March 15, 2012

Baseball continues turnaround with comeback victory

By SCOTT WARD
UNCBears.com

PARK CITY, Utah -- Freshman Jess Amedee pitched five scoreless innings out of the bullpen Thursday, his teammates scored two runs in the seventh, and both earned victories with a 3-2 win against Southern Utah at Thunderbird Park.

Joe Willman started for the Bears, who won for the third time in four games and improved to 4-7 this season, and he allowed just two unearned runs in his four innings and left trailing 2-1.

Amedee (1-1) then entered in the fifth, and that was it for the Thunderbirds' scoring.

The teams will meet up again at 3 p.m. tomorrow for the second of the second game of this three game series.

Northern Colorado coach Carl Iwasaki has recently spoken of Amedee as a player with unlimited ceiling in his program, and Amedee has provided evidence of those claims through the early part of this season with two saves already and four straight scoreless appearances.

He was at his most dominant Thursday, allowing just two hits in those five innings and striking out a career-high eight. He did walk four but allowed just three of the 21 batters he faced to reach second.

That performance, paired with an 11-hit attack from the Bears, helped Northern Colorado continue to climb out of an early-season slumber that saw it lose its first five.

Don't look now, but the Bears have won four of six.

"These are the wins—these one-run wins—where it shows we're pitching and playing strong defense, and that's where we want to be at this point in the season," Iwasaki said. "Our first 10 games we were a little off in both categories, but now we've got a chance for our next 10 and beyond to be much more like Northern Colorado Baseball should be. How it will be.

"That was the case today: we were great in the field and on the mound, and we had timely hitting enough to put across three runs."

Northern Colorado took a 1-0 lead in the second when Casey Coy ripped a 3-1 pitch to deep right field for a triple that scored Adrien Schenk from first. Schenk, the reigning Great West Conference Player of the Week, led the Bears with a 3-for-4 day.

A strike out from catcher Derek Baum and ground out to short from Dylan Banach ended the inning.

Southern Utah (2-13) then went ahead 2-1 in the fourth with a pair of unearned runs. The Thunderbirds' first batter, Mitchell Kauweloa, reached on an error and then tied the game on a RBI double to left from Justin Neuhart.

Willman coaxed a pop out to first from Taylor Shaw for the first out of the inning and then, after allowing a one-out single to right to Bryson Kenolio, he got Taggart Lunceford to fly out to left for what should have been the second out of the inning.

It wasn't , though, and Dave Ricker scored Southern Utah's final run of the game three pitches later.

That was the end of the day for Willman, who struck out two and walked none.

"Willman was good today," Iwasaki said. "He gave up six hits, but he did well minimizing things. He's the leader of this group and started us off in the series."

The Bears' seventh-inning comeback was ignited by a bunch of freshmen.

Banach, a first-year player from Westminster, started Northern Colorado's surge with a single to left, and Taylor Anderson, a freshman from Lincoln, Neb., and Greeley, followed with a sharp single to left.

Iwasaki then had freshman Jensen Park lay down a bunt, to move Banach and Anderson around the bases, and Ryan Yamane, a freshman, made the strategy pay off with an RBI sacrifice fly to left that scored Banach.

Then a senior took over as Adam Hilker got on base with an error by Neuhart, Southern Utah's third baseman, and Anderson came home for the winning run.

"Pretty good game overall—great team win," Iwasaki said. "We put up two runs early, and we kept the game in check in the middle innings, and [Amedee] came in and shut them down.

"Overall, today was a good day, but we've got to come back tomorrow and do it again."