March 31, 2013

Baseball avoids sweep with walk off win on Easter Sunday

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

GREELEY – There's usually fireworks at the ballpark on Independence Day, but at Jackson Field on Easter Sunday, the Northern Colorado Baseball team had some on the field in the form of a ninth-inning comeback to avoid the series sweep against South Dakota State.

The Jackrabbits (12-9) scored two runs in the top of the ninth to knot the score at 12-12 and put in their closer, J.D. Moore, who hadn't allowed a run all season in 10 1/3 innings and had surrendered just four hits. Those statistics didn't deter the Bears (8-13) hitters as they got two hits and a walk for their second walk-off win of the season.

Sophomore Bryan Tibbitts (Westminster, Colo.) is no stranger to pinch-hitting for the Bears and he often comes through in the clutch. On Sunday, Tibbitts came to the plate with runners on first and second with one out and he singled down the right field line to score the winning run in Ryan Yamane (Honolulu, Hawai'i).

In his career, Tibbitts is now 6-for-15 (.400) as a pinch hitter with nine RBI and two walk-off wins, as he also hit the game winner against Houston Baptist on April 22, 2012.

The Bears continue the homestand, hosting Air Force on Wednesday at 3 pm. The team then turns its attention to Great West Conference play with a trip to Chicago to face Chicago State for a four-game series.

Senior Kevin Willman (Aurora, Colo.), who took a disappointing loss on Saturday, came back for the win on Sunday. With the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, Willman entered the contest with the 12-11 lead. He walked the first batter he faced to knot the score, but got Sam Pack to fly out to right field and give his offense a chance to win.

Senior Jake Johnson (Aurora) started the game on the hill, going five innings, allowing just three earned runs (seven total) on 11 hits. He walked just one and struck out three in a solid effort for a no decision.

Both senior Dylan Banach (Westminster) and Yamane had three hits, going 3-for-5 on the day. Banach scored four times – each time he was on base – while junior Nick Miller (Loveland) scored three times for the Bears.

Senior catcher Derek Baum (San Diego, Calif.) did yeoman's work behind the plate for the Bears, blocking several pitches in the dirt and he also threw out a Jack attempting to steal second base. At the plate, Baum had two hits as well as two RBI, his first two of the year.

South Dakota State jumped out to the early lead, scoring two runs on three hits with one Bear error in the first inning.

Banach continued to see the ball extremely wall, doubling down the left field to start the game offensively for the Bears. He moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a groundout by Yamane. Sophomore Jensen Park (Kaneohe, Hawai'i) followed with a single through the right side and got to third on a single to left center by Miller. The Bears scored on a single past the diving short stop by Baum and took the lead when senior Brooks Schneider (Longmont, Colo.) singled to centerfield.

The Jackrabbits scored one in the top of the second to even the score at 3-3.

With one out, Banach hit a line drive right back up the middle that ricocheted off the pitcher's heel for his second hit of the afternoon. Yamane singled to right center and Park singled down the right field line to plate Banach and give the lead back to the Bears, 4-3.

SDSU scored two runs in the top of the fourth to regain the advantage, 5-4.

Banach got on base for the third consecutive time, getting hit in the middle of his back and he came around to score on a double to right center by Yamane. The Yamane hit knocked starter Adam Bray out of the game. Reliever Aaron Klatt threw a wild pitch on his first of the game, allowing Yamane to get to third. Miller singled to right to plate the go-ahead run.

The Jacks scored two runs each in the fifth and sixth to open a 9-6 lead.

With two outs in the sixth, Miller drew a walk and senior Ben Packard (Niwot, Colo.) doubled to left to score Miller. Baum hit a Texas-leaguer to shallow right center, scoring Packard for the 9-8 score.

On the first pitch he saw in the game, junior Ben Netzel (Loveland) singled to left and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Joe Love (Danville, Calif.). Banach singled to the third baseman and advanced 90 feet on a sacrifice by Yamane. The Jacks elected to intentionally walk Park and a wild pitch scored Netzel to knot the score. An error by the centerfielder on a long fly ball by Miller scored two more to give the lead back to the Bears, 11-9. Tallon Jumper came on in relief for SDSU and his first pitch was also wild, moving Miller to third and he scored on a triple by Packard to left center for four runs in the frame and the 12-9 scoreboard read.

South Dakota State got one run back in the eighth and added two in the ninth for the 12-12 tie.

Yamane singled to left on the first pitch of the ninth frame and was sacrificed to second by Park. SDSU intentionally walked Miller, setting up Tibbitts' fireworks.