Baseball headed to the 'ship
By HEATHER KENNEDY
NEWARK, N.J. -- It was dark, cold and stormy Friday night at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium for the Northern Colorado baseball team's rematch against North Dakota in the 2013 Great West Conference Tournament.
This time the Bears won 11-8 to advance to the championship game against Houston Baptist.
The Bears (33-23) will face the tournament-undefeated Huskies at 12:30 p.m. MT Saturday, where a Northern Colorado win would force a second game in the double-elimination tournament.
"We don't seem to win pretty," Northern Colorado coach Carl Iwasaki said. "But a win is a win. We need two more to do what we came here to do."
Sophomore Jensen Park (Kaneohe, Hawai'i), this year's Great West Conference Player of the Year, finished 4 for 4 at the plate with four RBIs and hit his second home run of the tournament.
Junior Nick Miller (Loveland, Colo.) continued to be a menace at the plate, getting three hits with three RBIs and his third home run of the tournament.
The pair hit back-to-back home runs, too, exactly one year from the last time the Bears left the yard in consecutive plate appearances. In the 2012 GWC Tournament, Adam Hilker and Colby Harrison (Cheyenne, Wyo.) did so against Texas-Pan American.
Fellow junior Corey Fujimoto (Tucson, Ariz.), who was inserted into the everyday lineup just a week ago, went 3 for 5 with two runs scored.
The Bears defense, despite the wet and windy conditions, turned a season-high four double plays in the game.
Robert Hawkins (Greeley) started his third game of the season and improved to 2-1 with the win. He pitched 3 1/3, giving up just three hits, walking two and striking out one.
Junior Kevin Willman (Aurora, Colo.) threw the next 3 2/3 frames, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits with three walks and one strikeout.
Junior Josh Wagner (Newhall, Calif.) finished the game, pitching two innings. He surrendered six runs (five earned) on five hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Junior Andrew Coffman (Davenport, Iowa) walked to start the second inning and senior Derek Baum (San Diego) successfully bunted him to second. Fujimoto bunted for a single to put runners on the corners with one out. Senior Dylan Banach (Westminster, Colo.) was hit by a pitch on the first one he saw in the game and junior Landon Moseley (Lawrence, Kan.) hit a rocket to the right side that scooted past the second baseman to score two for the 2-0 early lead.
Hawkins came out and retired the side in order in the second and the Bears got three singles by Park, Miller and Harrison in the third but were unable to score.
North Dakota loaded the bases but Hawkins again fielded his position well and started the 1-2-3 double play to end the threat in the third.
Moseley was plunked in the arm by a pitch to start the Bears fifth inning. Sophomore Ryan Yamane (Honolulu) reached on a fielder's choice sacrifice bunt and Park also bunted, which was misplayed by the first baseman to load the bases. Miller hit a long sacrifice fly to left center to plate Moseley and extend the advantage to 3-0.
Baum hit a bloop single to left center to begin the sixth and Fujimoto followed with a single to left. Banach moved them up 90 feet with a bunt back to the pitcher. Moseley hit a hot shot to the third baseman, Tyler Follis, who made a great stop, but overthrew home in trying to get the lead runner and Baum scored. Yamane hit a sacrifice fly to left field. Park homered to left field and Miller followed with a home run over the right field fence for five runs in the inning and an 8-2 lead.
Willman retired North Dakota in order in the bottom of the sixth.
North Dakota again had the bases loaded in the seventh inning, but Willman got Follis to hit into another inning ending double play, this one 6-4-3 to end the jam.
Banach bunted down the first base line and reached when the first baseman, Jeff Campbell, dropped the flip from the pitcher. Moseley walked on four straight pitches and Yamane bunted them up 90 feet. Park doubled over the right fielder's head to score both runs. Miller doubled to the left center gap to score Park as the Bears built an 11-2 lead.
Taylor Petersen and Zach Trygstad hit back-to-back home runs for UND in the bottom of the eighth off Wagner to make the score 11-4. UND added four runs in the bottom of the ninth to make things interesting, but Wagner struck out Matt Wehrli to secure the win.