Zak Whalin didn’t catch it all, not nearly, and the Central Missouri catcher lifted a bloop single into shallow center field. He raced to first, and with two outs, Cole Taylor dashed home from second.
Mules fans at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, clamored.
Suddenly, Central Missouri had awoken from a deep deficit and whittled Colorado Mesa’s lead to 6-5 in Monday evening’s Division II College World Series quarterfinals.
Unfortunately for the Mules, though, that’s as close as they got.
Colorado Mesa held Central Missouri scoreless the rest of the way and held on for a 6-5 win.
The Mules (44-15) will be relegated to the loser’s bracket, where they will play New York Institute of Technology at 6 p.m. Central time Wednesday.
Central Missouri’s rally came up just short, but it’s worth revisiting.
It began in the fourth inning, when Josh Schumacher used a groundout to score Alex Madera, good for Central Missouri’s first run of the game and the beginning of a comeback that continued two frames later.
In the fifth, Mason Janvrin plated Donovan Ditto with an RBI fielder’s choice, and Madera’s sacrifice fly brought Whalin home.
Colorado Mesa’s lead was trimmed even further.
Then, in the sixth stanza, Harrison Schnurbusch led off with a double. Two batters later, Taylor whistled his own double down the right-field line, setting the stage for Whalin to single him home.
It was the Mules’ final run of the game.
Further complicating things for Central Missouri: The Mules’ starter, Luke Lucas, just wasn’t on.
The redshirt senior was roughly a week removed from holding Augustana one earned run across 4 1/3 innings and two removed from spinning seven innings of one run-ball in a win over Central Oklahoma.
Those trends didn’t carry over to Monday.
Lucas’ final line against Colorado Mesa: five innings, 11 hits, six runs, one walk and one strikeout.
He let the Mavericks score early and often, too, permitting three runs in the second frame and two in the third.
That put the Mules in a hole they — almost — climbed out of.