Beavers get much-needed walk-off in series finale
Enough was enough for the Minot State baseball team Saturday.
Having lost nine straight contests entering their series finale with Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference foe Winona State at Corbett Field and chances of a spot in the NSIC tournament growing bleak, the Beavers finally pushed across a winning run.
MSU junior Conner Oliver delivered a one-out single to right field, scoring pinch runner Tyler Stevenson from third for a 5-4 walk-off victory in 10 innings in the second game of a doubleheader against the Warriors. WSU won the opener 6-2.
“We needed a win,” MSU coach Brock Weppler said. “We’ve been scuffling a little bit. The first game was tough. We were in it for a ways and we bounced back. We kept our heads on right, which is something we’ve struggled with, so it was good to get that win.”
MSU junior Ricco Walker opened the bottom of the 10th with a single through the left side. Stevenson pinch ran for Walker and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior Brad Rolff. Senior Sean Arbaut singled to left, moving Stevenson to third and Oliver smacked a 1-0 pitch to right field to end the game.
“I had to go in with confidence and have a clear mind,” Oliver said. “Just do what I always do.”
Oliver gave the Beavers (10-20 overall, 4-12 NSIC) a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second with a two-RBI single up the middle, scoring Rolff and Walker. Arbaut drew a bases-loaded walk a batter prior to bring in redshirt freshman Paul Vogelsang for MSU’s first run of the game.
The Warriors (16-17, 12-8) reclaimed the lead with two runs in the top of the third. Lucas Crimmins singled home Travis Evanson and Andrew Geislinger drove in Jesus Cazares to give WSU a 4-3 lead.
The score remained unchanged until the bottom of the sixth on an RBI groundout by Arbaut. The tying run was set up by back-to-back errors by Cazares at third base.
MSU junior Austin Zorn picked up the win in relief, pitching the final 51/3 innings. Zorn entered the game with two outs in the top of the fifth with runners on first and second. On his first pitch in relief of senior Matthew Davis, Zorn plunked Joseph Kubera to load the bases. It didn’t faze the right-hander.
“I didn’t really think too much about it,” Zorn said. “It was an inside pitch and it ended up hitting him. He’s on first base and he’s got a long way to get back to home.”
Zorn got Ryan Nyhagen to pop out to Rolff at short to end the threat. Zorn allowed just one hit and struck out four.
“Austin was outstanding,” Weppler said. “He was throwing well and he was going to continue throwing well. We were going to go with him for as long as we could.”
The Beavers came from behind in Game 1, tying the contest at 2 in the bottom of the sixth. But a one-out grand slam to left field off the bat of Evanson pushed the Warriors’ lead to 6-2 in the top of the seventh.
MSU junior Brock McCashland suffered the loss on the mound, surrendering four runs – three earned – on seven hits over 61/3 innings. McCashland struck out four and walked two.
“If we get on a roll, we’re going to be a scary team and I think a lot of teams know that,” Oliver said. “We can win a lot of the games we lost and they know it as much as we do.”
The Beavers host Augustana (32-10, 22-4) on Wednesday at Corbett Field at 1/3 p.m.
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.