April 18, 2014

Bears break through to win first game in WAC play



GREELEY – For the first time in a long time, the Bears finally hit together.

Northern Colorado Baseball (6-31, 1-12 WAC) snapped its longest losing streak in school history Friday with an 8-6 win against Grand Canyon University (19-17, 8-5 WAC). The win also gave the Bears their first win as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

Northern Colorado starter Chris Hammer (Greeley) threw a complete game, scattering 10 hits and six runs (three earned) with eight strikeouts and no walks. He improved to 2-7 this season.

Hammer now has 17 career wins, which is tied for 12th all-time, and his strikeout total moves him into a tie for 10th place all-time with Rick Thoren (1974-76). This was also the seventh complete game of his career.

"Hammer should have three, four more wins in his win column this season, and he was great today," head coach Carl Iwasaki said. "And we finally backed him up offensively, and that's the key."

Did they ever. Nine different hitters recorded at least one hit for the Bears, five of them going for extra bases.

Bryan Tibbitts (Westminster) tripled in the bottom of the second to plate two runs, and he was brought home on a double by Corey Fujimoto (Tucson, Ariz.) to give the Bears an early 3-0 lead. The Antelopes got two back in the top half of the next frame, but Northern Colorado was able to prevent GCU from ever getting a lead.

After a fifth-inning RBI single from Ryan Yamane (Honolulu), GCU tied it in the sixth, but another three runs in the bottom of the sixth put the game out of reach for good. In the sixth, Yamane doubled to score one, and Jensen Park (Kaneohe, Hawai'i) singled to bring in two more. Yamane's run scored in the sixth inning is the 100th of his career.

Things got interesting again in the seventh when the Antelopes picked up another pair of runs, but an insurance run in the bottom half — a hit by pitch with the bases loaded — accounted for the final margin.

Fujimoto had two doubles in the game, and Andrew Coffman went 2-for-4 with a triple. Yamane, Park and Tibbitts all had two RBIs. In all, the Bears out-hit the Antelopes 13-10 but did commit four errors in the contest.

The Bears will have senior right-hander Josh Tinnon on the mound for the middle game of the series, starting at noon Saturday.

"Puma (Tinnon) has been good," Iwasaki said. "He's kept teams down to four runs in Seattle, and we lose 4-3. This is our time, and I like to see where our bats are going."