Beavers squander pair of early leads

A devastating flood, ensuing restorations and wintry conditions kept the Minot State baseball team from competing at its home ballpark for 144 consecutive contests.

On Saturday afternoon, the Beavers’ long-awaited return to Corbett Field – their first games there since May 3, 2010 – was mostly forgettable as MSU squandered early leads in a pair of 5-2 losses to Concordia-St. Paul.

MSU plays another doubleheader against C-SP at noon and 2 p.m. today.

Prior to Saturday, only pitcher Jamin Heller, a redshirt senior, had played a regular-season game at Corbett Field.

“Course I wasn’t one of the guys that’s been here for three years and hasn’t been able to play here, but definitely coming back home and getting to play on Corbett was very exciting,” MSU redshirt freshman Paul Vogelsang said. “It was a motivation for us coming into today and hopefully tomorrow we can come out and steal a couple games.”

The Beavers (9-15 overall, 3-7 Northern Sun) have lost seven of eight games, including four straight. They haven’t led past the fifth inning of any of those losses.

“We’ve just got to have better approaches at the plate,” MSU coach Brock Weppler said. “We’ve got to keep the pressure on them. We get a lead and then we give it right back an inning later or that inning. We’ve got to do a better job.”

In the opener, MSU scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the third, but the Golden Bears (16-8, 8-6) answered with a run in the fourth and four in the fifth.

MSU starter Joshua Larsen left with the game tied at 2, the bases loaded and no outs. Reliever Austin Grothe beamed two batters and allowed a third run on a bloop single to center field.

In four innings of work, Larsen (0-4) allowed five runs – four earned – on eight hits and a walk while striking out three.

“I thought our starters did well,” Weppler said. “Josh left in a tough situation in Game 1 with the bases loaded and nobody out. The bullpen’s got to come in and fill up the zone, not beam guys.”

The Beavers didn’t record a hit over the final three frames of the seven-inning affair.

Rather unfortunately, the most drama came in the bottom of the sixth when MSU’s Connor Moughtin drilled C-SP starting pitcher Adam Kramer near his right temple with a rocket line drive that appeared to tip off of Kramer’s glove first.

Kramer immediately fell to the ground and was tended to by MSU athletic trainer Matt Myers.

“The second that it happened, it’s, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ ” C-SP coach Mark McKenzie said. “When we were out there, he was coherent, he knew the score, he knew the inning. I said to him, ‘Do you know how many outs?’ He said, ‘No, because I don’t know if the guy was out or safe.'”

Kramer walked off the field with the aid of McKenzie and Myers before being transported to the Trinity Hospital.

“Trainers did a great job,” McKenzie said. “You see it on TV and stuff. Jeez, if he doesn’t turn that head, he gets it in the face. Thank God he’s all right.”

Kramer improved to 4-2 by pitching 5 1/3 innings of four-hit ball, walking one and striking out three.

In the nightcap, the Beavers again seized an early lead with an unearned run, but couldn’t extend it.

After Nicholas Hammerl scored on a balk by C-SP pitcher Zach Rengel in the first inning, MSU stranded six runners over the final eight.

C-SP tied it in the third and added a pair of runs in the sixth and eighth. MSU’s Ricco Walker led off the ninth with a homer to left, but Yuji Suzuki finished off his third inning of relief for the save.

Austin Berntson (1-3) allowed three runs – two earned – over six innings in the loss, while Rengel scattered five hits over six innings to improve to 4-1.

“Our starting pitchers today did a hell of a job,” Vogelsang said. “They made the pitches that they needed to make and got a lot of ground balls and threw a lot of outs. We just need to bring an offense behind them and score some runs to get them the wins.”

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