May 21, 2013

Long ball leads Baseball to tournament-opening win

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- Three's were wild for the Northern Colorado baseball team Tuesday in its 13-1 Great West Conference Tournament-opening win against Chicago State at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium.

Northern Colorado (30-22) scored three runs in the first, third and sixth innings and hit three home runs overall, including a three-run shot from GWC Player of the Year Jensen Park in the seventh, to run-rule the Cougars (8-44) and win its ninth straight game. 

The Bears have reached the 30-win plateau for just the fifth time in school history (1974, 1994, 2003, 2010) and will next face fifth-seed North Dakota (24-20-1) at 10:15 a.m. MT tomorrow.

UND defeated Utah Valley 8-7 in the first game of the tournament.

"We played great team baseball today," Northern Colorado coach Carl Iwasaki said. "This is just Day One, though, and our team is focused on the final goal, which is winning three more games and the tournament."

Junior Nick Miller (Loveland, Colo.) hit his fourth home run this season in the sixth inning, a three-run blast, and senior Derek Baum (San Diego) tagged his second homer of the season in the seventh to start the rally.

Junior Chris Hammer (Greeley) pitched the entire game and allowed just one run on four hits. He walked only one and struck out six to improve to 5-4 on the year.

The top four in the Bears' batting order combined for nine of the team's 13 hits, with junior Colby Harrison (Cheyenne, Wyo.) finishing 3 for 4, and sophomore Ryan Yamane (Honolulu), Miller and Park all getting two hits apiece.

Yamane singled to right center with no outs in the first inning and moved to second on a failed pickoff move.

Park then reached via catcher's interference, and with two outs junior Andrew Coffman (Davenport, Iowa) was hit by a pitch and junior Ben Netzel (Loveland) walked to plate Yamane.

Baum then singled past a diving third baseman to score two more for the Bears' early 3-0 lead.

Chicago State got one unearned run back in the top of the second after a hit batter, a passed ball and a single made the score 3-1.

Miller singled through the right side to kick off the Bears' third inning, and Harrison laid a perfect bunt down the third-base line for a single, moving Miller into scoring position. Coffman then bunted the pair over with a sacrifice, and Baum walked to load the bases.

Junior Corey Fujimoto (Tucson, Ariz.) singled through the right side to plate two, and a throwing error by the catcher allowed Baum to scamper home for a 6-1 advantage.

Junior Landon Moseley (Lawrence, Kan.) was hit by a pitch to start things in the sixth, and Yamane walked and Park bunted the pair over.

Miller then hit the scoreboard in right field for three more runs and a 9-1 lead, which knocked Chicago State's starter Dylan Sterrett out of the game.

Hammer then retired the side in order in the top of the seventh, getting three consecutive groundouts, and Baum hit his second home run of the year in the bottom of the seventh to put Northern Colorado ahead 10-1.

Fujimoto singled through the left side and, with one out, Yamane fisted a single to centerfield before Park ended the game with his blast that landed in near the same spot Baum's home run did earlier in the inning.