When the Minot State University football team competes in its annual spring scrimmage Saturday, coach Paul Rudolph expects parity.
"There's been some good on both sides of the ball," Rudolph said. "On the same token, there's been some bad on both sides of the ball. ... Hopefully, we can just minimize the ugly."
Beginning at 9 a.m. at Herb Parker Stadium, the Beavers will participate in a controlled scrimmage open to fans. No score will be kept, and the offense will take over from various spots on the field to simulate different situations.
Minot State University sophomore Randel Barber tries to break free from the grasp of safety Levi Freidt during practice Tuesday at Herb Parker Stadium.
Minot State University redshirt freshman Micah Holmen plays the national anthem before the MSU football game against St. Cloud State in November at Herb Parker Stadium. Photo courtesy of Michael Linnell/MSU sports information.
"It's been cold out here and brutal out here," senior defensive back Jeff Buchert said. "It'll be nice getting in front of people we know, friends and family."
Rudolph said the scrimmage will mix and match first- and second-stringers.
"There'll be a little of everything," he said. "Some 1s vs. 1s, some 1s vs. 2s, some 2s vs. 1s."
Unlike last year, the quarterback battle isn't a storyline heading into the scrimmage. Zac Cunha earned the starting job as a freshman last season and appears primed to hold down the spot.
The offensive line graduated five seniors from a season ago, but all-conference tackle Admir Mujakovic could help bring the young unit along.
"Our new linemen, they're getting there," senior wide receiver Wayne Peters said. "I think over the summer is when they'll start locking in."
While Rudolph said he didn't consider either unit to be dominant, Peters gave a slight edge to the defense, which allowed just one touchdown on 19 drives in last year's spring game.
"They did pretty good last year holding their ground," Peters said. "I feel like they'll make the offense better."
Buchert said practices have been competitive so far, as each side has focused on self-improvement.
"We're not worried about (the offense)," he said. "We're doing our thing and we're getting everything straight - technique, assignments need to be 100 percent. That's what we're more focused on."
Micah Holmen chose to attend Minot State because it offered him the opportunity to pursue his two loves: baseball and saxophone.
Sometimes the passions overlap and Holmen, a music education major, must choose a side. That was the case last weekend, when the redshirt freshman third baseman remained at MSU for a regional saxophone convention while his teammates traveled to South Dakota for a four-game series with Sioux Falls.
Holmen, who began playing the sax in fifth grade, said the convention featured professors from other universities and professional jazz musicians from New York and Chicago. Holmen performed nine times in three days and chatted with other college musicians as well as the professionals who attended the event.
"Some performances were bigger than others and in each one of them, you performed for someone who'd never heard you play before," Holmen said. "It was great to share music with some of the best saxophonists in the world."
The Minot High graduate has played "The Star-Spangled Banner" before MSU basketball games and hopes to perform professionally after college.
For now, though, he's staying occupied as a college athlete and aspiring musician.
"It's late nights and it's busy, busy days," Holmen said. "I've been practicing my horn anywhere from two to five hours a day. I'm usually running back and forth to the dome three times a day with lifting and hitting and practice."
Holmen has appeared in two games this season for MSU (10-16 overall, 2-10 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference), going 0-for-1 with a walk and a run scored. Even though baseball adds to his busy schedule and has nothing to do with his ideal career path, Holmen said he's "not ready to give it up."
"I love being with the guys," he said. "It's awesome to be able to do both things."
Softball players maintain gaudy stats
With just six games left in the regular season, the Minot State University softball team and its players are continuing to put up some of the best numbers in the NSIC and the nation.
Junior No. 3 hitter Jen Dixon is leading the league in batting average (.532), slugging percentage (1.036), on-base percentage (.597), doubles (17) and triples (six). As of Monday (national statistics are updated weekly), Dixon was second in Division II in slugging percentage, third in batting average and fourth in on-base percentage.
Senior cleanup Tiffany Friesen is fourth in the NSIC in batting average (.422) and first in RBIs (50). Friesen's 1.38 RBIs per game ranks sixth in Division II.
The Beavers' pitching staff has also put up stellar numbers. MSU's 1.69 team ERA is tops in the league and ninth in the country. Senior ace Mandy Greenberg (17-2) leads the NSIC in ERA (1.15) and opponents' batting average (.155). Friesen (12-4) is ninth in the league with a 2.31 ERA.
MSU (31-6 overall, 13-5 NSIC) hosts Minnesota, Crookston (2-33, 1-23) in a doubleheader beginning today at 3 p.m. at Herb Parker Stadium. The games mark the Beavers' last home contests of the season.