February 23, 2014

Baseball wins series with 5-3 rubber match victory

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

GREELEY – The top half of the Northern Colorado baseball order recorded six of the team's eight hits on Sunday afternoon as the Bears won the final game of the series against Colorado Mesa, 5-3.

The Bears (2-6) took the early lead and added single runs in the fifth and seventh to hang on against the Mavericks (5-2), who are ranked between sixth and 17th, depending on which Division II poll is used. Next up for the Bears is a four-game series against New Mexico in Albuquerque beginning on Friday, February 28.

Senior right-handed pitcher Chris Hammer (Greeley) threw seven solid innings, allowing two earned runs (three total) on six hits. He walked only one and struck out five. Fellow senior Dan Talley (Colorado Springs) came in for the eighth and retired the side in order with a pair of strikeouts and set down the Mavs in order in the ninth for his first save of the year.

"Chris Hammer was efficient," Head Coach Carl Iwasaki said. "Especially in the early innings when he was firing in his pitches and hitting the strike zone.  He had a quality start today and we'll take it."

Junior Ryan Yamane (Manoa, Hawai'i) went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored in the leadoff position. His triple in the seventh scored the team's fifth run of the day. Freshman Jake Ekman (Littleton, Colo.) also had a pair of hits, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored from the No. 2 batting position.

Hitting third, junior Brandon Vaughn (Louisville, Colo.) was 1-for-4, while senior Nick Miller (Loveland, Colo.) went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks – one intentional – out of the cleanup spot. Miller also had two RBI in the first inning, knocking in two on a double to left center. The other two hits of the day came off the bat of junior catcher Bryan Tibbitts (Westminster, Colo.), who was 2-for-3 with the final RBI.

"We're working on the dynamics in the early season," Iwasaki said. "We just got outside 10 days ago, and our guys always hit well here. Our talent level here is able to do a lot."

The Bears didn't waste any time scoring in the final game of the series – posting three runs on three hits. After Yamane started the game reaching via error, Ekman singled to right. Vaughn attempted the sacrifice bunt, but the Mavs pitcher made the heads up play and fired to third for the first out. Miller then scorched a double to left center to score a pair and he came home two batters later when Tibbitts hit a solid single to left center to plate Miller for the third run.

The Mavs got one run back in the top of the third, but Hammer struck out the final batter with two runners on to end the threat.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Bears got the run back for the 4-1 advantage. Yamane singled back up the middle, moved to second on a wild pitch and stole third base. Vaughn singled to left center to score Yamane.

Colorado Mesa immediately answered with one run in the top of the sixth. A leadoff single and a pair of stolen bases led to the run on a ground out to second base. The Mavs tacked on another run in the top of the seventh to close the game to one, 4-3.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, senior Landon Moseley (Lawrence, Kan.) walked and slid under the tag at the plate to score in a triple to right-center by Yamane to get back the run for the final on the scoreboard, 5-3.

Northern Colorado next plays at Jackson Field March 7 as it kicks off a four-game series against former North Central Conference rival North Dakota State.