St. Cloud’s State’s standout closer officially secured one win Saturday, but you might as well credit him for both victories in a doubleheader sweep of Minot State.
Sophomore right-hander Reese Gregory staved off the Beavers’ comeback attempt by pitching two scoreless innings in SCSU’s 5-4 series-opening victory in eight innings. He took the wind out of MSU’s sails, as the Beavers appeared lackluster in the nightcap at Jack Hoeven Park, mustering half as many runs as errors in a 12-2 loss.
“Feeling sorry for ourselves after that first game and not focusing up for the second game was probably some of it today,” MSU coach Brock Weppler said. “We’ve just got to be able to move on to the next pitch, move on to the next game. Until we can do that, it’s tough to bounce back.”
Gregory, a Division II All-America honorable mention selection last season, took the crack out of the Beavers’ bats with a wicked slider that’s been troublesome for MSU in the past. He allowed two hits and racked up three strikeouts, buying enough time for SCSU to scrape across one run off MSU reliever Austin Zorn (3-1) in the extra inning.
In four career appearances (nine innings) against the Beavers, Gregory – who owns a 0.36 ERA this season – has allowed zero runs, eight hits and one walk while striking out 12.
“He’s just a strike-throwing machine,” SCSU coach Pat Dolan said. “He doesn’t throw overpoweringly, but he just throws strikes.
“In high school, he had 98 strikeouts and four base on balls. For us he has three base on balls in (25 1/3 innings this year).”
Gregory’s once-again sterling outing against MSU was especially deflating this go-round.
The Beavers (8-11 overall, 2-4 Northern Sun), who have lost all eight contests with SCSU (18-5, 7-2) in their two seasons in the NSIC, erased a 4-0 deficit in the fifth inning of the opener. Senior third baseman A.J. Begay homered to left, driving in three runs to knot the game.
SCSU starter Kyle Fischer escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the fourth inning by fanning Tyler Stevenson, Brad Rolff and Paul Vogelsang.
“If we execute in the first game, we win that game. Simple as that,” Weppler said. “We had an opportunity (with) bases loaded, no one out and we didn’t get a run out of it – had three strikeouts. We’ve got to execute better.”
Gregory (6-1) stranded a runner at second in the bottom of the seventh and another at first in the eighth.
MSU’s rally took junior starter Joshua Larsen off the hook for the loss. Larsen tossed five innings, giving up five hits and two walks for three earned runs and five strikeouts.
The Beavers appeared a bit out of sorts in the second game, allowing three of SCSU’s first four runs to come unearned. MSU tallied four errors, with two coming in the Huskies’ four-run third inning, when they seized a 6-0 lead.
“They had one inning where they kind of kicked the ball around a little bit. Trust me, we’ve been there, too,” Dolan said. “When you do that, you give a team five or six outs. Fortunately, we took advantage of it.”
MSU junior starter Brock McAshland (2-1) suffered the loss, allowing seven runs – four earned – on five hits and four walks. Corey Fitzgerald (4-0) notched the win for SCSU.
“I just think we came out a little flat,” MSU senior first baseman Sean Arbaut said. “It’s really tough losing that one-run game, but we’ve got to clear it next time and really focus on getting back to what we know.”
The Beavers host another doubleheader against SCSU today at noon and 2 p.m.
Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.