Spring season means baseball season and the Colorado Mesa University’s baseball team is hoping to repeat their success from last year’s World Series run. The Mavericks are coming off a 50-12 record, the first 50-win season in program history. CMU made their third appearance in the NCAA Division II College World Series, reaching the final four but losing in the National Semifinals to eventual champions, West Chester.

With a record like that comes high preseason rankings. The team is ranked fourth on the Collegiate Baseball’s NCAA Division II 2018 Pre-Season Poll.

Last season, the Mavericks captured their sixth straight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) Championship, their 11th total in the past 13 seasons. Their RMAC record last year was a blistering 32-4.

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Every team has an identity, whether it’s standout pitching or timely hitting. For the Mavericks, they are a team who excel on both sides of the ball. Colorado Mesa finished seventh in batting average and earned-run average (ERA) in Division II during the 2017 season. Colorado Mesa’s .337 batting average and 3.22 ERA were good for first in the RMAC.

“Our pitching is going to be pretty good, so I think we’ll be known for that. But we always want to be known as a close-knit, unified team,” Head coach Chris Hanks said.

Hanks is entering his 20th season as head coach of the Mavericks.  He has led the ballclub to 15 NCAA Division II National Tournaments, as well as three World Series berths.

“We have good energy and unity, and we’ve been fortunate with very good weather, so that’s been helpful. The pitching’s looked really good early, and guys’ attitudes are great,” Hanks said.

The pitching staff will welcome the return of Kyle Leahy, a right-handed pitcher who finished with a 1.41 ERA and an unblemished 13-0 record. His 1.41 ERA was good for second in all of Division II. Junior JR McDermott and Senior Chris Ramirez will also be part of the staff. McDermott and Ramirez pitched effectively last season and only lost one game apiece.

With the bats, senior infielders Zach McLeod and JJ Carr will look to repeat their performance. McLeod finished with a batting average of .351, along with 5 home runs and 41 runs batted in (RBI). Carr hit .330 and had 30 RBI’s of his own.

The Mavericks lost standout Bligh Madris to the First-Year Player Draft. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 9th round. CMU will miss his presence, but there is no doubt the team is infused with talent throughout the whole roster.

CMU will be tested early as they face off against serious competition to start their season. The Mavericks will play UC-San Diego, Dixie State and Cal Baptist the first three weekends, with two of those weekends on the road. All three teams are ranked inside the top 15 in Division II, as well as being top-ranked in the West Region.

“We’re going to be playing some really good people early, so we’ll get a good gauge of where our team’s at. That’s the biggest challenge we’ll have to tackle early on,” Hanks said.

The Mavericks open their season against No. 7 UC-San Diego on Feb. 9 in La Jolla, California.

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Josue Perez is a junior mass communication student. He is from Montrose, Colorado. He began writing on staff for The Criterion in the fall of 2017 and will be assistant sports editor in the spring. He has a passion for sports and wishes to pursue a career in sports journalism.

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