Time to play catch-up

Murphy’s Law appeared in full effect Friday for the Minot State softball team.

The Beavers dropped both games of a doubleheader with No. 13 Augustana, falling 9-4 and 11-2 at Herb Parker Stadium.

Meanwhile in Bismarck, the University of Mary swept Wayne State and effectively booted MSU from the top six in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings.

The league’s top 10 teams advance to next week’s NSIC tournament, but only the first six receive a first-round bye.

“We don’t want to be in that bottom four that have to do a play-in game,” MSU junior shortstop Ali Cygan said. “We want to be in the top six to have one less game to get there.”

Heading into the final day of the regular season, MSU trails sixth-place Sioux Falls (28-15 overall, 16-11 NSIC) and seventh-place Minnesota Duluth (24-18, 10-7) by a half-game (Sioux Falls owns a .005 advantage in win percentage). The Beavers (28-16, 15-11) are one game behind fifth-place U-Mary (30-18, 15-9).

The Marauders host Augustana in a doubleheader today, while Duluth plays at first-place Minnesota State-Mankato and Sioux Falls travels to 12th-place Minnesota State-Moorhead.

The Beavers can finish as high as fifth, but their upward mobility is dependent on a bit of good fortune.

“I think we’ve probably got to win both tomorrow and Augie’s probably gotta win both tomorrow,” MSU coach Bill Triplett said. “That’s possible – Augie’s a really good team. But anybody can beat anybody in this league on any given day.”

To avoid the play-in round next week in Sioux Falls, S.D., the Beavers must sharpen their play markedly in their doubleheader today against Wayne State, which begins at noon.

Against Augustana, MSU committed three errors and never led. The Vikings (38-11, 21-7) collected 21 hits – to the Beavers’ eight – and benefited from dominant outings from starting pitchers Jenelle Trautmann (23-5) and Carley Pickett (13-5).

“You gotta give them credit, they’re a good team,” Triplett said. ” … Defensively, we threw the ball around a little and didn’t play error-free. Against good teams, you make an error, they make you pay for it.”

In both contests, the Vikings seized sizable leads early on and relied on their pitchers to hold MSU at bay.

In the opener, Augustana pushed across four runs in the third inning and three in the fourth. Trautmann allowed an earned run over six innings of three-hit ball, walked one and struck out three. MSU rallied for three runs on Augustana reliever Karlee Koopman in the seventh.

Pickett protected a 10-0 in the nightcap, which ended by mercy rule in five innings. She yielded five hits and an earned run, walked two and recorded four strikeouts.

“Trautmann’s a good pitcher,” Triplett said. “I thought Pickett really hit her spots today. She changed speeds really well.”

MSU junior Mindy Lorimor (20-9) suffered both losses. She went four innings in the first game and 22/3 in the second, allowing 16 runs – 13 earned – on 18 hits and two walks to go with three strikeouts.

The Vikings drilled four home runs to push their league-leading total to 44.

We really hit the ball well today and I think that was the key for us,” Augustana coach Gretta Melsted said. “It was throughout our lineup. I’m really proud of our kids for doing a good job at the plate.”

Augustana shortstop Sarah Kennedy went 6-for-7 with five RBIs and a homer on the day.

Senior center fielder Katie Backes led the Beavers with a 3-for-6 outing at the plate.

If today wasn’t vital for MSU already, it’s also the Beavers’ senior day.

“I think we’ll learn from it and bounce back tomorrow,” Triplett said. “I really do. It’s the last (home games) for our seniors. I think we’ll be tougher than nails tomorrow.”

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