Beavers keep sliding

Midway through its second season in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, Minot State has fallen out of contention for a spot in next month’s NSIC tournament.

The Beavers dropped both games of a doubleheader with Winona State on Friday at Corbett Field, losing 7-4 and 13-4.

With 14 league games remaining, the Beavers, who have lost eight straight, trail Southwest Minnesota State by six games for 10th – the cutoff to qualify for the postseason.

MSU coach Brock Weppler said despite the uphill battle to climb back into contention, the 15th-place Beavers (9-19 overall, 3-13 NSIC) need to focus on the opening game of today’s noon/2 p.m. doubleheader with the fourth-place Warriors (15-16, 12-7).

“We can’t start counting what we gotta do to (reach the NSIC tournament),” Weppler said. “We’ve got to come out and get Game 1 tomorrow. There’s nothing else we can do but worry about that. We’ll worry about Game 2 when we get there.”

MSU starters Joshua Larsen and Austin Berntson each allowed eight hits and neither made it out of the fifth inning. Winona State racked up 26 total hits.

Larsen (0-5) struggled with control, dealing four wild pitches – all with runners on base – and three walks. MSU fell behind 2-0 in the first inning and never led. Larsen lasted 4 1/3 innings and gave up six earned runs with three strikeouts.

Berntson (1-4) left after four innings. The Warriors’ three-run fourth turned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead as they ended the game with 10 unanswered runs.

“We were up and I was feeling good,” Berntson said. “I just ended up making bad pitches and they’re a good hitting ballclub. They hit my mistakes.”

Seven of Berntson’s eight runs allowed were earned. He dealt one walk and struck out seven.

“We’ve just got to make better pitches,” Weppler said. “We know that if we make better pitches and attack with the right game plan against these guys or any other team, we’re going to be successful.”

Winona State’s pitchers, Chase Blazier (5-2) and Will Lundquist (5-0), tossed 15 of 16 innings. The sophomore Lundquist pitched a nine-inning complete game in the nightcap.

After yielding four runs – two earned – in the first three innings, Lundquist settled down and retired 12 straight batters, and 20 of MSU’s final 22.

Lundquist, whose 1.97 ERA ranks sixth in the league, allowed eight hits and a walk while striking out two.

“We thought about taking him out at the end there, but hey, he’s cruising, his pitch count was low – I think he finished with 104 pitches,” Winona State coach Kyle Poock said. “He’s 5-0 now for us, got a couple complete games.”

Said Weppler: “We had their starting pitcher on the ropes there in the fourth inning and then he ends up throwing a complete game. We can’t do that.”

MSU used seven pitchers, but none could solve Winona State’s Tyler Nehring. The sophomore slugger went 7-for-7 with four RBIs, two homers and a walk.

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