: 32-20.

National Ranking: not ranked.

Coach: Steve Jones, 17th season, 550-393.

Regional history: This is the sixth appearance in the NCAA tournament in the program’s history.

Leading hitters: Matthew Chavez (.458, 3 HR, 29 RBI), Andrew Ratterman (.375, 2 HR, 34 RBI), Morgan McCasland (.298, 12 HR, 37 RBI).

Leading pitchers: Greg Hansen (7-5, 5.05 ERA), Blake Harrison (7-2, 5.32 ERA), Cody Brown (5-1, 4.75 ERA).

About the Cowboys: Highlands is making its fourth trip to regionals in the past six years, but its first in the South Central Region. The Cowboys split a four-game series with Mesa earlier this season in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Highlands was swept by West Texas A&M in a three-game series early this season in Canyon, Texas. The Cowboys left 41 runners on base and made eight errors in three RMAC tournament games last weekend.



A group of Hawaiian Colorado Mesa students showed up for the first home baseball game of the season with a drum, cheering and heckling, and they’ve been there for every home game since.

The students, who call themselves “The Pit,” have inspired the fifth-ranked Mavericks (40-10) to an undefeated home season. Colorado Mesa has won all 27 of its games at Suplizio Field this season.

Their support has helped the Mavericks earn the right to host the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament, which begins today and goes through Sunday. The region champion advances to the World Series on May 24-31 in Cary, N.C.

The Colorado Mesa players credit The Pit for their success.

“They are a huge reason for our success,” senior Austin Kaiser said. “They keep a consistent energy, and they are loud the entire game. They are funny. At least for me, I enjoy getting ready to hit listening to them. They keep all of us more loose.”

Junior pitcher Nevin Wilson, who transferred to Mesa from Division I Vanderbilt, said they are the best student section in all of college baseball.

“You’ve got to give it to The Pit,” Wilson said. “That’s the best student section I’ve seen in Division I or any level when it comes to students caring about how we play and having fun.

“There’s nothing better than The Pit. We really appreciate them and the energy they give us.”

The Pit showed up for the first game of the season with a drum. It distracted Mesa’s opponent, Dixie State, so much they asked to have it removed.

“Dixie tried having the drum removed, and they were successful one day until the Pit found out it wasn’t against the rules, so they brought it back the next day,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “Unfortunately, I think the drum is illegal in NCAA (tournament) play. They’re still going to be there and will bang on the bleachers or something.”

The Pit has its own Twitter handle and Facebook page.

They don’t just show up. They know the players on each team and their statistics.

They have simple chants such as “K, K, K, K” when an opposing batter strikes out. When an opposing batter watches a called strike, one of the guys yells, “May I help you?” The rest chime in, “No, just looking.”

“The K chant is something that popped up,” Pit ringleader Josh Adams said. “Baseball is an individual sport within a team sport. We have a drum and thought we might as well bring it.”

The K chant is a popular one, especially with the Mesa pitchers.

“It’s got to be the K chant, whenever someone strikes out,” Wilson said of his favorite Pit antic. “I’ve been guilty of pitching with two strikes and trying to gear up so I can hear the K chant myself. That’s the No. 1 hit, hands down, for me. They know baseball. They’re smart fans.”

Another line they use, “I’ve seen better arms on a chair.”

“A lot of it is cheesy lines we’ve heard in Little League or found on the Internet,” Adams said.

Adams graduates Saturday, but he said they have started recruiting the freshmen to keep the tradition going next year.

Colorado Mesa pitcher Trent Allianic lives with one of the guys in The Pit, but he wasn’t aware of their plans until they showed up at the ballpark with the drum.

“It was a distraction at first, but I got used to it,” Allianic said. “They bring a different atmosphere. We don’t want to lose at home. With them there, we don’t want to lose in front of them, either.”

The CMU athletic administration invited The Pit to softball games this spring, and they joined the baseball team for the selection show Sunday night, sharing in the elation when the Mavericks learned they would host the regional.

“They’re good kids,” Hanks said. “We had to get on them a little bit so they don’t get too rank. We don’t want that, but we don’t want to damper the enthusiasm. Baseball needs atmosphere.

“They add spirit to the game. We’re very appreciative of what they’ve done. They’ve been our 10th man.”


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