MSU Denver baseball earns first-ever bid to NCAA tourney
Roadrunners upset Colorado Mesa in RMAC championship to secure automatic berth.
The NCAA Division II baseball selection show was only a few minutes old, and there was no doubt that MSU Denver had qualified for the tournament as the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament champion.
But when “MSU Denver” was listed on the televised bracket, there was nevertheless a huge roar at Sunday’s team watch party.
That’s what happens when players — some of them four years into the program — finally achieve what has long been the program’s goal.
“To see it, it was kind of nuts,” MSU Denver second baseman Cody Schultz said. “We’re going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. We’re the team that (coach Ryan) Strain said we were going to be.”
MSU Denver (35-20) has earned the No. 5 seed for the South Central Regional and will play an opening-round game Thursday against fourth-seeded Texas A&M-Kingsville (31-18) in San Angelo, Texas. Those teams are two of three teams in a regional pod that includes top-seeded tournament host Angelo State (45-10).
The Roadrunners earned the RMAC’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament’s six-team South Central Regional after beating Colorado Mesa in the RMAC Conference Tournament championship on Saturday.
Early homers by Zach Schuler and Cam Yuran helped MSU Denver forge a 5-5 tie through five innings, then the Roadrunners took advantage of a couple of fielding misplays and got an RBI single from Yuran in the seventh to build an 8-5 lead over nationally ranked Colorado Mesa in Saturday’s championship game.
Finally, closer Eric Cox made the lead stand with his third two-inning save in four days as the Roadrunners took down the tournament’s top-seeded host.
“I told our guys that to be honest, and not to be over-dramatic, besides my kids being born and my wedding, this is the happiest day of my life,” MSU Denver coach Ryan Strain said. “I don’t think when I took this job that a lot of people thought we could do this, and it wouldn’t have happened without our administration, our coaches, our players … everybody has done a terrific job the last five years.”
The Roadrunners also won the RMAC Tournament for the first time since 2002.
Thursday’s game against Texas A&M-Kingsville is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. (MDT). All tournament games will be live-streamed on the Lone Star Conference Network.