Lorimor’s gem helps MSU salvage doubleheader split

There’s a simple way to guarantee a spot in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament: just win three out of every four games throughout league play.

Since dropping its first three NSIC contests, Minot State has won eight of nine, including a doubleheader split against Upper Iowa on Sunday afternoon at Herb Parker Stadium.

The Beavers fell 5-3 in the opener, but rallied behind junior pitcher Mindy Lorimor’s three-hit shutout to take the nightcap 4-0, improving their win percentage to .750 in NSIC games.

“If we just keep winning three out of four, we know we’ll be OK,” MSU coach Bill Triplett said. “You’ve got to protect your home court, so we’ve got to win those two on Wednesday.”

MSU (21-9 overall, 8-4 NSIC) hosts Northern State in a doubleheader Wednesday, tentatively scheduled for 2 and 4 p.m.

Following sweeps of Bemidji State on Thursday and No. 19 Winona State on Saturday, the Beavers are 5-1 during their current eight-game homestand.

“Like I told them, five out of six for the week is really good,” Triplett said. “But we just weren’t happy with dropping that game, and that’s because they’re competitive and that’s why they’re as good as they are.”

Errors plagued MSU in the opener, especially a costly one in the sixth inning that yielded an unearned run.

With runners on first and third, MSU junior pitcher Jen Dixon (6-2) induced an unassuming one-hopper, but threw errantly to first base, allowing one run to come in.

Lorimor relieved Dixon, but hit a batter with the bases loaded, putting the Peacocks (11-17, 4-4) ahead 5-3. The Beavers were retired in order in the bottom of the sixth and seventh.

“The pitch that got hit back to Dixon, I thought about bringing Lorimor in midcount,” Triplett said. “But Jen made a good pitch and they hit it right back to her. It’s unfortunate she didn’t throw it accurately to Fornier. Those things happen sometimes.”

MSU wasted a pair of homers from junior catcher Melissa Bell, who went 2-for-2 with a walk and all three RBIs.

Upper Iowa’s Jacqueline Flood (2-9) limited MSU to four hits and retired 13 of 14 batters to end the game.

“The first game wasn’t a bad game, they just executed on a couple of our mistakes,” Lorimor said. “First game, we beat ourselves. We came back from it. We knew we wanted to split, we wanted to end on a winning record this weekend and we did.”

Lorimor (15-5), who has notched a win or no-decision in eight straight games, took matters into her own hands in the nightcap. She allowed four baserunners in a complete-game effort, striking out six and dropping her ERA to 1.75.

After giving up a hit to Upper Iowa shortstop Katie Mnichowicz in the game’s first at-bat, Lorimor retired nine batters in a row.

“I think the girls kind of knew that she is their ace,” Upper Iowa first-year coach Amanda Bradberry said, “and so they kind of got it in their heads and started guessing what she was going to throw and all these kind of things rather than just trying to see the ball and hit the ball. Definitely give her credit, I think she kept our hitters guessing.”

Freshman designated hitter Alyssa Cornejo drilled a homer barely over the fence in left-center to put the Beavers ahead 1-0 in the top of the first. MSU scored an unearned run in the third and first baseman Stacy Fournier doubled and homered in the fourth and sixth, respectively, to drive two more.

Upper Iowa’s Brooke Redmond was left on the hook for the loss after allowing six hits and two earned runs.

After getting their seven-game winning streak snapped, the Beavers began a new one.

“I think we were a little bit disgusted at ourself for not winning that first game,” Triplett said.

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.