Back on track

Minot State found itself peeking at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings. A recent funk had made the Beavers’ once-prominent position less than secure, and that created an uneasy feeling in the clubhouse.

With a doubleheader sweep of St. Cloud State on Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium – 11-1 in five innings and 11-3 in six innings – MSU ended a three-game skid and washed away any lingering anxiety.

“We just needed it to get our confidence back up,” said junior pitcher Mindy Lorimor, who improved to 19-7 with a pair of victories. “We just needed a win to get the streak going again. We know we have the ability and we know we can do it, it was just the fact that we had to get that (first) one. Now we’re back on top.”

The Beavers (26-14 overall, 13-9 NSIC) had lost five of six games entering the doubleheader, matching their worst stretch since Feb. 8-24. Prior to that, MSU won 10 of 11 league contests. The sweep of 13th-place SCSU (11-25-1, 5-14-1) nudged the Beavers one game ahead of University of Mary for sixth place in the NSIC.

“I think they maybe saw the standings and a little bit of pressure and needing some wins,” MSU coach Bill Triplett said. “They really came out and played hard, played smart and swung the bats.”

One day after managing 10 hits in a pair of losses to Minnesota Duluth, MSU racked up 19. Nine were extra-base hits, including four homers in the opener.

“Minot had some momentum on their side and we just couldn’t shut down their sticks,” St. Cloud State coach Paula U’Ren said. “They did a nice job of coming out and swinging today.”

The Beavers’ bats were hot from the get-go. Senior left fielder Jen Dixon drilled a leadoff homer to center field to tie Game 1. MSU scored the final 10 runs of the opener.

Katie Backes and Rachel Burdette also homered, and Alyssa Cornejo smashed a three-run bomb to right to end the game by mercy rule in the fifth inning.

“There’s not a weakness in their lineup and we knew that coming in,” U’Ren said.

In the nightcap, MSU scored three runs in the second, four in the fourth and three in the fifth. Lorimor left after four innings with the Beavers ahead 7-1.

In nine innings of work, Lorimor allowed two earned runs – both on solo homers – on six hits and one walk while striking out three.

“Mindy was good again today,” Triplett said. “She was getting ahead, throwing strikes and we were playing good defense behind her.”

Dixon led MSU’s offense with a 5-for-7 performance on the day with four RBIs, three runs and a walk. The Beavers were patient at the plate, inducing 12 walks in the nightcap, with 10 dealt by starter Kendra Merritt over 32/3 innings.

Senna Francesconi allowed five earned runs over 42/3 innings in the opener.

The Beavers travel to Minnesota Crookston (3-28, 1-17) on Wednesday before closing the season at home against No. 13 Augustana and Wayne State on April 26 and 27.

“Our schedule’s so tough at the end of the year,” Triplett said. “To get a couple wins today was huge, especially with how we played yesterday.”

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