MSU Denver began and ended the weekend with losses to Regis, but fit a two-game sweep of UCCS in between.
The Runners conclude their regular season competition against Regis with a record of 1-5, with a lone victory on April 2 in a 7-6 final. They dropped games one and four by scores of 2-6 and 5-13, respectively. Their sweep of UCCS saw the pitching staff dominate, with the team winning by final scores of 4-2 and 6-2.
Trent Maloney continued to help pick up the slack offensively after Cale O’Donnell stopped doing his best Babe Ruth impression (though his 10 home runs still top the RMAC despite not going yard in his last 11 games), going 6-for-18 and driving in five runs in the series. Jake Thurston’s six hit series kept his hit streak alive, which has now reached 20 games. His .377 average is 10th in the conference. However, his teammate Sean Kennedy continues his push for .400, going 9-for-16 and raising his average to .387, 6th in the RMAC. He also drove in the game deciding runs on an early three run homer in game three.
Javi Vega is challenging this writer’s ability to say the same thing in different ways, as he turned out yet another more-than-impressive performance, this one a two run complete game in game two. His 56 innings pitched on the season put him 4th in the RMAC in that category, and his 4.02 ERA, while passable (7th in the conference), vastly underrates him and his value to the Runners, which is discussed in the game recap. This latest performance may give the selectors of RMAC Pitcher of the Week something to think about.
At 16-18 overall and 12-12 in RMAC play, the Runners are in the thick of it, as UCCS, CSU-Pueblo and Colorado School of Mines are all at or a game below .500 in conference play, with Mines the only one over .500 overall.
Regis, who split their two games with UCCS at the Regency, is solidifying their two seed, standing at 24-11/17-7 after this weekend, while UCCS tussles with the rest of the pack at 17-18/12-12.
Up next, the Runners take the drive north to Greeley on April 14 to begin a home-home series against Northern Colorado University, concluding the series with a doubleheader at home the next day. The D1 UNC is 12-17 overall and has only faced RMAC competition one time in a 4-5 loss to Regis on March 21. It will be MSU Denver’s final non-conference series before 12 games leading up to the RMAC tournament starting May 10.
Game One: MSU Denver 2, Regis University 7
On Friday, April 7 the Roadrunners were tackling Regis University for the fifth time this season while the Colorado Rockies opened their home schedule just down I25.
Beecher Strube made his ninth start of the season, his second consecutive against the Rangers. After a solid 7.1 inning, 3 run performance the previous weekend, he allowed a quick three runs in the first on the back of three straight doubles to start the game. While he would not pitch a clean inning in the game, he limited the opposition to only two runs in his remaining four innings of work, stranding three runners on base in the process. Dayne Rowley inherited the mound in the sixth, tossing three innings of one run ball, allowing three hits in his outing, and Aaron Gjersee threw a scoreless ninth to close out the pitching line for the Runners. The trio combined for four strikeouts, five walks and ten hits.
Rangers starter Noah Gotsis encored his stellar eight inning performance from the previous weekend well. In that game, he held the Runners to six hits and let only one run cross the plate, striking out six. On Friday, he went seven innings, yielding again only one run, with five hits and six strikeouts. Nick DiPaola allowed one run in his two innings, effectively shutting down MSU’s hitters and securing the win.
Marcus Bean drove in the Runners’ only two runs, staying hot with a season high three hit effort. Following the game, he had hit safely in three of his last five starts. His double in the second drove in Sean Kennedy and his single in the ninth brought home Cale O’Donnell. Kennedy was the only other player to record multiple hits for the home team in the affair. Jake Thurston and Jake Ekman also recorded hits, both singles.
The Rangers finished with six runs on ten hits and no errors, while the Roadrunners scored twice on seven hits and played clean defense.
Game Two: MSU Denver 4, UCCS 2
Javi Vega once again showed why Head Coach Jerrid Oates entrusts him to pitch deep into games to rest the bullpen.
Vega threw his second complete game of the season, his first of the nine inning variety. While not blowing away opposing batters, he still recorded five strikeouts in the game, but held Regis to two runs on six hits, thanks in part to a strong 13 ground outs. A flawless defense behind him and limiting the Rangers to only two walks also contributed greatly to another outstanding outing on the bump.
After allowing two runs in the first, he locked the game down. After a leadoff double in the second, he retired 11 consecutive batters and 22 of the next 23. No runner reached third base after the second inning, and only one reached second base, which happened with two outs in the ninth.
Vega’s season ERA stands at a deceitful 4.02, as his role asks him to stretch out his outings into the late innings, going only less than five innings once and six innings three times in his nine games of work. Since March 11, his ERA is a respectable 3.38 despite including his worst outing of the year: a four inning, five run showing against Colorado School of Mines. Excluding that start from the set, he’s throwing a red hot 2.25 in that time across four starts.
On offense, the Runners scattered 12 hits including four doubles. Trent Maloney led the way, driving in Thurston twice, on a ground out in the first and a double in the third. Sean Kennedy put together a three hit game and scored once, while three other players tallied several hits.
After the tally in the third to make the score 3-2 the Runners had what would turn out to be enough to lock down the victory, adding an insurance run in the eighth to make the final score 4-2.
Game Three: MSU Denver 6, UCCS 2
Sean Kennedy’s first inning three run homer would prove to be enough offense to secure the two game sweep over UCCS, deciding game three in the early going.
Kennedy’s homer over the right-center wall would hold up thanks to extended appearances on the mound from Derek Stimpson and Jerome Bohannon II. Stimpson, despite walking six, hitting another and throwing a wild pitch, still held UCCS to one run in his four inning start. The only blemish on his statline came in the third, when a Mountain Lion doubled to center, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sac fly. The double would account for one of the two hits Stimpson would allow, the only other being a harmless single in the same inning.
Stimpson would begin the fifth, but walked the bases loaded in the first three hitters and brought Bohannon II into a precarious situation, which he nobly worked out of. He struck out the first batter he faced and induced an inning ending double play to escape the threat completely unscathed. In the rest of his outing he spread five hits and three walks across 2.1 innings, somehow allowing only one run on a double in the eighth. He was relieved by Josh Moore in that inning, with runners on first and third with one out, and again a Metro pitcher worked out of a jam without so much as a dent, as he retired the next two hitters on a lineout and a groundout. Moore threw a flawless ninth that saw three more groundouts to record his second save of the season.
The Runners tallied twice in the third and once in the sixth to extend their lead, thanks in large part to a pair of Trent Maloney RBI singles, who went four-for-five in the game. The other run came on a Cale O’Donnell single, marking his first RBI in 10 games, a statistic he at one point led the RMAC in.
Despite allowing 16 baserunners on nine walks and seven hits, the Runners pitching staff held the opposition to two runs while their offense tallied six times on 13 hits and five walks to lock down the series sweep and put themselves in a position to at worst break even on the weekend.
Game Four: MSU Denver 5, Regis University 13
A short, poor outing from Hunter Hogoboom set the Runners up for failure in their final game of the weekend.
Hogoboom, who was coming off a stellar seven inning performance against Adams State two weeks prior, was tagged for five runs in the first inning, which saw two doubles and a home run contribute to six total hits in the frame off of Rangers bats. He gave up an additional double to start the second and was lifted from the game in favor of Tony Yacovetta, who would also struggle. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits in two innings, making the score 10-2 at the time of his exit before the top of the fourth. Jordan Smith then did his best to keep the Runners in the game, working four innings of four hit ball, striking out four in that time. He was charged with two earned runs in the seventh as an error by center fielder Jake Ekman enabled the Regis offense to build momentum. Nic Hansen struck out two in a scoreless eighth and Cade Crader allowed a run on three hits in the ninth to account for all 27 outs, spreading the work across five pitchers. Collectively, they struck out nine while walking three, but served up a staggering 19 hits including five doubles and three homers.
Offensively, a Jake Thurston home run to start the first gave the Runners hope to rebound from a very early five run deficit. All together, they turned in a solid offensive performance, churning out 11 hits with five doubles of their own and scoring five times. They put the ball in play, striking out only three times in the game and recording more fly outs than ground outs. Under normal circumstances, this production would be competitive, but the issues on the other side of the ball proved to be insurmountable.
Thurston’s three hits led the way, while Hunter Donaldson was the only other player to record more than one hit. Only two Runners starters failed to record a hit, but the team left eight runners on base to hinder their scoring efficiency and ability to come back.
The runners closed their weekend with a loss that was uncharacteristic of the other three games played, fortunately. Strong pitching performances and timely hitting led them to two key victories and a competitive loss in game one.