Bombs away

Directly from home plate to center field, 30-mph winds gusted intermittently Wednesday at Herb Parker Stadium. A welcome sight – nay, feeling – for any slugger eyeing a home run.

But Minot State left fielder Jen Dixon didn’t need a breezy assist. Her three four-baggers were absolute bombs, as were all five of MSU’s homers. The Beavers drove in 12 of their 14 runs via the long ball in 8-0 and 6-4 wins over Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference foe Northern State.

“I think all of our home runs today were gone out of any park,” MSU coach Bill Triplett said, downplaying the wind factor. “They were well, well, well out of here.”

MSU (23-9 overall, 10-4 NSIC), which has won 10 of 11 games, extended its winning streak to three games since a hiccup against Upper Iowa on Sunday.

Northern State (8-20, 1-11) failed to snap its losing streak, which has now reached 11 games. The Beavers scored the first 13 runs of the doubleheader, making sure not to underestimate the 15th-place Wolves.

“We played today’s game just as we’d play the top team in the conference,” Dixon said. “Every game’s important at this point.”

Junior first baseman Melissa Bell opened and closed the scoring in Game 1. She connected on a two-run double in the second inning and then delivered a three-run bomb to center field in the sixth that ended the contest by mercy rule. Bell went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored in the opener.

Dixon produced a three-run shot in the fourth – just as the wind calmed – to stake MSU a 5-0 lead.

“I don’t know if the wind was a huge factor today, but we played defense against it well and we wall hit the ball well,” Dixon said.

Junior pitcher Mindy Lorimor improved to 16-5 by tossing a complete-game five-hitter with one walk and three strikeouts.

Lorimor started the second game and left after 2 2/3 innings with MSU leading 5-2.

“She was just placing the ball,” Triplett said. “She didn’t have her best stuff today. They hit some hard balls right at us, but she went and got the innings for us.”

In the nightcap, freshman catcher Sarah Nicks, filling in for injured starter Darlene Truong, put MSU in the driver’s seat. She bombed an 0-2 pitch to right-center in the second inning for a grand slam.

“That’s kind of been the difference for us all year is we just can’t seem to keep the ball in the ballpark,” Northern State coach Kristi Villar said. “We walk a kid, make an error, give up a hit and then we have an 0-2 pitch we just leave over the plate and they hit it out.”

Dixon, the reigning NSIC player of the year and the league’s preseason player of the year, followed two batters later with a solo blast. She added another solo shot in the fifth to match a career high with three homers in a doubleheader.

Freshman pitcher Alyssa Cornejo tossed 3 2/3 innings in relief to notch the first win of her collegiate career. Dixon retired the final two batters to secure her first save of the season.

“We decided to split up that second game because Peanut (Cornejo) just needs the innings,” Triplett said. “She’s had shoulder problems all year. She’s just coming off of that. She’s going to be a good pitcher.”

Dixon went 4-for-6 on the day, tying Bell for a series high with five RBIs.

The Beavers ended their eight-game homestand at 7-1. They travel to first-place Minnesota State-Mankato (28-6, 12-0) on Saturday, Concordia-St. Paul (12-22, 7-7) on Sunday and Minnesota State-Moorhead (8-15, 4-10) on Tuesday.

“It’ll really tell where we’re going to finish,” Triplett said of the road trip. “If we can get four out of six or five out of six, we’d be very happy.”

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