Spectacular send off
Minot State’s baseball team gave its seniors something to remember on Saturday at Corbett Field.
In the final weekend of the Beaver’s season, they accomplished something only one other team has this season.
Defeating St. Cloud State twice in a four-game stint.
The Beavers topped the No. 3 team in the country 11-5 and fell 19-14 in the nightcap to complete a 2-2 split in the final regular-season series of the year.
“We didn’t play our best baseball, but (MSU coach) Brock (Weppler) and those guys played really well,” St. Cloud State coach Pat Dolan said. “He had those seniors and their whole team playing great baseball. I don’t want to say I’m happy, by any means, coming out 2-2 this weekend, but we could have very easily went 1-3 and possibly 0-4 and that says something about Brock. He takes and plays all of his seniors in a back-and-forth game. He could have been pinch-hitting getting his top guys in, but he didn’t. Those seniors are going to remember that 10-20 years down the road. That’s a class guy over there. They did a hell of a job.”
On many instances this season, MSU’s lineup didn’t feature a senior, but four started in Game 2.
Seniors Connor Oliver, Austin Berntson, Keith Ailes and Micah Holmen all blessed the lineup card in their final game as a Beaver. The four combined for seven hits and two RBIs.
“Senior day brought an extra edge definitely for all of our seniors,” Ailes said. “These our last games ever stepping on a diamond and that passion was brought out of our younger guys as well.”
And their importance on and off the field didn’t go unnoticed either.
“You can’t measure what they done for this program,” Weppler said. “I’m so impressed with the people they are. They are the people you hope to recruit. There’s not a lot of programs that you can walk into as 18-year old kid and be treated as an equal by a senior. A lot of times you get the run around, but our seniors have been like father figures to our younger guys.”
The Beavers jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the nightcap after back-to-back solo blasts from junior centerfielder Jordan Schulz and Ailes capped an eight-run second inning.
The Huskies answered in a big way, putting up an 11-spot in the top half of the third.
MSU junior catcher Paul Vogelsang cranked a grand slam to left that pulled the Beavers to within one (13-12) in the fourth and Schulz hit a two-run shot in the following inning, which tied the game at 14.
The Huskies scored runs in the seventh and eighth before a knocking in three in the final inning to put the game away.
Two dingers by first baseman Celestino Rodriguez in the opener highlighted the win for MSU. Rodriguez’s first homer staked the Beavers to their first lead of the day at 3-2 in the third.
Junior third baseman Taylor Williamson crushed a solo homer in the fourth that tied the game 4. Rodriguez jump-started a seven-run sixth for MSU with a three-run blast.
Sophomore Wyatt Moore got the start and went five innings, scattering 11 hits while yielding five runs. Junior Kendal Daniels surrendered one run in his two innings of work for the save.
This closes the door on MSU’s 2016 campaign, but a split against the No. 3 team in country was validation of a bright future.
“I told the guys, for this weekend we were right there with one of the top teams in the nation,” Weppler said. “We were just as good as them. We gave them everything they wanted and more. When they were coming into Minot I guarantee they weren’t expecting that. I’m proud of our seniors. Our younger guys can get a ton out of this weekend. They know we have a lot of pieces in place and this will fuel that fire showing what we are capable of.”
Said Ailes: “They are going to be a good team and I look forward to watching them play.”
John Denega covers Minot High and Minot State athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @JohnDenega_MDN.