NCAA regionals, here we come.
New Mexico Highlands on Sunday won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference baseball tournament, beating archrival Mesa State 8-6 in the second of two games with the Mavericks.
As the No. 1 team in the region, the Cowboys (39-11) will host this week’s NCAA Division II Central Regional in Farmington.
David Bustillos and Scott Heath tallied three hits apiece and Kyle Gutchewsky drove in three runs to lead Highlands on Sunday. Tyler Wichmann was the winning pitcher.
Mesa, who had defeated NMHU 15-8 on Saturday in what would have been the clincher for the Cowboys had they won, led only once in the deciding game. That was in the middle of the first inning after the Mavs scored once to take a 1-0 edge. But it was short-lived, as the Cowboys put four runs on the board in their half of the inning and never again trailed. Mesa drew within a run in the fourth inning before Highlands gained breathing room with a three-run output in that frame.
It is NMHU's first RMAC tournament title since 2005.
It's been a good couple of weeks for NMHU baseball. The Cowboys garnered a number of All-RMAC awards, including Coach of the Year (Steve Jones), Player of the Year (Jason Carr) and Pitcher of the Year (Drew Vassil). Rebounding from last weekend's series loss at Mesa in Grand Junction, they won their first three games of the RMAC tourney, avoiding the arduous climb through the losers' bracket.
Highlands’ Danny Brown, who recorded a pitching victory and was among the team’s top hitters, was named Most Valuable Player of the RMAC tournament.
Teammates Jason Carr, Christian Garcia and Tyler Wichmann joined Brown on the all-tournament team.
The Central Regional begins at 11 a.m. Thursday at Ricketts Park in Farmington.
Second-seeded Minnesota State plays fifth-seeded Nebraska-Kearney at 11; third-seeded Mesa State faces fourth-seeded Winona State at 3 p.m.; and top seed NMHU plays sixth-seeded St. Cloud State at 7 p.m. The tourney runs through Sunday, with Monday reserved in case of rain-outs.
Regional winners move on, eyeing a shot at the D-II College World Series later this month in Cary, N.C.