April 3, 2013

Pitching flusters Falcons at Jackson Field


GREELEY -- The Northern Colorado baseball team defeated Air Force 12-4 at Jackson Field on Wednesday in its final tuneup before Great West Conference play.

Air Force jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but the Bears' (9-13) pitching staff shut down the Falcons (8-19) after the second inning, allowing just three hits the rest of the game. Northern Colorado used six pitchers, with none throwing more than two innings. 

The game was the first of four for Northern Colorado against its instate rival in a series spread out throughout the year. The teams will next meet April 16 at the Air Force Academy. The Bears will now head to Chicago for a four-game GWC series against Chicago State. The games will be played on the UIC campus, with the first game starting at 9 a.m. MT.

"Our bats are going, [but] our priority is defense right now," Northern Colorado coach Carl Iwasaki said. "Our gloves are in the lineup, and our bats are in the lineup, and you saw that today. We turned a corner, and we're playing with confidence. What we stressed in practice yesterday was when we put up a score we hold them to zero in their at-bat. We didn't do that against South Dakota State this weekend, but we did that today. When they put their three runs in the top half [of the second inning], we matched it and went from there, and I'll take that."

Northern Colorado scored 12 runs on 12 hits. Senior Dylan Banach (Westminster, Colo.), sophomore Jensen Park (Kaneohe, Hawai'i) and junior Landon Moseley (Lawrence, Kan.) had two hits apiece, while junior Colby Harrison (Cheyenne, Wyo.) led the way with three RBIs.

Junior Nick Miller (Loveland, Colo.) hit the game's lone home run and drew three of the Northern Colorado's five walks.

"What we lacked in the first part of the season was timely hitting, so we kept trying harder and harder, and I think in the first eight to 10 games we were 0-for-10 with the bases loaded, and that's frustrating," Iwasaki said. "So now when we have the bases loaded we're doing much better, and you saw that here today."

Miller walked to lead off the second inning, and sophomore Bryan Tibbitts (Westminster) reached on an error by the Falcons' shortstop, and senior catcher Derek Baum reached (San Diego, Calif.) when he drew the first of six hit-by-pitches for Northern Colorado in the game.

Harrison then singled through the right side to score two, and sophomore Joe Love (Danville, Calif.) grounded into a double play that scored freshman Rob Cashel (Park City, Utah), who was pinch-running for Baum. Moseley followed with a high pop fly but reached second when the ball bounced out of the right fielder's glove.

Banach followed with a single to right, but Moseley was tagged out at the plate to end the Bears' scoring.

Park singled to center with one out in the third inning and then moved to second on a wild pitch, and Miller drew his second straight walk, and Tibbitts was plunked to load the bases.

Senior Ben Packard (Niwot, Colo.) then singled down the left-field line, to knot the score at 4-4, and Harrison gave the Bears the lead for good when he earned an RBI by getting hit in the middle of his back for an.

Chris Hammer (1-2) earned the win, retiring the side in order in the fourth, and the offense got right back to work. Moseley doubled to left to start and Banach reached on a perfect bunt. The Air Force catcher tried to throw out Moseley at third, but Moseley was in well under the tag. Sophomore Ryan Yamane (Honolulu, Hawai'i) then singled to right to stretch his hitting streak to 10 games and score Moseley, and Park singled through the right side to score both base runners and make the score 8-4.

Freshman Matt Loutzenhiser (Parker, Colo.) didn't allow a Falcon hit in the fifth, and Brooks Schneider (Longmont, Colo.) singled right down the right-field line to keep the Bears' momentum going. In a perfectly executed hit-and-run, Moseley hit behind Schneider, who was on his way to second, and that allowed him to move to third.

Banach then nubbed an outside pitch back to the mound, allowing the Falcons to tag out Schneider at home and prevent another run, but Yamane followed with a walk to load the bases again. Park hit into a fielder's choice, and the Falcons got the lead runner, but Miller walked and two scored on a double by senior Harrison Lambert (Lenexa, Kan.) to make the score 11-4.

Miller then led off the seventh with his homer to left field.

"What I told the guys first and foremost before we even played was, 'We respect our opponent -- especially this one -- and we play for a victory,'" Iwasaki said. "Today's not a day where we're going to play everyone in the lineup. We're going to play those who can help us be victorious this weekend in conference play."