Solving the Huskies

The Minot State baseball team snapped a three-game losing steak by doing something it hadn’t done before: beat St. Cloud State.

Boosted by sound defense and a complete-game five-hitter from sophomore pitcher Jesse Goertzen, MSU (9-12 overall, 3-5 Northern Sun) defeated the 16th-ranked Huskies 6-1 in the first leg of a doubleheader Sunday at Jack Hoeven Park, the school’s first win over SCSU in 11 attempts.

After losing twice to the Huskies on Saturday, the Beavers had an opportunity to even the series in Game 2.

They didn’t. Defending conference-champion SCSU (19-6, 8-3) trumped MSU 16-3 to clinch the series win.

“I thought we showed up and fought hard,” MSU coach Brock Weppler said. “I thought we had fight. I thought we had good at bats. We just sort of ran out of gas there in the bullpen.”

The MSU bullpen handled the final three innings of game two, surrendering six earned runs on six hits and three walks. The Beavers also committed three errors in the game, two of which were committed during SCSU’s seven-run eighth inning.

The Huskies belted three home runs in the victory.

“We’re actually not a home run hitting team,” said Pat Dolan, SCSU’s seventh-year coach. “I don’t really think there is a team like that in Division II baseball. We’re more of a gap-to-gap team, but I’ll take those home runs. It was nice to see, and it definitely makes coaching a lot easier when you get a few home runs.”

Lacking their Game 1 sharpness, the Beavers mustered three runs on seven hits in the loss.

The same thing happened on Saturday. Though MSU lost both games, the team was certainly competitive in the first leg of the doubleheader. The Huskies blew things open in Game 2, just like they did on Sunday.

According to Weppler, consistent performances begin with consistent pitching.

“It starts on the mound,” he said. “You have to come out and attack hitters, and at times, we were dragging a little bit in some of the longer innings.

“It’s about continuing the momentum, and we did that for most of Game 1, keeping it on our side and making them play to our speed. That’s a big key to winning games.”

Consistency was not an issue for MSU’s pitching in Game 1.

Goertzen threw all seven innings for the Beavers, giving up five hits and one run – unearned – while striking out two.

It wasn’t a flashy performance, but it was certainly efficient, highlighted by a number of skilled defensive plays made behind him.

“I felt like I had pretty good control of all my pitches, especially my fastball,” Goertzen said. “But my defense played very well behind me. I gave up a lot of groundballs and flyballs, and they did their jobs and got the outs.”

Said Dolan: “You have to give their first pitcher credit. He threw first-pitch strikes to every one of our guys, and we were hitting out of a lot of 0-1 and 1-2 counts. Give them credit. He threw a lot of strikes, and they made a lot of plays.”

MSU racked up 11 hits in support of Goertzen, including a two-run blast from senior third baseman A.J. Begay in the fourth. It was Begay’s fifth homer of the year.

The Beaver bats lost their spark in Game 2. Begay chalks it up to a lack of aggression.

“Everyone that I talked to was getting their pitch to hit. We just weren’t putting the barrel on the ball like we were in game one,” Begay said. “You just have to look for your pitch.”

MSU plays North Dakota State (7-13) in a non-conference road tilt Wednesday at 5 p.m. The Beavers resume conference play Saturday with the first of two doubleheaders against Concordia-St. Paul (12-8, 4-6 NSIC), all of which are tentatively scheduled to be played at Corbett Field.

Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.