The word "pesky" is rarely used as a compliment, but "pesky leadoff hitter" is a term of endearment in baseball circles.
On Friday, Minot State University senior Jordan Gilmour fit that archetype perfectly.
Gilmour batted a combined 6-for-8 and scored four runs in MSU's doubleheader split with the University of Mary at Jack Hoeven Park, the first college games played in Minot since the 2011 flood. MSU won game one 7-5 but lost game two 8-4.
Minot State University second baseman Doug Richter looks to tag out a University of Mary base-stealer during Game 2 of a doubleheader Friday at Jack Hoeven Park. MSU shortop Alex Fornshell is pictured at left.
The speedy left fielder responded to his lone gaffe of the day - getting picked off second base in game one - by stinging a two-run single in his next at-bat to put MSU up 5-4 in the fourth inning. The Beavers (13-23 overall, 5-17 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) scored the eventual winning run the next inning.
"When he's hitting like he is right now, it just seems like he's on base all day long," MSU coach Brock Weppler said. "He just finds a way. He'll foul off pitches, draw a walk, or he'll hit a ball through the hole ... or he'll lay down a bunt. There's just a lot of different weapons he can utilize when he's swinging the bat well, so that was big."
MSU freshman Austin Berntson pitched out of a crucial jam in the fifth inning. After loading the bases with no outs, Berntson coaxed Mary junior Derek Somerville into an RBI groundout, then recorded a strikeout and forced a popup to end the threat.
"That was a big tide-changer," Weppler said. "That game was all about momentum, just kind of back and forth. You need all those breaks you can get in order to keep everything on your side."
Andrew Roach and A.J. Begay hit back-to-back sacrifice flies for MSU in the bottom of the fifth to score the final runs of the seven-inning game.
"We were playing with adrenaline and we really wanted to get this one for coach because he was ragging on us all week to beat Mary," Gilmour said. "It's an in-state rival, and we want to keep the rivalry going, so I think we just worked hard that first game."
In game two, one shoddy inning doomed the Beavers.
Mary (17-19-1, 8-13) scored five runs in the fourth inning with the aid of four walks and a balk. Freshman starter Jesse Goertzen was pulled after walking the bases loaded to open the inning and reliever Zane Sawyer walked another batter and allowed two singles.
"You just gotta come out and challenge 'em," Weppler said of his pitchers. "I think if we come out and challenge 'em and aren't walking guys, I think it's a different story and we win the game. We just gotta do better than that."
MSU sophomore Austin Zorn replaced Sawyer and didn't surrender a walk in 5 2/3 innings, but the damage was done. Mary scored two insurance runs off Zorn, and MSU couldn't mount a rally against Marauders reliever Mason Schiff.
"This year we've been pretty consistent at working at our at-bats and trying to make pitchers work," Mary coach Joel Barta said. "The second game, we made them throw a lot of pitches and we really worked at our at-bats."
Mary senior Kyal Williams and MSU junior Connor Moughtin each hit home runs to left field early in game one.
The teams play a season-ending doubleheader at Hoeven Park beginning today at noon.