Slipping on senior day

Gloomy, bitter and more than a tad disappointing.

The results of Minot State’s senior day doubleheader matched the weather Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium.

First, the Beavers’ chances at snagging one of the top six seeds in next week’s Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament crumbled when Wayne State dealt MSU ace Mindy Lorimor her third straight loss, a 5-1 defeat.

Then, the fourth-place Wildcats stymied MSU’s comeback attempt in the nightcap by posting four insurance runs – both off two-run homers – in the fifth inning as the Beavers fell 8-3.

“It’s always hard to lose, but it’s definitely hard going out that way,” MSU senior center fielder Katie Backes said. “It’s nice knowing that we have conference (tournament) games and we’re not done yet. I guess it’s bittersweet.”

Had the Beavers (28-18 overall, 15-13 NSIC) swept Wayne State, they would have edged Minnesota Duluth by .032 in win percentage for the No. 6 seed in the 10-team NSIC tournament. The top six seeds receive first-round byes.

Instead, MSU garnered the eighth seed and will play ninth-seeded Upper Iowa (20-26, 13-13) in the opening round at 10 a.m. Thursday in Sioux Falls, S.D. The winner will face top-seeded Minnesota State-Mankato at 2 p.m., while the loser moves to the loser-out bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

MSU entered the weekend in sixth place, and a half-game out of fifth. But sweeps on consecutive days – the first to No. 13 Augustana – bumped the Beavers down two spots.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted. But everybody is 0-0 right now. There’s six teams staying home and we’re not one of those six,” said MSU coach Bill Triplett, alluding to the NSIC’s bottom six teams which failed to qualify for the postseason.

Against Wayne State, Lorimor (20-10) matched Sara Scheffert, holding the Wildcats scorelss for five innings.

The Beavers nearly struck first as Wayne State center fielder robbed MSU first baseman Melissa Bell of a home run in the third inning.

Wayne State pushed across three runs in the sixth and two in the seventh.

In the nightcap, Wayne State opened with two runs in the first and second innings.

Backes drilled a two-run homer in the fourth, but Megan Hagemann and Melanie Alyea answered with two-run bombs of their own to keep the Beavers at bay.

All three benefited from 23-mph winds.

“We just got a couple good swings on some balls,” Wayne State coach Krista Wood said. “With the wind blowing out, if you get it in the air it’s got a good chance.”

The Beavers added one more run in the seventh, but stranded two on base.

Senior Jen Dixon (6-6) suffered the loss, lasting three innings. Wayne State’s Kelcie Bormann improved to 17-4 with the victory.

Although receiving a first-round bye was a goal for MSU, Triplett said missing out on that chance didn’t ruin the weekend, which honored the Beavers’ four seniors – twins Stacy and Emily Fournier, Backes and Dixon – who helped guide the program from NAIA to Division II

“It’s been a crazy ride that’s gone very fast,” Backes said. “… It’s been a great transition. It’s crazy how much the program’s changed from when I got here and it’ll keep getting better.”

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