The Minot State University baseball team cannot afford another slow start at the plate with No. 9 St. Cloud State (Minn.) up next.
The Beavers fell behind early in both games of their debut conference series March 28 against Winona State. The Warriors won 8-2 in the first game after building an 8-0 lead and took a 2-0 lead in the second game before making a comeback in an 8-6 win.
Runs may be even harder to come by when MSU (8-8 overall, 0-2 conference) travels this weekend to face the Huskies and the best pitching staff in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Minot State University sophomore Matthew Davis pitches to a Bemidji State batter earlier this season. Photo courtesy of James Kiekhaefer/MSU sports information.
"They're a good, solid ballclub," MSU coach Brock Weppler said of SCSU. "They really throw the ball well. They don't walk many guys ... and you'll really have to beat them. They don't strike out very much. They almost walk the same amount of times they strike out."
There are plenty of reasons the Huskies (17-2, 6-0) are ranked in the top 10 nationally. SCSU has the best ERA and fifth fewest walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP) in NCAA Division II. Junior southpaw Chris Kubitz has not allowed an earned run in his seven appearances, including three starts. Kubitz has struck out 27 batters and given up just 11 hits in 19 2/3 innings.
"We know that they're gonna attack us right off, so we just got to go right after 'em," MSU junior third baseman A.J. Begay said. "There's no point in waiting with a good team."
Begay was one of the team's most consistent hitters the previous two games. He was 2-for-6 in the Winona State series with three RBIs. Senior first baseman Mitch Olson was 3-for-7 with an RBI and three runs scored. Olson is fourth in the conference with a .414 batting average and is second with 1.5 hits per game.
Weppler was encouraged by the way his offense came around in the second loss to Winona State (18-6, 3-1). The Beavers chased starter Chase Blazier from the mound after the Warriors' sophomore ace gave up six runs on seven hits in five innings.
"I think we just buckled down in that second game," Weppler said. "We weren't happy with our performance in the first game."
Freshman Jesse Goertzen dropped to 2-2 with the game one loss. Goertzen gave up seven runs (two earned) on six hits in five innings, but the Beavers made six errors in the game. MSU committed three more errors in the second game and southpaw Matthew Davis fell to 0-4. Davis gave up seven runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The bullpen pitched well after Davis. Seniors Shane Seddon, Cole Stober and sophomore Trey Jacobson combined to hold the Warriors to one run on four hits.
"The biggest thing for us was our defense," Weppler said. "We were complacent, played on our heels. I wish I could put my finger on it, but part of it was rust not having played in about two weeks. We've got to do a better job preparing ourselves."
This weekend's doubleheaders in St. Cloud start at noon Saturday and Sunday. The teams will tentatively play a non-conference doubleheader Monday morning as the Beavers are looking to add games after MSU and North Dakota State University canceled a game scheduled for Tuesday. Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo will not be playable by then.
Nagel ties for fourth in women's golf
MSU junior Mackenzie Nagel tied for fourth overall in the Regis University Invite at Fox Hollow Golf Course in Lakewood, Colo., on Tuesday.
The Beavers struggled in the final round of the two-day tournament and finished tied for third out of five teams. Regis won with a score of 632, Fort Hays State (Kan.) was second with 678 and MSU finished tied with Colorado Christian at 685. Black Hills State was fifth with 691.
"The conditions weren't as good Tuesday as they were Monday, but we need to play better on the second day," MSU coach Whitney Aberle said in a press release. "We were pretty happy with how we played on day one, getting a bunch of players in the 80s like that, but we didn't have that same kind of team score."
Nagel shot 80 and 81 to tie Regis' Lara Pocs at 161. Regis' Nicole Hulbert won by 10 strokes with a 5-over-par 149. MSU junior Rebecca Heinitz placed eighth with 165.
"Mackenzie and Becca were our two most consistent golfers and it showed in the final scores," Aberle said. "Again, we want to have one of our top players fire a great score to set the pace, but we are certainly happy with the two of them playing consistent golf. I hope one or both of them use this as a steppingstone to a big finish."
MSU plays next at the Augustana College Spring Invite on April 13-14. The Beavers' first season in the Northern Sun closes with the conference championship April 20-21.