May 24, 2013

Baseball still swinging at GWC Tournament

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

NEWARK, N.J. – There's not much on the baseball field that Northern Colorado junior Nick Miller can't do and he proved that on Friday against Chicago State. The Bears won 11-7 at Riverfront Stadium to remain in the hunt for the 2013 Great West Conference Tournament title and Miller was a big part of that.

The Loveland, Colo., native earned a win on the hill after pitching 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits, walking four and striking out five to improve to 6-4 on the season. At the plate, he was a perfect 4 for 4 and all were for extra bases. He scored a game-high three runs and tied for the team lead with four RBIs.

The Bears face North Dakota in the semifinals with the winner advancing to the championship game against Houston Baptist. The game has been delayed due to rain, but is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. (ET) Friday.

Miller becomes the first player at Northern Colorado since March 6, 2009 to record both a home run and a win in the same contest (Kevin Sandberg). Miller hit the home run in the first inning, while he added a pair of doubles and a triple, missing just the single for the cycle.

In his last six starts on the hill, Miller is hitting .538 (14 for 26) and nine of the 14 hits have been for extra bases. He also leads the team with 10 RBIs during the stretch.

Sophomore Jensen Park (Kaneohe, Hawai'i) added three hits and two RBIs in the game against Chicago State, while both sophomore Ryan Yamane (Honolulu) and junior Colby Harrison (Cheyenne, Wyo.) also had two hits.

Harrison hit his first home run of the season and tied for the game-high honors with four RBIs. Harrison also belted his third triple of the year as seven of the Bears' 13 hits on the day were for extra bags.

Senior Ben Packard (Niwot, Colo.) pitched two innings in relief, allowing two runs on three hits, walking four and striking out one, while junior Lucas Corrick (Lakewood, Colo.) pitched the final 1 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit.

Miller cleared the wall in right center in the top of the first inning for the 1-0 lead. High school teammate Ben Netzel (Loveland) saved an extra base hit in the bottom of the first, making a leaping catch into the wall in right field.

In the top of the third, Yamane singled up the middle and scored on a triple to left center by Miller. Harrison hit his first home run of the year, clearing close to the same spot Miller did in the first inning for the 4-0 advantage.

Miller struck out the side in the bottom of the third, but three walks and a hit batsman led to Chicago State's first run.

Junior Corey Fujimoto (Tucson, Ariz.) started the fourth reaching on an error by the third baseman. He was erased on a fielder's choice off the bat of Netzel. Netzel promptly stole second base and moved to third after back-to-back walks were issued to junior Landon Moseley (Lawrence, Kan.) and Yamane.

Chicago State went to the bullpen, bringing in Jerry Silva. Park singled back up the middle to plate two for the 6-1 lead.

The Cougars scored two runs each in the fifth and sixth to cut the Bears lead to one, 6-5.

Park doubled to left to kick things off in the seventh. Miller followed with a double to left center and Harrison tripled to right center to score two. Junior Andrew Coffman (Davenport, Iowa) hit a deep flyball to center to plate Harrison to extend the lead to four runs, 9-5.

Yamane singled to left with two outs in the eighth and Park singled to center. Miller smashed another ball, this one to right field and he was rounding second when his feet went out from under him, keeping him to a double and stretching the Bears lead to 11-5.

The Cougars answered with two of their own in the bottom of the eighth for the 11-7 final score.