With no love lost between them, New Mexico Highlands University and archrival Mesa State don’t need much reason to battle, but this time they did it with the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament title on the line.
On Saturday, Mesa State emerged from the loser's bracket and beat NMHU 15-8 in what would have been a championship clincher for the Cowboys.
The Mavericks put the game out of reach with a five-run fifth inning, pinning the loss on Dylan Wisneski.
Christian Garcia (3 for 6, three RBI, two runs) and Oscar Sigala (3 of 5, one run) led Highlands.
Mesa, Highlands' longtime RMAC nemesis, dealt the Cowboys their first loss of the tournament and forced a Sunday rematch for the championship. (Check the Optic Web site, www.lasvegasoptic.com for a report on the outcome.)
Regardless of Sunday's outcome, NMHU — the top team in the Central region as well as the RMAC in the regular season -— was projected to reach the NCAA regionals, to be hosted in Farmington.
NMHU opened the tourney by stomping Regis 18-4, then took down Metro State 4-3 in a 10-inning thriller decided when Kyle Gutchewsky scored off a Christian Garcia single.
Next, on Friday, the Cowboys edged tourney host Nebraska-Kearney 6-4. Brad Morgan went 2 for 4 with two RBI, and Jason Carr hit a solo home run. Trent Evins picked up the win and Tyler Shaddy the save.