Colorado Mesa’s baseball team has built its reputation with its big hitters.

The Mavericks can manufacture runs, too, but that can’t happen without runners on base.

In each of the first three innings Friday night, the Mavericks were retired in order, and again CMU had to play from behind in the Division II South Central Regional in San Angelo, Texas.

Unlike Thursday, however, the Mavs couldn’t come up with a clutch hit when they did get runners on, losing 5-2 to Angelo State. The loss dropped the No. 2-ranked and top-seeded Mavericks into an elimination game at 1 this afternoon against seventh-ranked West Texas A&M, which outlasted CU-Colorado Springs and two lightning delays, 7-6.

The winner of today’s game faces Angelo State at 5:30 tonight for the regional championship. The if-necessary game is Sunday afternoon, with the South Central champion advancing to the Division II World Series next week in Cary, N.C.

It’s a goal the Mavericks (42-6) have had since losing the national championship game in 2019, especially after last season was canceled.

Facing CMU was something Angelo has been anticipating since losing the 2019 Super Regional title on its home field to the Mavericks in a classic three-game series, with each game decided by only one run.

The Rams (41-7), ranked third in the nation, took a 2-0 lead against Ryan Day on a two-run home run by Josh Elvir, which cleared the center-field wall just over the glove of a leaping Tyler Parker.

The Rams squeezed home a run in the second and went up 5-0 in the fourth on back-to-back singles, a run-scoring wild pitch and a sacrifice fly.

In the top of the fifth, the Mavericks had a chance to get right back in the game.

Harrison Rodgers worked a leadoff walk and Caleb Farmer singled up the middle. Spencer Bramwell drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases, and the Rams immediately went to the bullpen, replacing starter Matt Szabo with Carson Childers, who struck out Chase Hamilton, Parker and Matt Turner on 10 pitches.

Haydn McGeary doubled to lead off the sixth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Conrad Villafuerte. In the ninth, Villafuerte doubled down the left-field line and Rodgers bounced a single over second base, sending Villafuerte to third. A wild pitch put Rodgers on second and Farmer lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, cutting the deficit to 5-2.

Pinch hitter Nolan Walker flied out to center and another pinch hitter, Tanner Rempel, had two strikes on him when the stadium lights suddenly went out. The lights are on a timer, and came back on after a couple of moments, but Rempel struck out on the next pitch.

After the first two innings, Day settled in, mixing his fastball with a looping curveball and finished with seven strikeouts. He allowed five runs on five hits in six innings, but took his first loss of the season to fall to 8-1.

Gage Edwards allowed only one hit and struck out four over the final two innings, but CMU couldn’t get enough runners on base early in innings to manufacture any runs.

With the wind constantly shifting directions, the Mavericks’ hitters kept getting under pitches, flying out instead of hitting line drives. No CMU hitter had more than one hit, and the Mavericks struck out a dozen times.