CARY, N.C. — One run was enough to get Colorado Mesa to the title game at the Division II baseball championship. It wasn't enough to put the Mavericks over the hump in their chase for the first national team title in school history Saturday.
Chase Hamilton's RBI single in the sixth broke a scoreless tie and gave coach Chris Hanks' top-seeded team brief hope of extending the double-elimination tournament to a winner-take-all game.
But Tampa rallied to tie in the bottom of the inning, then went ahead with two runs in the seventh to end CMU's dream season with a 3-1 victory at the USA Baseball Training Center.
"We couldn't really get the base hit when we needed it to score those runs,' said Hamilton, whose perfectly placed hit down the right-field line with two out in the sixth gave his team only its second run in the final 18 innings of the tournament.
The Mavericks (53-16) advanced to Saturday's final by beating Central Missouri 1-0 on Thursday behind a complete-game shutout from closer Will Dixon.
"In that one-run game, we were just putting the ball in play and seeing what happened. And it worked out for us," Hamilton said. "We were trying to do that again today. I think if we would have gotten another base hit, it would have worked out in our favor."
Instead, it was the second-seeded Spartans who got the big hits.
The first came in the bottom of the sixth after CMU starter Trevin Reynolds — who had already breezed through the Tampa lineup twice — retired the first two hitters of the inning without incident.
There was still no sign of trouble after Danny Servin put a runner at first with a solid single. But after Reynolds nearly struck out cleanup hitter Cole Perry with a 2-2 pitch that just missed the outside corner, the Spartans' first baseman ripped a double just inside the left-field line to score the tying run.
"Whether it's close or not, you have to go with the umpire, pitch and move on," said Reynolds. "Once I got into that 3-2 count, I was giving it my all. He fought a couple off. I've just got to make a better pitch on the last one."
The junior right-hander gave up three runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts in seven innings. His teammates nearly got him the run back in the top of the seventh when Johnny Carr led off with a single, was bunted to second and was held at third on a single to left by Hunter Douglas.
Dominic DeMarco then sent a hard-hit ball up the middle. But instead of putting the Mavericks back ahead, it turned into an inning-ending double play thanks to the glove of Tampa second baseman Nick Derr.
"Honestly, we would like to have cashed in and gotten a run there, but I don't think there was a feeling of deflation for anybody," Douglas said. "We were in it to the end. We put ourselves in position to know we could re-take the lead."
Mesa never got another chance thanks to tournament MVP Jacinto Arredondo, who relieved starter Keven Pimentel and retired all six Mavericks he faced. The winning pitcher in the Spartans' two previous wins in Cary, Arredondo was put in a position to earn the save after Tampa scored twice to go ahead in the bottom of he seventh.
Again, there were two outs when the runs scored.
This time, the timely hit came off the bat of leadoff hitter Yorvis Torrealba, who as the recent 14th-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, will likely start his pro career later this summer in Grand Junction. Winning pitcher Pimentel is also a Colorado draftee and could also be assigned to the Rookie Advanced Rockies.
Before Torrealba stepped up to the plate, Hanks came out to the mound to talk with Reynolds. With Dixon warming up in the bullpen, Hanks toyed with the idea of bringing in his closer, even though he had thrown 103 pitches only two days earlier. Dixon and Spencer Bramwell made the all-tournament team.
"We had to win two ballgames today and Will told us at the beginning of the day that 'I've got two saves in me today,' " Hanks said. "He wanted to pitch. He wanted the ball."
Hanks decided to keep the ball in Reynolds' hands and Torrealba came through with the winning hit for the Spartans (45-14).
Although Saturday's loss ended Mesa's tournament run, Hanks pointed to a sloppy loss to Central Missouri in Thursday's first semifinal game that ultimately derailed the Mavericks' title hopes.
It was the second close call for CMU in Cary. In 2014, the Mavs lost in extra innings to Southern Indiana in the title game. In 2017, they made it to the semifinals in Grand Prairie, Texas, before a one-run loss to eventual champion West Chester.
Hanks said the disappointing results have only strengthened his resolve to keep coming back and eventually take home the championship trophy.
"That's all you can do," he said. "It comes back to some fine things. In 2014 we were the home team and we had the winning run on second base in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings and couldn't get a hit. Today we had opportunities to score more runs and we couldn't get the hit. It's a matter of timing that base hit. We're looking for that base hit.
"This is an interesting group. They're a real mature group. They're great kids and good baseball players. Our goal is to be here every year in this spot and maybe have a better outcome next time."