Mesa, AZ - It wasn't a day the Mesa Thunderbirds will look back with the fondest of memories. After dropping to #10 in the NJCAA rankings, the T-Birds lost a close game to an ACCAC DII opponent in Gateway Tuesday afternoon, 7-5.
Not saying that being the #10 team in the country is a bad thing. It's great and many teams throughout the DII landscape would love to be sitting #10. But for this Mesa team, they were sitting as the #4 team not too long ago.
It wasn't a fluke either. This team has both the pitching and the bats to compete with anyone, so dropping in the rankings and dropping ACCAC contests this late in the season is frustrating.
With ace Chase Merriman on the mound, Mesa jumped ahead in the top of the second inning, scoring three runs. With Jace DeGrange and Cameron Cruz aboard, Josh Brown wrapped a triple to the gap, scoring Mesa's first two runs. Jared Crockett would then single in Brown from third, giving Merriman a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, Merriman would walk the leadoff hitter, which eventually came around to score. Gateway would knotch one more run in the third and two in the fourth off Merriman, as the sophomore pitcher lasted only four innings for the T-Birds. He had four strikeouts on the afternoon, allowing nine hits and four runs, but received a no decision on the day.
Mesa took a 5-4 lead in the sixth inning when Hunter Bross knocked in Kelby Richardson but the Geckos were able to push three runs across in the seventh and eighth innings off relief pitchers John Cranston and Nick Ohanian to take the final 7-5 advantage.
The T-Birds had runners on first and second in the top of the ninth inning with just one out but a pop out to the second baseman and strikeout looking finished any comeback chance by the T-Birds.
Mesa moves to 35-14 overall and 20-13 in conference play. The T-Birds are currently tied in the ACCAC DII playoff picture with Phoenix College. Mesa and Gateway will be back at it tomorrow at MCC with a 3 pm first pitch.