Leaving the field Saturday might have been one of the toughest things the Colorado Mesa baseball had to do all season.
The Mavericks were one out away from advancing to the South Central Regional championship game, leading West Texas A&M 6-4 in the top of the ninth inning. However, CMU gave up three runs in the ninth inning and lost 7-6, ending the Mavs’ dream of returning to the Division II World Series.
It was the dream that prompted all of the seniors, whose college careers were in jeopardy after last season was canceled, to not think twice about returning when granted an extra year of eligibility. All season, Cary, N.C., was the end goal.
In the end, the Mavericks’ vaunted offense was quieted in arguably the toughest regional field in the nation.
The South Central boasted the No 2 (CMU), No. 3 (Angelo State) and No. 7 (West Texas A&M) teams in the Collegiate Baseball rankings. And CU-Colorado Springs, which upended the Mavericks last week in the RMAC championship game, was receiving votes.
CMU had picked up a crucial insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning when Chase Hamilton laced a single to left-center to score Caleb Farmer, who had reached on an error.
Coach Chris Hanks went to steady senior Trevin Reynolds to close it out after Anthony Durbano walked the leadoff batter in the top of the ninth.
Reynolds hit the first man he faced, but then fielded a bunt and got the lead runner at third. After a strikeout, Reynolds gave up three consecutive singles, and only moments after being up 6-4, the Mavericks were down 7-6.
Still, the Mavericks (42-7) had the heart of the batting order up in the bottom of the ninth, but Haydn McGeary, who hit a pair of home runs in the opening game of regionals, including a clinching grand slam, grounded out to short. Jordan Stubbings and Tyler Parker both struck out against the Buffs’ reliever Mathieu Gauthier, sending West Texas A&M (33-8) into the championship game against Angelo State.
Mesa struck for a pair of runs in the second inning and one more in the third, but West Texas A&M rallied for four runs in the fourth inning off freshman Kannon Handy.
Bramwell led off the bottom of the sixth with a rare triple for the junior catcher, a high fly ball that right fielder Jonah Gonzales appeared to lose in the sun. Bramwell ran hard out of the box and didn’t stop until he wheeled into third, and after Farmer walked, Harrison Rodgers doubled to the corner in right to tie the game.
Hamilton put down a safety squeeze to get the go-ahead run across and Hamilton drove in the insurance run in the eighth after Durbano got himself out of a huge jam in the top of the inning.
With one out, Durbano walked three consecutive batters, but struck out Kyle Moos on three pitches and fanned Justin Martinez on four pitches.
Bramwell led CMU with a 3-for-4 day and scored a pair of runs, and Rodgers went 2 for 3 with two RBI.
After the stunning end to the game — and the season — the Mavericks stood in front of their dugout, hugging one another before slowly heading to the exit.
The loss ended one of the most impressive seasons in the storied program. The Mavericks led the nation with a team batting average of .378, are first in the nation with 106 home runs and were on pace to break the national scoring record. They ended the season averaging 12.48 runs a game, just off Savannah State’s all-time record of 12.59.
McGeary is second in the nation in batting average, finishing at .481, and Andrew Morris came up shy of Sergio Romo’s single-season strikeout record at Mesa with 115 — Romo had 129.