May 8, 2011

Baseball provides much drama for the mamas

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GREELEY, Colo. – Drama. Defined as a situation or sequence of events that is highly emotional, tragic or turbulent by Collins English Dictionary. The series finale between the Northern Colorado and North Dakota baseball teams definitely provided a lot of drama for the 176 fans in attendance on Mother's Day.

The Bears (20-27, 16-4 Great West) won in the most thrilling of come-from-behind fashions, 14-13 on a walk-off home run by junior Ben Packard. The Fighting Sioux (6-28, 4-12 GWC) led for the majority of the game, leading by as many as seven, 9-2, midway through the seventh. The Bears scored 12 runs in the final three innings to win their 12th straight in conference play and their eighth consecutive on the season.

Packard's round-tripper was the first walk-off for the Bears since Andy Mees hit a game-winner against Utah Valley on May 1, 2009.

Northern Colorado scored its 14 runs on 13 hits with four North Dakota errors, while UND scored 13 times on 18 hits with two Bear miscues. Bears hitters were also hit by pitch seven times.

Packard led the team with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, with four RBI and two runs scored. Senior T.J. Berge also had a three-hit day, going 3-for-6. Junior Tony Crudo went 2-for-3 with three RBI and his double in the sixth inning moved him into a tie for ninth all-time with 36 (Shane Roberts, 2003-04; Jason Dirschel, 1991-93) in his career.

Junior Jarod Berggren had just one hit on the afternoon, going 1-for-3, but he scored four times, including in the bottom of the ninth after singling ahead of Packard. Senior Bret Fanning also had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-5.

Senior Chris Carlberg got his seventh start of the year, but lasted just 2.2 innings, allowing six earned runs (seven total) on seven hits with one walk in a no decision. Senior Brendan Hall pitched in his 23rd game of the year, tying for third on the single-season charts. He didn't allow a hit in 1.1 innings, striking out three. Casey Coy, Cameron Tallman, Kevin Willman and Nate Steinmetz also got work on the hill, with Steinmetz winning his first game of the year to move to 1-1.

North Dakota starting pitcher Cory Baker threw a great game in a no decision. He allowed seven runs (six earned) on eight hits, walking four and striking out seven in 140 pitches. Three of the four walks came in the seventh, as did three of the runs and he kept the Bears off the scoreboard for five consecutive innings after giving up two runs in the first.

In the first inning, Packard hit the ball as far as you can without leaving the park, doubling to straight-away center to score junior Adam Hilker and Berggren, who reached via hit by pitch and catcher's interference, respectively.

North Dakota tied the score in the top of the second with two runs on two hits with a sacrifice fly, and took the lead in the third with five runs on five hits, knocking Carlberg out of the game. Hall came in and got a strike out to end the inning with the score 7-2.

The Sioux added one more to their tally in the sixth inning for the 8-2 lead. Craig Dolmage hit a first-pitch home run with two outs in the seventh to increase the Sioux lead to seven in the seventh.

Berge singled to start the seventh, but was erased on a fielder's choice by Berggren. Packard and freshman Matt Jones both walked, senior Marcus Valenzuela was hit by a pitch, Crudo walked and a wild pitch gave the Bears three runs for the 9-5 score.

Ryan Gerber singled but was thrown out attempting to steal second in the top of the eighth. The Sioux followed with three more two-out singles, but Berggren made a great diving catch in left field to keep UND off the scoreboard.

Fanning singled to start the eighth, Berge doubled off the right field wall and Berggren was hit by a pitch to load the bases. With one out, freshman Colby Harrison singled to right center to score two runs and Jones reached on an error by the third baseman to plate Berggren. Valenzuela was again plunked by a pitch, Crudo singled to score two to give the Bears their first lead of the day. Hilker hit a sacrifice fly to right field and Fanning singled for the second time in the inning for the 12-9 lead.

North Dakota regained the lead in the top of the ninth, scoring four runs on four hits for a 13-12 tally.

Berggren had his first hit of the day on a line shot to center to start the bottom of the ninth and Packard blasted his fourth home run of the year to give the Bears the series sweep.

The Bears travel to Chicago State for a four-game series beginning on Friday at 3:00 pm (Central).