Big inning does in baseball in conference opener
NEWARK, N.J. – A six-run inning for NJIT in the second frame put Northern Colorado behind early and the Bears were never quite able to catch up in the Great West Conference opener for both teams as the Bears fell 7-6 on Thursday evening.
The Bears committed two of their three errors in the six-run second inning for the Highlanders before senior Nate Steinmetz struck out the final two batters of the inning to stop the momentum. Steinmetz (1-4) took the loss after going 5.1 innings, though he shattered his previous career-high for strike outs, fanning 11 Highlanders. In fact, the Bears struck out 14 NJIT batters, just two shy of the school record of 16 set a year ago against NJIT.
Northern Colorado chipped away, scoring one run in the third, three runs in the fifth and two runs in the seventh, but was unable to plate any more to fall to 9-14 on the year and 0-1 in Great West play. NJIT is now 8-12 and 1-0 in league action.
The team scored their six runs on eight hits with two each coming off the bats of senior Adam Hilker and junior Derek Baum, including a triple by Baum in the three-run fifth inning. Sophomore Colby Harrison started that frame with a single up the middle and scored on the hit to center by Baum. With two outs, senior Casey Coy tried to keep the rally alive with a double to left-center and Hilker followed with a single to left field to plate Coy, but senior Adrian Schenk flew out to end the inning.
In the seventh inning, with one out, junior Dylan Banach took the defense by surprise and bunted for a single and freshman Ryan Yamane drew a walk. Both then took off and stole bases to put runners on second and third with the heart of the order coming up. Hilker singled up the middle to score both to pull the Bears within one, 7-6, but they were unable to draw any closer.
In a very untypical fashion, the middle of the order struggled for the Bears as hitters four through six, Schenk, senior Tony Crudo and freshman Jensen Park went 0-for-12, though Schenk reached base once via error and Park was walked once.
The two teams return to the field for a doubleheader beginning at 1 pm (Eastern), 11 am (Mountain).
Quick Notes: Senior pitcher Nate Steinmetz struck out a career-best 11 batters, more than doubling his previous career high of five from twice earlier this season… The triple for Derek Baum in the fifth inning was his first in a Bears uniform, but the 14th of the year for the team… This is the third season of the Great West Conference and the first time Northern Colorado has lost the season-opener, but also the third season the Bears have opened the conference schedule on the road… In the ninth-inning, senior Adam Hilker was intentionally walked. It is just the second for the team this season and the first this year for the senior leader.