After three straight losses to Mesa State, UNK fights back with a win
The key weekend series between UNK and Mesa State couldn’t have gone much worse for the Lopers for the first three games. Heading into the weekend, the Lopers held a two and a half game lead on Mesa for the best record in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Mesa took the first three games of the series by scores of 12-6, 9-6 and 9-5. During game four on Sunday, the Lopers turned to true freshman pitcher Ethan Poulsen from Longmont, Colo. to halt the Lopers four-game losing skid. In the 7-3 victory, Poulsen threw a complete game eight hitter and struck out three en route to his second win of the season.
“I just wanted to throw strikes and pitch to contact and give us a chance to win. My command was there all game and the defense stepped up and made plays behind me. It was a good team win,” Poulsen said.
Throwing strikes was key for the Lopers in game four as they issued 17 free passes in the first three games combined with 14 walks and three hit batters. The Lopers also committed seven errors over the first three games, contributing to the losses.
“Anytime you walk batters and commit errors you make it easy for the other team to score, and it’s tough to overcome those mistakes,” said senior outfielder Daren Grace.
Along with Poulsen’s pitching, the rest of the Lopers turned things around in game four. The Lopers committed only one error and collected seven timely hits.
The Lopers opened up the scoring in the third when the leadoff hitter reached first on a walk and then stole second. Back to back sacrifice flies by senior second baseman Jordan Mitchelhill and senior first baseman Andrew Haake scored the run.
Mesa responded in the top of the fourth with a run of their own when they combined a single and sacrifice bunt followed by another single to even the score at one. In their half of the fourth, the Lopers broke open the game by scoring four runs.
Senior outfielder Jason Trulin led off the inning and got the Lopers first hit of the game with a line drive back up the middle that deflected off the pitcher’s glove. After another single by senior Tim Urban that left runners at the corners, Grace hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Trulin. After another single and walk that left the bases loaded, Haake hit a line drive to left that scored two more and finished the four run inning. The Lopers added two extra runs in the fifth with three consecutive hits and a sacrifice fly.
Poulsen didn’t look back from there, posting three up and three down innings in the fifth, sixth, and ninth, while striking out two in the seventh. With the win, the Lopers keep a half game lead on the RMAC standings and lead the Plains Division by three and a half games. The Lopers travel to Denver to play Metro State April 15-17.