Baseball Weekend Recap: Runners Get Back on Track Against Adams State

Senior Shortstop Jake Thurston (2) beats out an infield single against New Mexico Highlands on March 12. Photo by Geoff Ziegler. gziegler@msudenver.edu

DENVER (Mar 27,2017)– The Roadrunners baseball team took three key games from Adams State University this weekend to bounce back from a disappointing series at School of Mines.

MSU Denver outscored the Grizzlies 36-10 in the four-game set, thanks in large part to a 17-run outburst in game three and over matching their opponents on both sides of the ball.

They dropped only the initial game in the series in a tense, one-run affair that saw the tying run on third base in the bottom of the ninth. Beecher Strube allowed five runs over seven innings of work while Derek Stimpson pitched scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, retiring the side in order in both. First baseman Cale O’Donnell launched his RMAC-leading 10th homer of the year and designated hitter Dylan Nelson went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI in the 5-4 loss.

In game two, Javi Vega went all seven innings in the shortened first game of the double header. He dominated, allowing only one run on five hits, striking out a season-high seven batters. From the third to the sixth, he retired 12 consecutive Grizzlies on four groundballs and five strikeouts. Only three outs were recorded in the air, only two in fair territory. The game saw only three scoring plays; a solo home run from ASU’s Marco Garmendia, a two-RBI triple off the bat of MSU second baseman Donny Ortiz, Jr., and a single by center fielder Jake Ekman that scored an RBI and an additional run on an error. Shortstop Jake Thurston, right fielder Sean Kennedy and catcher Marcus Bean all recorded multi-hit games, while O’Donnell’s eight-game hitting streak came to end as he went 0-for-4. The Runners closed the game with a 4-1 victory.

The bats broke out in game three, beginning with a six-run first that saw a two-run single from left fielder Hunter Donaldson and a solo shot by catcher Nick McCasky. Donaldson, McCasky and Thurston would all score three runs each in the game. The Runners would only record three extra base hits in the game, but would knock 14 singles and ride three errors by the Adams State defense and 10 walks from their pitchers to a blowout. Jerome Bohannon II tossed five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and punching out five. Conner Pepin and Ryan Arnold each tossed an inning in relief, allowing one and two runs, respectively. Donaldson went 3-for-4 and third baseman Trent Maloney sprayed four singles in his four at bats. Cale O’Donnell flew out and walked twice before being lifted, marking the first time this season he has gone two straight games without a hit. The Runners scored 16 runs in the first four frames en route to a 17-3 route.

Game four saw the Runners clinch the series in emphatic fashion with an 11-1 victory. Hunter Hogoboom got the start, and the only blemish on his line came in the first in a single, sac bunt, fielder’s choice, fielder’s choice sequence. After the first, he retired 17 of the 21 batters he faced to finish with seven innings, three hits and a strike out. Offensively, the Runners only had one run going into the fifth, but quickly changed that. In that inning, they tallied six times on the strength of five hits (all singles) and a walk. Maloney’s opposite field single would highlight the inning, driving in two. They would add four more in the seventh, thanks in large part to a Thurston two-run double, which astonishingly was the only extra base hit for either team in the ball game. Jordan Smith threw two innings after Hogoboom’s exit, walking one and allowing one hit, but tossing a clean sheet otherwise. Thurston hit safely three times, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. Per the RMAC rankings, he is carrying a .415 batting average, good for third in the conference, but his player page shows an only slightly more modest .385. Also according to the RMAC page, he is reaching base in almost half of his at bats, to the tune of a .491 on base percentage, which is tied for fifth in the conference.

The series victory is undoubtedly an important rebound for the team after under-performing against Colorado School of Mines the weekend before. The team committed only three errors in the series, only the second time they’ve averaged less than an error a game in any series since the season opener against Nebraska-Kearney in the beginning of February. They certainly want to improve on the 14 walks they issued in the series, but can certainly accept the results in this scenario. In only one other series this season have they kept the opposition from scoring double digits in any single game.

While Adams State, coming in to the series at 8-14 overall, were a lesser opponent that a team expecting to contend needs to beat, it was a welcome contrast to the struggles of the previous week and pointed the ship back in the right direction. The clean defense and improved pitching has them looking like a baseball team again and surely must improve morale.

After the series, MSU Denver climbs back up to .500 overall 26 games into the season. In conference play they are now 9-7 and are racing University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to become the third team to win double digits in the RMAC and join Colorado Mesa and Regis University.

Starting March 31, the Runners take on cross-town rival Regis University Rangers, who currently stand at 18-9 overall and 11-5 in conference. Their record is impressive, but in a four game sweep of Adams State, no game was decided by more than three runs, with two being a one-run game, which bodes well on face value for MSU. Worth watching is senior outfielder Josh Newell, who is hitting at a .446 clip and earned RMAC player of the week honors on March 20. Game one begins at 3 p.m. at Regis Baseball Field.

 

Author: Richard Allen

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