By Matthew Lofton
NMHU Sports Information
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — New Mexico Highlands rallied from 8-2 down with seven straight runs, but Tarleton State came back with one in the ninth and four in the 10th, and the Texans went on to win 13-9 in the second round of the NCAA South Central Regional on Friday in Grand Junction, Colo.
Senior Jordan Goliat, in his final game for the Cowboys, led off the bottom of the first with a blast to right for his second round-tripper of the season. Who knew it was a foreshadowing of things to come?
With Highlands down 8-2 in the bottom of the sixth, senior Justin Rodriguez hit what looked to be a harmless solo home run to cut the deficit to five. In the seventh with one out, senior Tyler Hayes singled and Goliat doubled to put two men in scoring position. Andrew Ratterman got a hold of a pitch that just stayed fair down the right field line to cut the deficit to two. After a foul pop-up, Rodriguez and Colby Wilmer hit back-to-back solo shots to tie the game.
A sacrifice fly by Goliat gave the Cowboys the lead after eight. He finished the game a triple short of the cycle in four at-bats with two runs scored and two RBI.
However, Ben Ruff gave up a single to the Texans’ Kevin Meredith with a man on second and two outs in the ninth to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
Three singles and a sacrifice bunt in the top of the 10th put Tarleton State up 10-9 in the game. A walk loaded the bases before a sacrifice fly gave Tarleton State a two-run edge. Luke Slentz sealed the game with a two-out, two-RBI double to put Tarleton State up 13-9.
Highlands (32-22) managed a two-out walk in the bottom of the 10th, but that was all.
Ruff took the loss for the second time in as many games in the NCAA tournament.
Everyone in the Texans’ starting lineup recorded a hit, led by Noel Nevarez’s four hits in five at-bats with three runs and three RBI.
Allowing one run on three hits in 3.1 innings for Tarleton, Garrett Kelly picked up a win.
• • •
When the Cowboys met the Mavericks for the first time this season in Las Vegas, Highlands completed a big comeback to win. On Thursday, the Mavs turned the tables with their own big comeback on their home field.
Highlands took an 8-0 lead, but Colorado Mesa scored nine runs over the final three innings and the Mavericks claimed a 9-8 win in the NCAA Division II Tournament opener for both teams.
Highlands scored three in the third and fourth before capping its offensive onslaught with two in the fifth. Jordan Goliat led of the third with a double and advanced to third with one out on a stolen base and a throwing error by the catcher. Justin Rodriguez followed with an RBI single. Rodriguez advanced to second on a Morgan McCasland walk before Casey Wilmer added a two-out single to put the Cowboys up two. An error on a muffed throw put the Cowboys up 3-0 after three.
Matthew Chavez — who hadn’t hit a home run since March 28 — hit his fourth home run of the season with a pair on in the fourth before Javier Ledford contributed a two-run double in the fifth.
Rodriguez, Wilmer, Goliat and Nick Gonzales each led the Cowboys with a pair of runs while Chavez had only one hit in one at-bat, but made the most of it with a three-run blast to right field.
Blake Harrison, who didn’t give up a run until the seventh (despite the leadoff man reaching in the third, fourth and fifth), allowed eight hits and six runs in seven innings of work.
Derrick Garcia — who finished with a team-leading three hits, four RBI and two runs — started the Mavericks off with a two-run home run in the seventh. Mesa scored six in the eighth to tie and had the go-ahead run at third with one out. Ruff got a strikeout and flyout to keep it tied.
The Cowboys put the first two on to lead off the ninth, but the runners failed to advance.
With one out in the bottom of the frame, Austin Kaiser hit a shallow fly to right center, but the umpire got in the way, and the Cowboys couldn’t catch it as Kaiser scampered to second.
Two singles around an intentional walk ended the game with the Mavericks pulling off the one-run win.