March 9, 2014

Big inning earns baseball series split

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

GREELEY – Using a six-run seventh inning, the Northern Colorado baseball team won the second game of the doubleheader 8-6 over North Dakota State to split the four-game series. The Bison won the first game of the day 7-3 in seven innings.

The Bears are now 4-12 on the season, while the Bison are 4-6. Northern Colorado takes to the road for the next four series – starting at Nebraska for a two-game set on Tuesday at 12:35 pm (MT).

"Right now, in the first third of the season, there is no consistency," Head Coach Carl Iwasaki said. "We're in the process of getting things right, pitching, playing fundamental defense, timely hitting and our situational hitting. What I take from today's win, more so than the win, is proving to these guys that we can put together a six run inning and win a game by two."

Game One Recap
North Dakota State scored six runs in the final three innings to win 7-3 and take the 2-1 lead in the four-game series.

Senior Nick Miller (Loveland, Colo.) started on the hill and pitched 4 2/3 innings. He allowed two runs on three hits, walking five and striking out two in a no decision. He also had one of the team's five hits, going 1-for-2 at the plate.

Two of the other hits for the Bears came off the bat of junior Ryan Yamane (Manoa, Hawai'i) and he scored a run.  Freshman Jake Ekman (Littleton, Colo.) and senior Corey Fujimoto (Tucson, Ariz.) scored the other two runs as both came around to score after walking.

Senior Lucas Corrick (Lakewood, Colo.) allowed three earned runs (four total) on four hits, walking two in taking the loss (0-1). Senior Dan Talley (Colorado Springs) pitched the final 1 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out one while surrendering one run on one hit.

For the third straight game in the series, the Bison struck first, scoring one run in the top of the second off two hits.

In the bottom of the third, Fujimoto led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ekman. Yamane hit a line drive back up the middle that ricocheted off the mound for a single. Junior Jensen Park (Kaneohe, Hawai'i) singled between short and third to score Fujimoto and senior Andrew Coffman (Davenport, Iowa) singled to the same place to plate Yamane and give the Bears the 2-1 lead.

The Bison took the 4-2 advantage with three runs in the top of the fifth behind two hits, a pair of walks and a Bears error.

Ekman walked to start the fifth frame and Yamane singled through the right side to force a pitching change. Park hit a hot shot to the short stop, which he bobbled and overthrew the second baseman, allowing Ekman to score an unearned run to cut the Bison lead in half, 4-3.

North Dakota State immediately answered with two more runs in the top of the sixth for the 6-3 advantage and they tacked on another run in the seventh for the 7-3 final.

Game Two Recap
The six runs in the seventh inning for the Bears are the most scored in a single inning this season and the most since they posted 10 in the first inning at NYIT on May 17, 2013. UNC trailed 6-2 at that point and went on to win 8-6.

Senior Colby Harrison (Cheyenne, Wyo.) was 3-for-3 at the dish with one run scored and one RBI, while junior catcher Bryan Tibbitts (Westminster, Colo.) was 1-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored after tripling to right field. Fellow catcher Coffman also tripled to right in the seventh inning, pinch hitting to drive in two.

Freshman Connor Leedholm (Lakewood) pitched 4 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs (six total) on six hits. He walked just one and struck out two. Junior Yan Fortin (Laval, Quebec) allowed just three hits over the next 2 1/3 innings and he struck out two. Sophomore Matt Loutzenhiser (Parker, Colo.) walked one and struck out two, facing just four batters for his inning of work.

Talley, pitching for the second time on the day, earned his third save of the year, giving up one hit and striking out one in the ninth.

"There are three guys that I mentioned down the line," Iwasaki said. "Yan Fortin came in for 2 1/3 and didn't give anything up and he kept us in check. Matt Loutzenhiser went clean in that eighth inning and did a great job. That left-hander, he's effective, and he kept the ball in the zone and didn't allow (NDSU) to hit. Our last guy, he's a pretty special kid, a fifth-year senior that had a shoulder issue and came back – Dan Talley – this is his third save of the season – and he wants to win for the team."

Aided by two errors in the top of the first, North Dakota State scored one run for the early lead.

In the bottom of the second, Tibbitts drew a walk to lead off the inning and scored two batters later when Harrison hit a double to left center to knot the score at 1-1.

The Bison immediately answered with one run in the top of the third to regain the lead, 2-1.

Senior Landon Moseley (Lawrence, Kan.) walked to start the third and Ekman hit a chopper over the third baseman's head. Yamane hit into a fielder's choice to erase Moseley on the base path, but Ekman moved to third on the play and scored when a pickoff move to first bounced off Yamane and went into foul territory to tie things at 2-2.

A single, stolen base and sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth gave the lead right back to the Bison at 3-2 and they plated three more in the fifth for the 6-2 advantage.

NDSU had two hits in the top of the sixth, but Tibbitts gunned down one attempting to steal second and picked the other off at first base to end the threat.

Junior Brandon Vaughn (Louisville, Colo.) singled to short to lead off the seventh and Harrison followed with a single up the middle. With one out, Coffman was called on to pinch hit and he blasted a shot over the right fielder's head for a triple. Sophomore Rob Cashel (Park City, Utah) came into run for Coffman and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Ekman. Yamane and Park hit back-to-back singles and Tibbitts crushed one off the wall in right field to plate both and give the Bears their first lead of the game, 7-6. After another pitching change, Miller hit a bloop single to right to score Tibbitts for the 8-6 final.

The next home game for the Bears doesn't come until April 4 when they host their first-ever WAC conference game against New Mexico State at 3 p.m.