MSU
Johnson

MANKATO, Minn. -- Nolan Johnson connected on a game-winning home run on Friday afternoon propelling top-seeded Minnesota State to a 7-5 win against third-seeded Colorado Mesa in the second round of the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament at Franklin Rogers Park.

The Mavericks from Colorado Mesa jumped ahead early scoring three first-inning runs on three consecutive run-producing hits by Jeff Popick, Mitch Corwin and Dustin Fackrell to take the lead out of the gate.

The score would remain 3-0 until the fourth when Minnesota State found its offensive with a four-run inning.

Mike Eckhart got the MSU scoring started with a bases-loaded double which brought in two runs before Ben Kincaid would tie the score at 3-3 with an RBI groundout.

MSU would capture its first lead with its next at-bat as Connor McCallum connected on an RBI double which brought home Eckhart to give the Mavericks a 4-3 lead.

After a scoreless fifth inning, Colorado Mesa would retake the lead in the top of the sixth scoring two runs courtesy of back-to-back sacrifice bunts which each scored a run as CMU went in front by a 5-4 margin.

However, the lead wouldn’t last long as Minnesota State tied the game at five in the bottom of the inning when Kincaid’s single to center field scored Matt Odegaard who had doubled earlier in the inning.

Colorado Mesa would threaten with two runners on base in the top of the ninth but Mahlon Zimmermann was able to retire both batters he faced to end the inning which set up the Mavericks’ late-inning heroics for the second consecutive night.

After McCallum, who reached base on a fielder’s choice, was sacrificed over to second by pinch-hitter Todd Standish, Johnson set flight to a 1-2 pitch over the left-field wall as the Mavericks sealed the 7-5 victory.

The victory was Zimmermann’s first of the season as he was the second relief pitcher of the afternoon after TJ Larson took over for starting pitcher Harvey Martin who lasted just one inning after allowing two earned runs.

Larson allowed two earned runs on six hits while striking out six batters in 7.1 innings of work.

Minnesota State was led at the plate by Lucas Skjefte and Odegaard who each recorded two hits while Mike Eckhart, Kincaid and Johnson each added two RBIs.

The Mavericks (46-10) also set the Minnesota State school record for wins in a single season as the old record was 45 wins which was set back in 2007.