The Roadrunners faced their stiffest RMAC competition to date in double-headers on Sunday and Monday, going as cold as the weather record-wise, dropping three games to cross-town rival Regis University.
However, the first three games were intensely close, being decided in the penultimate inning in the earliest. Game one was 1-1 in the eighth, while a shortened game two was decided by a lead change in the seventh and final inning and game three required three extra innings. Realistically, any of these three games could have gone either way with one lucky break, and the final result is not indicative of MSU-Denver’s showing.
Beecher Strube and Derek Stimpson both made excellent starts on the mound that were degraded by suboptimal final innings. The former held the Rangers to one run through seven innings in his outing, while the latter tossed a scoreless five before collapsing in the sixth inning in game three.
Jake Thurston and Trent Maloney are now both on extended hitting streaks following the series. Thurston is well into the double digits at 16 and hasn’t gone hitless since March 5, meaning the streak will have survived more than a month by the next time it is challenged. Maloney became a mainstay of the starting lineup on March 19 and has done nothing but rake since. He has hits in all nine games he has started this season, hitting a sizzling .500 on the season with six multi-hit games and 16 RBI while striking out only four times. In this series, he recorded seven hits in 16 tries.
Sean Kennedy is also red hot, driving in four runs over the weekend on the back six hits, including his first home run of the season. His season average is currently standing at .369.
Cale O’Donnell did not homer in a series for the first time since February (seriously), but his RMAC-leading 10 on the season is still safe, as the two players tied for second place stand at eight.
The Runners fall to 14-16 on the year, but are clinging to .500 in RMAC play at 10-10. They currently are fifth in the RMAC standings. The Rangers now stand at a colossal 21-10 with a 14-6 in conference play, on Colorado Mesa University’s heels for the #1 spot.
Coming up next, the Runners play three consecutive doubleheaders at home, starting Friday, March 7. Sandwiching a two-game rematch against these Rangers to begin and end the weekend is a four-game set with University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, who stand at 16-15 overall with an 11-9 record in conference play, placing them within the Runners’ striking distance with a solid showing next weekend.
Game one saw pitching come to the forefront, as both starters went into the eighth inning, with Regis’s Noah Gotsis completing the frame.
Metro starter Beecher Strube was outstanding, turning in a season-high 7.1 innings with a solid line to back it up. He only struck out one hitter, but also issued a tied-for-season-best one walk, a feat he has accomplished only one other time. Through the first seven, he faced only three hitters above the minimum on three hits, the only run coming across on a solo homer in the fourth. In the eighth, he hit a batter, ceded a sacrifice bunt and allowed an RBI single before being pulled. His relief, Josh Moore, walked the first batter he faced and saw a groundball to short turn into a run-scoring error before surrendering a single and escaping further damage by inducing an inning-ending double play. The Rangers tallied three times before taking the field for the final frame, in which Regis’s Patrick Kenny slammed the door, facing four batters.
The Runners were slow to start offensively, not recording a hit until the fourth. In that frame, Trent Maloney, who hit in the three-spot for the first time this season, hit a triple and driving in Jake Ekman, who had walked earlier, accounting for what would be the team’s only run. From there on out, they recorded hits in each inning, but only recorded multiple in the eighth on singles from Jake Thurston and Cale O’Donnell. Overall, they reached the hit column seven times. O’Donnell was the only player to record several hits, and Maloney’s triple was the only extra-bagger. They struck out seven times and walked twice.
The final line included Metro’s one run on seven hits with the sole error in the eighth. They stranded seven men on base. The victorious Regis Rangers scored four times on a mere five hits while recording an inconsequential throwing error in the fifth.
Game two would be the Runners’ only win in the series, and even in this one they found themselves having to battle it out and required a heroic comeback effort.
Metro started out strong, getting on the board first in the second thanks to RBI singles from Hunter Donaldson and Nick McCasky. However, the lead would only stick until the fourth inning, in which Regis scored four runs capitalized by a little league home run that saw throwing errors from both Thurston and O’Donnell. With two outs on the board, a clean play here would have kept the damage to two runs, but instead the team saw their lead reversed into a deficit. They responded quickly though, as a Trent Maloney three run homer put them back on top with only nine outs to go in the shortened game.
The teeter totter would continue though, as reliever Jordan Smith was tagged for two RBI groundouts in the sixth, giving Regis the lead going into the final frame.
Down to their last out with the tying run on second, Donaldson launched a go-ahead home run over the field wall, adding to his track record of late-game heroics that already included a walk-off, bases-clearing double on March 11.
O’Donnell came on to pitch in the bottom of the seventh, working around a leadoff single and walk to preserve the one run lead and lock down the game.
Thurston, Maloney and Donaldson all had multi-hit games and the latter two both drove in three runs.
Javi Vega, Metro’s starter, went a full five innings despite the issues in the fourth, yielding only two earned runs. He allowed nine hits and struck out three.
In the 7-6 victory, MSU-Denver tallied 11 hits and two errors (both on the same play), while Regis University also hit their way on base 11 times and committed one error.
Game three was another hotly contested game in the ilk of game two, requiring three extra innings before the conclusion.
Derek Stimpson made his third start of the year and his first February 10, but he should no signs of rust. In five plus innings of work he allowed only one hit: a harmless infield single in third. Until the sixth, it was that hit, a hit-by-pitch and three errors that accounted for every Rangers baserunner, dominating the order with four strikeouts and four groundouts. However, in the sixth, he lost control. He issued walks to the only three batters he faced before being pulled, throwing two wild pitches in that stretch. He would be charged with two runs that scored after his exit.
In the middle of the sixth, the Runners were six outs from victory with a 4-0 lead on the strength of homers from Sean Kennedy and Marcus Bean. However, the Rangers drew within one in the bottom of the frame and tied it with two outs remaining in the seventh, sending the game to extra innings.
The eighth and ninth went scoreless, and Metro took the lead in the 10th on an RBI single from Kennedy. Once again on the verge of victory, Jared Roley came in for the save. He led off the inning issuing a walk, then a single, sac fly, another walk and a game ending single by Geordy Smith. Of the five hitters, four reached base and the only one that did not still recorded a productive out that scored a run, and the Runners dropped game three and guaranteed themselves no better than a series draw.
The final score was 5-6, with the Runners outhitting the Rangers 14-8 but committing three errors to the Rangers’ two.
Game four was far less interesting.
Starter Jerome Bohannon II did not escape the third, allowing five runs on seven hits. Cade Crader, Nic Hansen and Dayne Rowley ate the final 3.1 innings, spreading six runs (five earned) across them while recording two strikeouts and allowing three walks, all under Hansen’s watch.
The Rangers had what turned out to be enough offense to secure the victory before the fourth inning, as the Runners offense would only push across three runs in the game. In the third, Thurston scored on a balk and Kennedy drove in Ekman on a sacrifice fly. He would drive in another run in the fifth on a double in the fifth, giving him four RBI in the series.
Outside of those, Regis starter Matt Heibult controlled the game, allowing five hits in his six innings of work. He struck out four batters and recorded eight outs on the ground on route to the victory.
Maloney went 2-for-4 with two singles and was the only Roadrunner to tally multiple hits.
After it was all said and done, the Runners had three runs on five hits, to the Rangers’ 11 on 13. Both teams committed one error, and Regis had taken the series 3-1.