Beavers in the hunt
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Minot State designated hitter Connor Moughtin stepped to the plate, the nightcap tied at five, his team in need of a sweep to stay alive in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference playoff race.
And he delivered.
Moughtin blasted an offering from Minnesota-Crookston pitcher Marcus Campbell over the left-field fence, giving MSU a crucial 6-5 victory and a series sweep over the Golden Eagles. The Beavers took the first leg 16-4.
“They had been attacking me with a lot of off-speed, so once he got behind, I thought he’d go back to a fastball,” said Moughtin, who leads MSU in batting (.333) and RBIs (34). “I was looking for something middle-in and I got it.”
Crookston made things interesting Game 2 after infielder Matt Korte went deep to the right center-field gap, driving in Richie Navratil and Patrick Higgins with a game-tying, two-RBI double in the top of the ninth.
But the Beavers prevailed, and Moughtin’s homer was the exclamation point.
“We got the job done,” MSU coach Brock Weppler said. “It wasn’t pretty, but we came out and got two wins, and we knew we had to do that with our backs against the wall, for us to continue our hopes of moving on.”
MSU (17-21 overall, 11-13 Northern Sun) is 10th in the NSIC standings, and only the top eight advance to the conference tournament.
The Golden Eagles, who have yet to win a conference game this season, fell victim to a barage of hot MSU bats. Three players finished with at least three hits for the Beavers, including senior Andrew Roach, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles, four runs and three RBIs.
Brad Rolff also provided offense for the Beavers, including a solo home run down the left-field line. He finished with a game-high five RBIs.
Despite two more losses for the Golden Eagles (1-43, 0-32), Crookston coach Chris Vito chose to reflect on the positives.
“I’m very proud of our team right now,” he said. “We had a chance to win the ballgame against a very good ballclub that’s vying for a spot in our conference tournament. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids right now for their heart and determination.”
The Golden Eagles never trailed by more than two runs in the nightcap.
The MSU bats that produced in the first leg lost their luster in Game 2.
Crookston pitcher Cody Pamperin pitched 7 1/3 innings before leaving in the eighth with a leg injury. He allowed five earned runs on 10 hits and three walks.
“Their pitcher did a great job locating offspeed pitches down in the zone,” Weppler said. “He was hitting his spots, and we didn’t make very good adjustments. We had guys pulling off the ball again, and we’ve gotta go up there with better approaches.”
The Beavers have four regular-season games remaining, all of which are against ninth-place Bemidji State (19-20 overall, 13-13 Northern Sun). The first doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m. today in Bemidji.
MSU has never qualified for the NSIC tournament.
“The biggest thing is that the guys have got to play for each other, no selfishness,” Weppler said. “Approachwise, our goal has to be to win every pitch. We’re not going to be able to do that, but if we lose a pitch, we gotta be able to move onto the next one and not let it snowball. We have to realize the importance of every pitch and keep the momentum on our side.”
Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.