SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San José State baseball team got all it could handle in the series opener versus Northern Colorado Friday night at Municipal Stadium, giving up multiple-run leads on two separate occasions before eventually prevailing 9-8.
“You hope you don’t get in that situation, and we shouldn’t have been in that situation, but I do like the resilience,” said head coach Dave Nakama. “I think last year we lose this game. I think the guys are more resilient and they did a good job of coming back in the ninth.”
San José State (2-3, 0-0 MW) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead over Northern Colorado (0-1, 0-0 WAC) when Andre Mercurio sent a 3-1 pitch from Bears starter Chase Cleary over the right field fence. The home run was Mercurio’s first of his four-year Spartan career.
In the top of the third, Dillan Smith drew a walk and Michael Breen followed up with a base hit to set the table for Mercurio, who hit a sacrifice fly to right for his second RBI of the game. Two pitches later, Alec de Watteville doubled off the left field fence to bring home Breen for a 3-0 Spartans lead.
San José State looked to be in good shape with Kalei Contrades on the mound, who fanned six Bears through his first four frames. In the top of the fifth, however, a leadoff walk to Brandon Vaughn sparked a three-run rally, as Nick Tanner, Dan Reese and Payton Tapia followed up with base hits to knot the score at 3-3.
A half inning later, Tyler Olivet was hit by Cleary’s first pitch of the inning, marking the end of the night for the Bears’ righty. Smith laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Olivet to second, but UNC reliever Matt Loutzenhiser threw the ball into center field and then hit Breen to bring Mercurio up with the bases loaded and nobody out. The senior skied Loutzenhiser’s 2-1 offering deep enough to center to bring home Olivet to make it 4-3, but that’s all the Spartans could manage in the inning.
After another walk came around to score in the Bears’ half of the sixth to tie the game at 4-4, the Spartans erupted for four runs in the bottom of the seventh. Olivet again sparked the rally, this time with a leadoff walk. Another UNC error, a sac bunt and a walk set the table for de Watteville, who delivered with a base hit to right field to drive in a pair. After David Campbell laid down a sac bunt to bring in Mercurio, Brett Bautista singled to right to put the Spartans up 8-4.
San José State could not shut the door in the top of the ninth, however, as the Spartans yielded three consecutive walks to open the inning, followed by an error and a pair of timely base hits by Northern Colorado to again tie the game, this time at 8-8.
In the bottom of the inning, Caleb Kirkman came on for the Bears and surrendered a one-out single to Campbell, who advanced to third when Kirkman’s pickoff attempt sailed up the first base line. After back-to-back intentional walks to Bautista and Chris Williams, freshman infielder Justin Beck pinch hit and worked the count full before drawing a walk-off walk to give San José State a 9-8 win.
“A win’s a win, and we’ll take them when we can get them, but it’s just so disappointing the way we played. We’re not playing any better; we should be playing better as the year goes on,” Nakama said. “We have to play better defense and we have to pitch better. We walk eight guys, hit a guy – that’s the only way we allow them to come back, and they’re a good enough team that they took advantage of those free bases that we gave them.”
Leading the Spartans at the plate were Mercurio (1-2, HR, 2 R, BB, 3 RBI), de Watteville (2-5, R, 2B, 3 RBI) and Bautista (3-3, 2B, BB, RBI).
San José State continues its long weekend with a Saturday doubleheader beginning at 1:00 p.m. Jonathan Hernandez will take the ball for the Spartans in game one and face off with Spencer Applebach, with starters for the second game to be determined. Fans purchasing a ticket for the first game of the day receive admission to the nightcap as well.
“We have some guys available to pitch. Everybody’s going to get an opportunity this weekend, so they have to be ready. We have to do a better job of throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters and creating contact early in the count,” said Nakama.
San Jose State 9, Northern Colorado 8 (Feb 20, 2015 at San Jose, Calif.)
Northern Colorado... 000 031 004 - 8 7 3 (0-1)
San Jose State...... 102 010 401 - 9 8 3 (2-3)
Pitchers: Northern Colorado - Cleary,Chase; Loutzenhiser,Matt(5); Kirkman,Caleb(9) and
Tapia,Payton; Garcia,Jake. San Jose State - Contrades, Kalei; BERUMEN, Jackson(6);
NASHED, Josh(9) and VEASEY, Jack.
Win-NASHED, Josh(2-0) Loss-Kirkman,Caleb(0-1) T-3:11 A-425
HR SJSU - Mercurio, Andre.
Weather: 68 degrees, clear skies
Cleary,C faced 1 batter in the 5th.