Mavericks Eliminated From Regional Tournament
MANKATO, Minn. – Freshman catcher Nolan Johnson connected on a game-winning two-run home run Friday afternoon propelling top-seeded Minnesota State to a 7-5 win against third-seeded Colorado Mesa in day two of the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament at Franklin Rogers Park.
The Mavericks from Colorado Mesa jumped ahead early scoring three first-inning runs on three consecutive run-producing hits by Jeff Popick, Mitch Corwin and Dustin Fackrell to take the early lead.
The score would remain 3-0 until the fourth when Minnesota State found its offensive with a four-run inning.
Junior Mike Eckhart got the scoring started with a bases-loaded double which brought in two runs before senior Ben Kincaid would tie the score at three with an RBI groundout.
MSU would capture its first lead with its next at-bat as freshman Connor McCallum connected on an RBI double which brought home Eckhart to give the Mavericks a 4-3 lead.
After a scoreless fifth inning, Colorado Mesa would retake the lead in the top of the sixth scoring two runs courtesy of back-to-back sacrifice bunts which each scored a run as CMU took a 5-4 lead.
However, the lead wouldn’t last long as Minnesota State tied the game at five in the bottom of the inning as Kincaid’s single to center field scored senior Matt Odegaard who had doubled earlier in the inning.
Colorado Mesa would threaten with two runners on base in the top of the ninth but relief pitcher junior Mahlon Zimmermann was able to retire both batters he faced to end the inning which set up the Mavericks’ late-inning heroics for the second consecutive night.
After McCallum, who reached base on a fielder’s choice, was sacrificed over to second by pinch-hitter Todd Standish, Johnson set flight to a 1-2 pitch over the left-field wall as the Mavericks sealed the 7-5 victory.
The victory, which sealed a spot for MSU to play Saturday at noon against the winner between St. Cloud State and New Mexico Highlands, was Zimmermann’s first of the season as he was the second relief pitcher of the afternoon after sophomore TJ Larson took over for starting pitcher junior Harvey Martin who lasted just one inning after allowing two earned runs.
Larson allowed two earned runs on six hits while striking out six batters in 7.1 innings of work.
Minnesota State was led at the plate by junior Lucas Skjefte and Odegaard who each recorded two hits while junior Mike Eckhart, Kincaid and Johnson each added two RBI.
The Mavericks (46-10) also set the Minnesota State school record for wins in a single season as the old record was 45 wins which was set back in 2007.
Day-three action of the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament resumes Saturday when the Mavericks play the winner between SCSU and New Mexico Highlands who square off tonight at 7:30 p.m.