February 25, 2012

Baseball takes lumps in Saturday sweep at Jackson

Carl Iwasaki postgame audio

By JORDAN FREEMYER
Special to UNCBears.com

GREELEY -- Suspect pitching and defense in both games Saturday doomed the Northern Colorado baseball team in a doubleheader sweep to North Dakota State at Jackson Field.

The Bison whacked out 12 hits in the first game and won 11-2 and then had 22 hits in the second game in an 18-4 win.

"We have to execute defensively," Northern Colorado coach Carl Iwasaki said, "and we had breakdowns today, obviously, with two errors [in game two] and cost ourselves extra runs there."

In addition to those errors, Northern Colorado (0-3) committed three errors in the opener, which led to five unearned runs for North Dakota State (4-2).

A bright spot for the Bears on Saturday was the play of senior shortstop Adam Hilker, who went 3-for-5 at the plate with a double, a run scored and a run batted in. However, Hilker struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning of game two—an at-bat that seemed a microcosm of the Bears' inability to get key hits throughout both games.

"Obviously, it's frustrating when we're not able to successfully put together a big inning," Iwasaki said. "Those will come. Our guys are hitting the ball hard."

Junior center fielder Dylan Banach also had three hits in Saturday's games, including a double and a triple.

North Dakota State starting pitcher Luke Anderson stymied the Bears offense in the opener, going the distance in the seven-inning affair and allowing just two runs while scattering nine hits and not walking anyone. Anderson needed just 76 pitches to shut down the Bears offense.

Northern Colorado's starter in game one, senior lefty Nate Steinmetz, did not fare as well.

The Bison were able to chase Steinmetz from the game in the second inning, with the big blow delivered by left fielder Nick Anderson, who hit a two-out grand slam to give his team a 10-0 lead.

The Bears finally got on the board in the fifth inning of game one, when junior first basemen Brooks Schneider led off with a triple into the right-center field gap and was driven home on a single by junior catcher Harrison Lambert.

Freshman second baseman Ryan Yamane (yuh-MAH-nay) then drove in Hilker in the sixth, plating the Bears' second run of the game.

"One thing we stress is that we won't quit," Iwasaki said. "One thing that I've got to look for as a positive is our guys are going to try and score every inning."

The second half of Saturday's twin bill was scheduled for nine innings but it only went seven because of 10-run mercy rule.

North Dakota State, out of the Summit League, scored in every inning in game two Saturday, taking advantage of their 22 hits and seven walks.

The Bears somewhat clawed their way back into the second game and trailed 13-4 after the fifth, but the Bison put one on the board in the sixth and five in the seventh to end the Northern Colorado threat.

Iwasaki said his team is focused on wrapping up its season-opening series with a win over NDSU at noon tomorrow at Jackson Field.

"We have an opportunity tomorrow to take one from a visiting team at our home, and we've got to step up and get that done," Iwasaki said.