May 6, 2012

Steinmetz shuts out Cougars on Senior Sunday

Tony Crudo Post-game Audio | Kevin Hurd Post-game Audio | Nate Steinmetz Post-game Audio | Coach Iwasaki Post-game Audio

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

GREELEY – I'll see your complete game and up you a shutout.

That might have been the conversation between the two Northern Colorado (22-25, 12-8 Great West Conference) senior starting pitchers on staff as left-hander Nate Steinmetz threw a complete-game shutout with a 6-0 win over Chicago State (9-33, 6-14 Great West) on Sunday, just 24 hours after Joe Willman tossed a complete-game victory over the same team on Saturday afternoon.

The pair was two of the eight seniors honored prior to the game, joining Casey Coy, Tony Crudo, Adam Hilker, Kevin Hurd, Adrian Schenk and Cameron Tallman as those who were playing their final home game in conference play at Jackson Field. The team has one mid-week game remaining as they host the fourth game in the series against Air Force on May 15 at 3 pm.

Steinmetz struck out seven and allowed just five hits in the game. His previous career-long start was last week against North Dakota where he lasted 6.2 innings. Steinmetz went to a full count on just two batters in the contest and he has now walked just one batter in his last three outings (17 innings).

"Last week after the North Dakota game where Nate threw a gem, after we got home, I said good job today and he said it's about time," Iwasaki said. "I said it is time Nate. Now is the time because we're going into the postseason so this is great. This is what we need to see – Joe yesterday and Nate today and we're going to get (freshman Jess) Amedee and (sophomore Chris) Hammer picking themselves up and we've got a chance."

Offensively, sophomore Colby Harrison was 3-for-4 on the afternoon with two RBI, while freshman Jensen Park, junior Harrison Lambert, Hurd and Crudo all had two hit days.

"We had timely hitting today with Colby Harrison," said Iwasaki. "When we do that we give ourselves a chance."

Jonathan Carpen had three of Chicago State's five hits in the game.

With one out, Coy singled through the right side while Harrison followed with a double to left-center. Hilker singled to right-center to stretch his hitting streak to 12 games and plate Coy for the first run of the game.

Schenk, hitting in the leadoff spot for the first time all year, tripled over the centerfielder's head to start things in the bottom of the third. Coy grounded out to the third baseman, but recorded his first RBI for the 2-0 lead.

Hurd and Crudo had back-to-back singles to begin the fifth. Both moved up on a double steal by the Bears and scored on a flair to right field off the bat of Harrison for a 4-0 advantage.

With one out in the sixth, Park doubled down the left field line and scored on a single back up the middle by Lambert to extend the lead to 5-0.

Park made an ESPN-worthy catch in left field in the top of the eighth, making a diving catch in left field to save a hit and help Steinmetz again retire the side in order.

"The flying Hawai'in dive," Iwasaki said about the catch. "If Park doesn't make it as a baseball player, he should be a NASCAR driver. That kid takes risks -- he lays out -- he doesn't care. He'll put his life on the line, that's how he plays and he's very aggressive."

Lambert and Hurd hit back-to-back singles through the right side and Hurd made a heads-up base-running play advancing to second when CSU threw the ball into third. Ferguson came in to pinch run and Crudo followed the previous two with a single in the same spot for one run.

"Hurd, he's a team player," said Iwasaki. "He's done nothing but work hard and he deserved the opportunity today and congratulations to him. I'm proud of him."

The Bears head to Texas-Pan American for a four-game series beginning on Friday before returning home to host the Falcons on Tuesday in the final home game of the year. The team then travels to Utah Valley for the final regular season series and the Great West Conference Tournament, which begins on May 23.