Niemi's walk-off hit gives ASU split over weekend


Grizzlies split with UCCS

ALAMOSA—The Adams State University Grizzlies were only able to split  during their four-game series against the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs Mountain Lions and it came in the second half of a doubleheader on Saturday

The Grizzlies  dropped game one, 12-4, but responded with a 5-4 walk-off win in game two. Adams State got the split thanks toa a 9-5 Friday win and a 12-9 loss on Sunday.

The bats were alive early and often in the series opener as Adams State jumped to a 6-1 lead after four innings. Thomaslee Mares brought in the game's first run with a RBI single to score Michael Downs in the bottom of the first. UCCS answered with a Matt Bone RBI single in the top of the second to tie the game, 1-1.

The Grizzlies extended their lead with five unanswered runs to pull away, 6-1. During that span, Tony Stanich, Sawyer Morain, Mares, and Marco Garmendia produced run-scoring hits.

The Mountain Lions cut their deficit to 6-4 with three runs in the fifth and made it 6-5 with another run in the eighth. During the eighth, the Grizzlies dodged giving up the lead thanks to a ground out double play with a pair of UCCS runners on.

The Grizzlies tacked on three insurance runs in their half of the eighth as Dustin Kachel, Downs, and Evan Weidner each knocked an RBI hit.

Mason Munford (S, 3) closed out the win as the senior entered the game in the top of the ninth.

Mares paced the offense, hitting 3-for-5 with two RBI, two doubles, and a run scored. Weidner hit 3-for-4 with two doubles, a RBI, and run scored. Kachel added a 2-for-5 performance at the plate with two RBI, a double, and a run scored. Stanich and Nick Hill each chipped in two hits apiece.

Casey Weber (2-2) picked up the win in 7.1 innings of work. Weber struck out seven and allowed five runs off 10 hits. Adam Molina spent time on the mound in the eighth and helped Adams State get out of the frame with a one run lead.

The first game of the twin-bill did not go as planned for starting pitcher Daniel Brennan (0-2) who allowed six runs off five hits in his 1.1 innings on the mound. The UCCS offense scored early, and often, with a three-run first, second, and fourth inning. The Mountain Lions added a two-run fifth and their final run of the game in the seventh.

The Grizzlies answered with a run in the bottom of the first thanks to a Thomaslee Mares RBI single to score Dustin Kachel but ASU could not match UCCS' production. The Grizzlies cut their deficit to 9-3 with two runs in the fourth. Singles by Evan Weidner and Marco Garmendia set the stage for a Dylan April RBI ground out and a Ryne Niemi RBI single. Michael Downs scored ASU's final run of the game an inning later off a Weidner RBI single to right field.

Weidner finished game one hitting 2-for-4 with a run scored and RBI.  After Brennan's early exit Ryan Ferguson, Brett Aker, and Ty Gavin came on in relief to close out the game.

A dramatic walk-off hit in the seventh concluded Saturday's doubleheader as Niemi's bases loaded RBI single scored Weidner to give ASU a 5-4 win.

Trailing 3-0, the Grizzlies knotted the game with a three-run fourth inning. Niemi helped push the first ASU run across home plate with a two out, bases loaded RBI sacrifice fly. Grant Templin followed with a two RBI double into right field to score Tony Stanich and Garmendia.

The game remained tied until the top of the sixth as UCCS brought in a run to take a 4-3 lead. The lead was short-lived as Derek Denovellis' pinch hit RBI single brought Erik Hildebrandt in from third in the bottom half of the inning. Hildebrandt entered the game as a pinch runner for Stanich who reached base with a double earlier in the frame.

Starting pitcher Josh Keaton (3-3) kept the game tied at 4-4 in the top of the seventh with three ground outs. Keaton battled through his complete game outing to the tune of 108 net pitches.

The bottom of the seventh began with a Downs strikeout but the senior reached first thanks to throwing error by the UCCS catcher on the putout attempt. Weidner followed with an intentional walk as Mares' sacrifice bunt moved both Downs and Weidner into scoring position with one out. A Garmendia intentional walk followed to set the stage for Hildebrandt with the bases loaded. Hildebrandt's at-bat resulted in a fielder's choice as Downs was thrown out at home. Niemi then entered the batter's box and lifted a ball into right field to score Weidner and end the game with a 5-4 win.

In the walk-off win, Niemi went 2-for-4 with two RBI with Templin going 1-for-2 with two RBI. Weidner went 0-for-1 with three walks and two runs scored.

In his first complete game win of the season, Keaton struck out eight with two walks. The senior allowed four runs off nine hits while forcing 11 groundouts.

UCCS opened the game with two runs in the top of the first but the Grizzlies left the frame with a 4-2 lead. In the bottom half of the first, Dustin Kachel sent the first pitch he saw over the left center fence for a leadoff home run. Mares followed with a RBI single to knot the game, 2-2, as Weidner made it 3-2 after scoring on a UCCS error. Dylan April pushed the final run of the inning across with a RBI sacrifice fly to left field.

Two UCCS runs in the top of the second tied the game at 4-4 as starting pitcher Dylan Sherry saw his outing come to a close after allowing the two runs. Beau Lofink came on in relief and brought an end to the frame with a groundout. Lofink tossed 3.1 innings in his relief appearance; allowing two runs off two hits.

The Mountain Lions broke the tie with a run in the fourth and another in the fifth. Trailing 6-4, the Grizzlies reclaimed the lead with three runs in the bottom of the fifth.

Garmendia belted a two RBI triple into left center to score Mares and Weidner as Ryne Niemi immediately followed with a RBI double to score Garmendia and give Adams State a 7-6 advantage.

UCCS responded with a three-run top of the sixth against ASU reliever Adam Molina (0-1). UCCS scored three runs off two hits as ASU allowed three consecutive walks to aid the Mountain Lions. Molina was unable to complete the inning and was pulled for Mason Munford who ultimately closed out the game after entering in the middle of the sixth. Munford tossed 4.0 innings with six hits and three runs allowed off 68 net pitches.

A Garmendia sacrifice fly RBI in the bottom of the sixth cut the ASU deficit to 9-8 but UCCS posted three more runs in the seventh to pull away, 12-8.

The stage was set in the bottom of the ninth for a comeback as a Michael Downs single loaded the bases with no outs. After Downs' hit, Nick Hill hit into a 6-4-3 double play. The double play scored Niemi but a ground out that followed by Dustin Kachel ended the game in a 12-9 defeat.

In the loss, Adams State produced a pair of doubles, a triple, and a home run.

The Grizzlies return to the diamond for a four-game road series at Metropolitan State University of Denver beginning March 24th. First pitch of game one is set for 6pm.

Photos by Irma Lucero