Pack waste opportunities, fall in 11-inning series-opener

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PUEBLO, Colo. Wasted opportunities and a defensive miscue in the 11th inning proved to be the difference as the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) Cougars posted a 4-3 extra-inning win over the host Colorado State University-Pueblo baseball team in the first of a 3-game weekend set, Friday afternoon at Rawlings Field.
The Pack left 18 runners on base throughout the contest and committed three errors, including one in the top of the 11th as Cougar lead-off man Ryan Forbes scored what would be the game-winning run on a botched pick-off attempt giving the visitors the victory in their season-opener.
The Pack, now 2-2, did bang out 10 hits and drew seven walks and three hit by pitches, but struggled to come through with the timely hit as they left the bases loaded in both the bottom of the ninth and the 11th innings.
The Cougars also finished with 10 hits as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the third thanks to a Noah Coleman RBI fielder's choice followed by a perfectly executed double steal in a first and third situation and an Austin Richey RBI single.
Meanwhile, Sioux Falls starter Derek Fischer pitched four innings of no-hit ball before the Pack jumped on him in the fifth, plating three unearned runs on three hits and all three of the Cougar errors. Mario Sanchez (Sr. Tucson, Ariz.) did most of the damage with a 2-run single while Mike Wagner (Jr., Golden, Colo.) also plated a run with an RBI groundout.
With the game now tied at 3, neither team could break through during the rest of regulation as the Pack left two runners on in both the seventh and eighth innings.
Team ace Mike Fabrizio (Sr., Pueblo, Colo.) went seven innings for the Pack before giving way to Doug Finley (Jr., Bermuda Dunes, Calif.), who pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. In turn, he then gave way to Kolby Rimer (Jr., St. George, Utah), who got out of a 1-out bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth with a pick-off and a groundout.
The ThunderWolves then loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth but could not score.
In the first extra-inning, the Cougars went down in order before the Pack put runners on the corners with after a well-executed hit-and-run single by Dominick Bregar (So., Pueblo, Colo.). However, Elijah Thornquist, who ended up with the win for Sioux Falls, recorded a strikeout to keep the game alive.
In the 11th, Sioux Falls started strong as Forbes hit a single to center before stealing second. He then moved to third on a come-backer to Rimer. CSU-Pueblo then intentionally walked Noah Durkin before erasing him with a pick-off at first.
However, Trevor Crow drew a walk and then a throwing error from Rimer on another pick-off attempt. That play allowed Forbes to score.
In the bottom of the 11th, CSU-Pueblo did not give up as Scott Hoyt (Sr., Longmont, Colo.) doubled with one out before two walks loaded the bases. However, Connor Gibson came in to replace Thornquist and got a ground-ball and strike out to earn the save.
Rimer, who picked up a save on Sunday against West Texas A&M, suffered the loss for the Pack.
Hoyt and senior catcher Eddie Williams (Sr., Castle Rock, Colo.) both went 2-for-6 to lead the Pack offense while Bregar went 2-for-5.
Durkin finished 3-for-4 for Sioux Falls while Forbes went 2-for-6 with a couple of runs to pace the Cougar offense.
The teams will play the middle game of the series on Saturday at noon and will then close out the set on Sunday at 11 a.m.