Whatever it takes
Mavs hope run of RMAC series wins continues vs. Highlands
One thing’s for sure, the Colorado Mesa University baseball team has proven to be resilient this season.
The Mavericks have come from behind more one than once this season and found a way to win.
As a result, Mesa (19-7, 13-3 RMAC) has won all four of its conference series this season and five overall.
“These guys have some character, they have some moxie, they have some battle in them, they don’t quit,” CMU coach Chris Hanks said. “We’ve battled from behind a lot this year. I’m not worried about that.
“I’d like to, when we get leads, extend them. I do think it’s a good characteristic. They always seem to think they’re in it. The times we’ve fought back and haven’t won, we’ve been in position to win, so I’m proud of them for that.”
Mesa has scored at least one run in its final at-bat 12 times this season, including twice last weekend to lift the Mavericks to victories over Regis.
“We have these signs in the dugout that are goals for the game,” CMU senior pitcher and co-captain Tim Moore said. “One of the signs is score in the last inning. The more signs we get down the more chance we have of winning.”
Each time the Mavericks reach a goal, the sign comes off the dugout wall.
“We picked it up last year against (UC-San Diego). I know Hanks has a lot of respect for that program,” Moore said.
Mesa will put its four consecutive series wins on the line against a New Mexico Highlands team that lost its first series of the season last weekend at Colorado State-Pueblo. The series begins at 3 p.m. today in Las Vegas, N.M. The teams play a doubleheader at noon Saturday and conclude the series with one game at noon Sunday.
The Mavericks are ranked 23rd in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper coaches poll, the first time this season the Mavericks have been ranked since conference play began. Highlands dropped out of the national rankings.
“I know Highlands has been a little beat up,” Hanks said. “They’ve been fighting an injury bug. They ran into a little bit of a buzz saw (in Pueblo). Highlands is a good club. We need to be on our game down there.
“They’re feeling a little wounded and looking for something positive. I know Coach (Steve) Jones is upset with his team. I know he felt they didn’t compete with Pueblo. I’m sure he’ll get that corrected because he’s a good coach.
“We need to display those traits we’ve shown all year because we’re on their turf and they’ll be tough.”
The Cowboys (18-7, 11-5 RMAC) are home for their second series of the season. Highlands swept Colorado Christian in a four-game series two weeks ago and are 5-0 at home. Highlands is fourth in scoring (9.2 runs per game), 10th in batting average (.335) and 16th in stolen bases per game (2.48).
Mesa will need to pitch well against the Cowboys, notorious for being one of the best hitting teams in the nation.
“That’s been really the case all year, we need this pitching staff to be the strength of the club and it has been,” Hanks said. “We’ve been swinging the bats better, but this is a challenge for our pitchers. They got to do it against a good team on the road, that’s a little wounded now.
“On the offensive end, I think it’s our hitters’ responsibility to get something positive going as early as we can. They’re feeling a little pressure and we need to keep that pressure on them.”
Hanks said the same four he’s started each series will likely start against Highlands.
Nolan Snell (5-1), the RMAC preseason pitcher of the year, will start the series opener. Seniors Jared Christensen (6-1) and Dylan Evans (2-0) will start Saturday and junior Garrett Carpenter (1-3) will likely start Sunday’s finale.
Moore (2-1) will be there in case any of them struggle.
“I’ll do whatever we need to do to win,” he said. “If that means play shortstop and hit, I’ll do it.
“I’m kind of that middle inning guy, if a starter goes down, I’ll pitch in long relief. I like that. You don’t have the pressure of starting, but you know Coach likes you and depends on you in situations.”