Baseball rally falls just short in final home game of year
By HEATHER KENNEDY
GREELEY – There were 25 hits and 26 runners stranded on base between the Northern Colorado and Air Force baseball teams on Tuesday afternoon at Jackson Field and 35 different players saw action in the 7-6 Falcon win.
The Bears (25-27) had both a 3-2 and 4-3 lead in the game, but the Falcons (14-36) scored four runs in the fifth for a 7-4 advantage, which they never relinquished.
"I had to be careful today with our position guys," said Head Coach Carl Iwasaki in reference to the amount of players used. "Our frontline games played a 14-inning game and backed it up with another nine innings (on Sunday). We need to generate from our secondary players as well as our front line guys and we just left too many men on base. We hit the ball hard, there were great opportunities that we missed and they made some great plays on us."
Senior Casey Coy started on the hill for the Bears, pitching just one frame before moving to designated hitter.
Freshman Eian Raeber pitched the next 3.1 innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits and walking three. Senior Cameron Tallman (0-2) pitched 0.2 innings, surrendering two runs on two hits with one strikeout and was handed his second loss of the year.
"Michael Wilke, he's not a front line guy, but boy, nice job," said Iwasaki. "He threw two-plus scoreless innings."
Air Force took the early lead with two runs in the top of the first inning.
The Bears answered with three of their own in the bottom half of the frame. With one out, Coy hit a line drive to left center, sophomore Colby Harrison followed with a walk and senior Adam Hilker singled to center to load the bases. Schenk singled through the right side to plate one and two more scored on a throwing error by the catcher on a pickoff move to third for the 3-2 advantage.
The Falcons knotted the score at 3-3 in the top of the third with one run off two hits and Raeber made a great defensive play to possibly save more.
The Bears regained the lead with one run in the fourth. With two outs, freshman Taylor Anderson walked and Coy and Harrison hit back-to-back singles back up through the middle of the infield for the 4-3 lead.
Again the Falcons answered immediately with four runs in the top of the fifth, including two off a home run by Blair Roberts for the 7-4 tally.
In the bottom of the seventh, freshman Ryan Yamane and Schenk were both hit by pitches. Yamane scored on a single that took a bad hop over the second baseman's head off the bat of senior Tony Crudo. Junior Harrison Lambert singled through the right side to score Crudo with two outs to close within one, 7-6.
Coy was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the eighth. Harrison laid down a sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher and Schenk was hit for the second-straight plate appearance.
Crudo singled back up the middle to begin the bottom of the ninth after Tinnon retired the Air Force hitters in order. Freshman Eric Ferguson singled down the left field line but Crudo was picked off at second. Lambert was hit by a pitch and after Anderson flew out to center, Coy hit into a fielder's choice as Matt Thorne took the ball himself from short stop to step on second and end the game.
The Bears head to Orem, Utah for a four-game series at Utah Valley to conclude the regular season. The team then begins the Great West Conference Tournament on Tuesday, May 22.
"We're playing our best baseball right now," said Iwasaki. "All our front line guys are playing good baseball and we're hoping to put it all together this next weekend. We've got to play our best baseball to play (Utah Valley) and headed into the tournament."