Oscar Sigala hit a three-run blast -- his third home run of the game -- in the bottom of the ninth, but the Highlands Cowboys couldn't sustain the rally and lost 15-13 to archrival Mesa State on Friday evening in the NCAA Division II Central Regional tournament.
The loss, preceded by a defeat to Wayne State (Neb.) on Thursday, eliminates NMHU from the postseason. The Cowboys finished 39-21.
Also eliminated Friday from the six-team regional was Minnesota State-Mankato, leaving top seed Mesa, Colorado State-Pueblo, Wayne State and Southwest Minnesota State to vie for the Central title and a trip to the eight-team national championship tourney.
Sigala finished 5 for 6 with six runs batted in and four runs, a flourish to a strong postseason for the NMHU third baseman. Christian Garcia was 3 of 3 with one RBI and three runs, David Bustillos was 3 for 4 with one RBI, and four other Cowboy sluggers had two hits apiece.
Gorman Romero started the game on the mound for Highlands but lasted only two innings after allowing nine hits and five earned runs.
Mesa got big production from Craig Lanzazrotta (5 for 6, three RBI) and Andrew Martinez (4 of 6, three RBI) in particular.
The Mavericks scored six in the top of the second to grab an 8-1 lead, but Highlands answered with six runs int he bottom of the third. Reliever Gilbert Palacios held the Mavs scoreless over a three-inning span while the Cowboys chipped away on offense. NMHU led 10-8 after scoring once in the fourth and twice in the fifth.
But NMHU hit a dry spell in the late innings, and Mesa scored two in the sixth to tie it. Then a five-run seventh gave Mesa a comfortable advantage that stayed intact until the ninth, when Sigala drove in Garcia, Danny Brown and himself. But Mesa closer Aaron Guinn got three straight outs to end the game.