April 12, 2013

Baseball wins conference home opener

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

GREELEY – The Northern Colorado Baseball team continued to play strong baseball, winning the first of a four-game series with North Dakota, 5-3, on Friday at Jackson Field.

The win improves the Bears to 4-1 in Great West Conference play and 13-14 on the season and is the team's sixth victory in the last seven games. The loss drops UND to 10-13-1 overall and 1-4 in GWC action. The teams play a doubleheader on Saturday with the first pitch of game one slated for noon.

Junior Josh Tinnon (Niwot, Colo.) threw the second-straight complete game for the Bears, allowing three runs on eight hits with five walks and two strikeouts over nine innings. He is now 3-1 on the season and 2-0 in conference play. Fellow junior Nick Miller (Loveland, Colo.) also pitched a nine-inning complete game on Sunday at Chicago State, winning 5-1. It is the first time since 2010 the Bears had pitchers go back-to-back complete games (April 24 at Houston Baptist, Joe Sawicki, Joe Willman).

"{Josh is} a guy who's going to get us deep in ball games and he's confident," Coach Iwasaki said. "He's had great success here and he's put it all together lately – this is his year. His splitter is working pretty good, but what got him into a little trouble today was working behind in the count. It's good to see Josh Tinnon pitching well, but don't forget the defense he plays. He made a great play over his glove-side shoulder and that's a base hit if he doesn't get the ball, so he makes the plays too."

Miller went 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBI and both of his hits were doubles. Sophomore Ryan Yamane (Honolulu, Hawai'i) was 2-for-2 as seven of the team's nine hits came from the top five in the order. He also put down two sacrifice bunts in the game, giving him six for the year.

"Nick is automatic," Iwasaki said. "He just does it. He brings his lunch pail to work every day, he's all business and he plays the game as hard as you possibly can. Some days you're going to get a 3-for-3 day where he generates all the RBI and some days he's going to do it on the field. And on Sunday, he's going to do it on the mound. He's a bulldog and he's going to help get us to the Great West Championship."

Sophomore Jensen Park (Kaneohe, Hawai'i) had a 1-for-4 day at the plate, extending his career-best hitting streak to 13 games.

North Dakota struck first, scoring one run in the top of the first after getting two hits to the same spot in left center.

On the first pitch of the game, senior centerfielder Dylan Banach was hit on the arm to give the Bears early base runners. Yamane sacrificed him to second. With two outs, Miller doubled to left field to knot the score at 1-1.

With one out in the bottom of the third, Miller again doubled, this one down the left field line to plate both Yamane and Park for the 3-1 lead. Junior Colby Harrison (Cheyenne, Wyo.) followed with a single up the middle to score Miller.

UND got one run back in the top of the fourth after Jeff Campbell tripled to deep center and scored later in the frame. UND closed within one in the sixth with one more run for the 4-3 score.

With one out in the eighth, Harrison was hit by a pitch and Iwasaki put in freshman Rob Cashel (Park City, Utah) to pinch run. Cashel immediately stole second base, moved to third on a pinch hit single by senior Harrison Lambert (Lenexa, Kan.) and scored on a sacrifice bunt by junior Ben Netzel (Loveland).

"That's what we stress," Iwasaki said. "Pitching and defense. This is a good-hitting ball club and they don't ever quit, so we can't expect {North Dakota} to go away. I think Ben Netzel's bunt was critical for us today (in the eighth inning). One run is never safe against a tough club like North Dakota, so that run was crucial."