BASEBALL: Beavers upset top-seeded St. Cloud in first round of NSIC tournament
ST. CLOUD — The Bemidji State baseball team knew it could hang with St. Cloud State.
The Beavers had just played four games against the league-champion Huskies to close out the regular season last weekend in Bemidji.
BSU took one of the three games against St. Cloud, but more than proved they had the pitching depth and the offensive firepower to hang with the Huskies.
So when the two teams met Wednesday at Faber Field in the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament — the fifth straight game between the teams — the Beavers had confidence.
“I’ll be honest, we were pretty confident going in,” BSU head coach Tim Bellew said. “St. Cloud is a good team but we played well against them this weekend.”
The eighth-seeded Beavers didn’t waste much time using that confidence to their advantage.
BSU scored three times in the first inning and five more times in the fifth to back Phil Bray’s solid outing on the mound as the Beavers upset top-seeded St. Cloud State 9-3.
“We hit a lot of balls hard today,” Bellew said of BSU’s big offensive outburst. “We got a lot of opportunities and we took advantage of them this time.”
BSU (23-20) advances to the winners’ bracket and will take on fourth-seeded Winona State (23-15) at 3:30 p.m. today, also at Faber Field.
The Huskies, who fell to 31-8, were scheduled to play Concordia-St. Paul (20-15) in their losers-bracket game Wednesday night. However, rain in the St. Cloud area pushed back the St. Cloud-Concordia game to 11 a.m. today.
On Wednesday, the Beavers jumped on St. Cloud State starter Corey Fitzgerald early, with the first three batters reaching base. Logan Kalis hit a sacrifice fly to score the game’s first run, then Marks hit a screaming double down to right center to plate two more runs.
Just like that, the Beavers had a 3-0 lead.
“Early in the game (Fitzgerald) was making some mistakes,” Bellew said. “He left some balls up in the zone, and he walked some guys. We just took advantage of that.”
Fitzgerald, who threw a complete game five-hitter against the Beavers last Friday, was less than sharp Wednesday.
The junior lasted just 4 1/3 innings, gave up seven runs on six hits and walked three BSU hitters.
The Beavers chased him in the fifth inning and would go on to bat around in the frame; BSU scored five runs in the inning to take a commanding 8-1 lead.
Zach Braun led the BSU offense with three hits, one walk and two runs scored while Marks and Trevor Purvis each had two hits.
BSU starter Bray, who threw a complete game to beat the Huskies last weekend, wasn’t as dominant as he was on Friday but got the job done.
The lefthander from Chatfield went eight innings and scattered six hits; he gave up just two extra-base hits.
“He wasn’t as overpowering as he was the last time out,” Bellew said of Bray. “But he got guys out and stepped up big time for us. He’s not afraid to go out there and face their best, and he did that today.”
The Huskies scored one run in the fourth and another in the seventh.
In the ninth, the Huskies finally got to Bray. Travis Cariveau led off with a double, followed by a Max Ditty single. When Bray hit Phil Imholte, loading the bases with nobody out, Jack Hegarty came in to put out the fire.
The Huskies scored one run on Eric Loxtercamp’s sacrifice fly, but Hegarty forced pop-ups from Garrett Fischer and Zach Hoffman to end the game.
“We’re excited to get this one,” Bellew said. “It’s a new season and we’ve kind of been on a roll. Now we get to rest for a day and come back to play Winona.”
The Beavers and Warriors are set to start at 2 p.m.
Marks is scheduled to start today’s game for BSU; he is 4-4 on the mound with a 3.10 ERA and 46 strikeouts.
Winona beat Concordia-St. Paul 9-3 in their first round matchup.
Bemidji State 9, St. Cloud State 3
BSU 300 050 001 – 9 10 1
SCSU 000 100 101 – 3 6 2
Bray (W, 4-3), Hegarty (9) and Braun. K-4, BB-4.
Fitzgerald (L, 5-1), Maiers (5), Spitzack (7), Diers (7), Anderson (8) Harrison (8) and Enger, Jurgella (9). K-5, BB-7.
Top Hitters: BSU – Braun 3-5, 2B, BB, 2 R; Marks 2-5, 2B, 3 RBI, R; Purvis 2-4, 2 BB, 2 R.
SCSU – Fischer 2-5, 2B, R, RBI; Cariveau 2-4, 2B, 2 R.