May 17, 2013

Baseball sweeps way to GWC regular-season title

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- The Northern Colorado baseball team will go down in history as the final Great West Conference regular-season champions.

The Bears dominated NYIT on Friday, running their winning streak to seven games and earning their first GWC crown by taking a doubleheader sweep with a 15-3 seven-inning win and a 10-1 win at MCU Park on Coney Island.

Northern Colorado (28-22, 19-7 GWC) clinched the title thanks to Utah Valley's loss in its first game Friday at Texas-Pan American and will conclude the 2013 regular season at 10 a.m. MT Saturday, back at Gregg Alfano Field on the St. Joseph's campus. 

"Overall, it was a great day," Northern Colorado coach Carl Iwasaki said. "It was a great experience for the team to play at MCU Park (home of the New York Mets' short-season Class A Brooklyn Cyclones), and we had good, sound pitching and solid defense all day."

The Bears combined all three aspects of the game Friday, playing great defense, getting solid pitching and a ton of offense with 25 runs scored on 32 hits. They also hit .438 for the day and walked just two batters and surrendered just four runs.

Junior Nick Miller (Loveland, Colo.) finished 4 for 6 with eight RBIs, four runs scored, two walks and a stolen base. He also earned the win in the second game, allowing just one run on six hits over six innings.

Sophomore Ryan Yamane (Honolulu) went 6 for 8 in the twinbill with three walks and his first triple of the season, and he also had five RBIs, scored five runs and stole a base. Fellow sophomore Jensen Park (Kaneohe, Hawai'i) went 8 for 11 with a double and a stolen base.

Miller started the day with a grand slam to right field--his third home run of the season--to give Northern Colorado an early 10-0 lead. 

The bases-clearing blast was the Bears' first since former star Jarod Berggren hit one at Utah Valley on May 20, 2011.

"It was a huge day for Yamane, Park and Miller at the plate," Iwasaki said. "Those guys were the engine for our offensive attack."

The seven-game winning streak is Northern Colorado's longest of the season and the longest since it won 10 consecutive from April 29 through May 14, 2011.

GAME ONE

All nine Bears starters reached base in the first inning and Northern Colorado scored 10 runs en route to the 15-3 victory.

Park led the club with a 5 for 6 effort at the plate, and Miller had three hits and six RBIs in the first two innings, needing just a triple for the cycle.

The game wasn't just about the offense, though, as pitchers Josh Tinnon (Niwot, Colo.), Lucas Corrick (Lakewood, Colo.) and Matt Loutzenhiser (Parker, Colo.) limited NYIT to three runs on seven hits and didn't walk a batter for the fifth time this season.

Tinnon (6-2) earned the win after striking out three and allowing just one hit in two innings. Corrick worked four innings and allowed three runs on six hits with five strikeouts, and Loutzenhiser retired the side in order in the seventh.

Park singled to right field and stole second base with one out in the first, and the Bears were off.

Miller, Harrison and junior Andrew Coffman (Davenport, Iowa) all hit doubles to change places on the diamond and make the score 3-0 before senior Derek Baum (San Diego) walked with two outs and junior Corey Fujimoto (Tucson, Ariz.) doubled off the top of the left field wall to get his first hit of the year and plate two.

Junior Landon Moseley (Lawrence, Kan.) kept things going with a single to left and moved to second on the late throw home.

After NYIT went to the bullpen early and brought in Brennen Forster, Yamane walked and Park singled to left to load the bases for Miller, who sent it over the fence in right.

Yamane and Colby Harrison combined for a great defensive play to start the bottom of the first. Yamane moved to his left, made a spinning throw which Harrison dug out of the dirt to retire the leadoff batter.

Tinnon put NYIT down in order in the first, following with a flyout and a strikeout.

Junior Ben Netzel (Loveland) singled to right-center with one out in the second inning. Baum was hit by a pitch and Moseley drew a walk to load the bases. Yamane singled back up the middle and Park legged out a single to the shortstop to score two more runs. Miller continued his hot streak, singling back up the middle for six RBI in the contest and a 13-0 advantage.

NYIT scored one run in the bottom of the third on three hits as Corrick took over on the hill for Tinnon.

Coffman hit a slow roller that bounced off the bag at third for another single. Sophomore Bryan Tibbitts (Westminster, Colo.) and senior Harrison Lambert (Lenexa, Kan.) drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Fujimoto hit a deep sacrifice fly to left center for the team's 14th run of the morning.

NYIT added two runs on three hits in the bottom of the fifth inning for the 14-3 score.

Lambert was plunked to start the seventh and he moved to second on a passed ball. Yamane singled up the middle to score Lambert for a 12-run cushion, 15-3. Loutzenhiser retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh for the victory.

GAME TWO

The Bears scored two runs in four different innings and one each in the fifth and seventh innings in Friday's second game. They scored their 10 runs on 13 hits, while holding NYIT to just one run on six hits, and neither team committed an error.

Yamane was a perfect 4 for 4 at the plate with three RBIs and four runs scored, while Park went 3 for 5, and Harrison was 2 for 4. The team also struck out just once in the contest.

Northern Colorado kept the offense going to start the second game, scoring two runs in the top of the first. Yamane singled to center and stole second base. He scored on a double down the right field line by Miller. Harrison singled through the left side to put runners on the corners, and Coffman hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield for the two runs.

With two outs in the second, Moseley singled to left, stole second and scored on a single to right-center off the bat of Yamane. Park hit a bloop single to center to put runners on the corners. On a double steal attempt, Park was caught in a rundown, but made sure Yamane was able to score before he was tagged out between first and second, giving the Bears the 4-0 advantage.

Yamane walked with one out in the top of the fifth. Park singled back up the middle and Miller walked to load the bags. Harrison hit a sacrifice fly to left center to plate Yamane for the fifth run.

With two outs in the sixth, Fujimoto hit a single between the shortstop and third baseman. Moseley was hit by a pitch and both scored when Yamane tripled over the right fielder's head for the 7-0 tally.

Miller walked to begin the seventh, stole second, moved to third on a groundout by Coffman and scored on a single to second base by high school teammate Netzel to stretch the Bears leads to seven, 8-1.

In the ninth inning, Yamane kept his hot streak going, singling to left to lead off. Park doubled down the left field line and Miller grounded out to plate Yamane. Harrison hit a rocket to third base for a single and an RBI for the 10-1 lead.

For the second-straight game, Loutzenhiser put the side down in order in the final frame for the victory.