Beavers open conference play against Vikings

The Minot State softball team didn’t start off the final non-conference road trip the way coach Bill Triplett would have liked.

The Beavers dropped four of the first five contests to begin their nine-game Florida swing.

“We came out and had a good first game and then we went through stretches where we just didn’t get the big hit,” Triplett said. “Defensively we weren’t in the game. We threw to the wrong bases and dropped some fly balls we shouldn’t have. We just didn’t perform up to our standards.”

But the Beavers were able to right the ship, closing the Florida trip with four straight wins.

“All of sudden we looked like a whole different team and really good at times,” Triplett said. “Florida was like two different teams at times.”

Triplett hopes the latter half of the trip carries over as MSU hosts Augustana today – in a doubleheader at Herb parker Stadium, starting at noon – to open up Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play.

And it will be a stiff test.

“It’s unfortunate we have to open the conference season with Augie,” Triplett said. “They’re perennially one of the top two teams in the region. It will be a good test right away and hopefully we can get after it.”

The Vikings (1-1 NSIC, 14-10 overall) have won seven of their past nine games, most recently dropping a 9-8 affair against Wayne State.

Augustana boasts the fourth-best lineup in the conference with a combined average of .325 while registering 19 home runs.

So what’s the key for Minot State?

“We hope to score first,” Triplett said. “A lot of times that team that ends up scoring first ends up winning. (Junior centerfielder) Jordan Grant is a huge part of our game. She’s always starts our lineup and if she gets on base there’s a good chance she will score. Whether it’s a bunt or a walk it’s a double because she’s so fast. So we want to get ahead if we can and play add on from there.”

Grant is hitting .310 on the season to go alongside a team-high six stolen bases. Junior utility player Rachel Burdette leads the offensive charge, batting .415 on the season.

The Beavers will likely start juniors Jenn Spencer and Alyssa Cornejo in the doubleheader. Cornejo comes into Thursday with a team-best 2.45 earned run average while Spencer’s sits at 5.13.

John Denega covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @JohnDenega_MDN.