February 21, 2014

Baseball turns the tables on big inning

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

GREELEY – After losing the last four games via the big inning, the Northern Colorado baseball team did the exact opposite, scoring five runs in the third for the 6-4 victory in the home opener on Friday against Colorado Mesa.

The Bears (1-5) batted around in the third inning and were just the double shy of the team cycle as Mountain View High School (Loveland, Colo.) teammates Nick Miller and Ben Netzel tripled and hit the team's first home run of the year, respectively, for four of the five RBI in the frame. Netzel ended the game 2-for-3 as did junior catcher Bryan Tibbitts (Westminster, Colo.).

"We left a small village on base in Texas," Head Coach Carl Iwasaki said about leaving 41 runners on base in the first five games. "We were a little ticked off about that, but our guys came out committed today. Obviously with runners in scoring position we need to generate runs – that's obviously the only way you're going to outscore your opponent. The great thing about that inning was it was a three-run inning with Nick Miller generating, but the bases were clear and Tibbitts goes single and Netzel goes big-fly home run. That's going to pay off later in the season when we can do that and we can continue to press on our opponents."

The Bears also successfully executed a suicide squeeze in the third inning. After Miller tripled with one out, senior first baseman Colby Harrison (Cheyenne, Wyo.) laid down a bunt back to the pitcher after Miller was halfway home to score the fifth run of the inning.

Freshman Jake Ekman (Littleton, Colo.) continued his hot streak to start the season, going 3-for-5 at the plate with one RBI and one run scored – giving him at least one hit in every game this year. Fellow freshman Nick Tanner (Foothill Ranch, Calif.) was the patient hitter at the plate on Friday, garnering two of the team's three walks. He also singled in the second and was hit by a pitch in the eighth.

During the preseason, Coach Iwasaki has talked several times about timely and situational hitting and today the Bears had six of their 10 hits with runners on base.

"We're in the first third of the season, in the second week and we're progressing," Iwasaki said. "I'm pleased. It's a team win. There were great defensive plays today and the situational hitting is coming around. A big third inning is obviously what projected us."

Senior Josh Tinnon (Niwot, Colo.) pitched a strong six 2/3 innings in his second start of the year. He allowed three runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out five.

"Josh Tinnon did a great job today," Iwasaki said. "He just battled. He had a tough outing in Texas, but he realized that and he stepped up to the team and said that and we're going to rely on him a lot this year."

Senior Kevin Willman (Aurora, Colo.) pitched 1/3 of an inning, walking two and striking out one, while senior Lucas Corrick (Lakewood, Colo.) earned his first save of the year, throwing the final two innings, giving up one run on one hit with two walks.

"We don't talk about wins and losses," Iwasaki said. "We talk about us and we talk about getting better every game, every pitch and every opportunity. It's all about getting to the point where we're confident with our people in our skill set and trust each other and that's what they did today. It wasn't pretty, but they got the job done."