BASEBALL: Bemidji State splits with St. Cloud State as it closes in on playoff berth
BEMIDJI — The Bemidji State baseball team controls its own destiny.
The Beavers came into their final four games of the season knowing they needed to win as many games as possible to secure themselves their first NSIC tournament bid since 2008.
During Friday afternoon’s doubleheader against league leader St. Cloud State, Phil Bray helped his team get one step closer to that elusive playoff berth.
The senior lefty from Chatfield tossed a complete game four-hitter in the first game of the night to give the Beavers a 4-1 win.
The Huskies, however, returned the favor in game two, hammering out 14 hits in an 8-1 victory.
The split gives the Beavers a 13-11 mark in NSIC play with two games to go in the regular season. They’ll play another doubleheader against St. Cloud State today at 1 p.m.
“It was good to snag one,” Bray said. “We knew we needed at least one coming in. We take another one tomorrow, even two, we’ll be even happier.”
Bray gave up the only run of the game in the first inning after hitting St. Cloud State leadoff hitter Phil Imholte. Garrett Fischer took advantage of the leadoff hit batsmen with a screaming single down the line that scored Imholte.
“I thought I could throw inside on him but it ran in too hard,” Bray said. “So I hit him, he went to first and their next guy doubled down the line to score.”
Still, Bray wasn’t worried — not with the offense BSU has been generating this season.
The Beavers manufactured two runs in the third inning to take the lead. Zach Braun singled, took second on a Trevor Purvis single then advanced to third and home on two separate wild pitches by St. Cloud State starter Kyle Fischer. Purvis scored on a Jaryd Marks’ single.
“We hit them hard the first inning and then the runs started coming,” Bray said. “It’s super nice to have our offense. You know you can give up any amount of runs and you know your team is going to battle back since our bats have been so hot.”
The Beavers added another run in the fourth on a Braun double that scored Chad Hanson.
Purvis added some much-needed insurance in the bottom of the seventh with a first-pitch solo home run to right field — his second of the season.
Bray gave up a single to the first Huskies batter in the seventh but forced a pop-out and a double play to end the game.
“Phil Bray was on today,” BSU head coach Tim Bellew said of his starter, who went the full seven innings, struck out eight and walked just one. “In that first game we pitched well, played good defense and we put them away when we had to.
“Trevor put them away with that homer in the bottom of the sixth. That was big. He’s only had two home runs this season but they’ve both been key for us.”
In game two, St. Cloud State’s starter shut the door on BSU.
Corey Fitzgerald struck out four Beavers, scattered five hits and walked just one in nine innings to silence the BSU offense.
“Their kid pitched a nice game,” Bellew said. “We hit some balls hard, but they hit more balls hard in the right spots.”
BSU starter Jaryd Marks took the loss, throwing seven innings and giving up five runs on nine hits.
SCSU’s Zach Hoffman hit a two-run home run off Marks in the second inning while Eric Loxtercamp hit a solo homer in the seventh; Loxtercamp and Sean Borman both had two hits and two RBIs.
Logan Kalis scored BSU’s lone run of the second game, coming home on a sacrifice fly from Lewis Baumann.
“They’re an awful good team,” Bellew said. “That second game, they beat us pretty good. But this doubleheader shows we can hang with them.”
The Beavers, who are now 22-18 overall and 13-11 in the conference, will look to take at least one of the two games in today’s doubleheader. The Huskies are 29-7 overall and 17-3 in the league.
Kalis is scheduled to start game 1 while Ryan Anderson will start the second game.
“I think (winning a game Friday) gives us a good shot at getting in, but we want to win another game,” Bellew said. “We want to split this series, if not win three out of four, that’s what we’re here to do. We’re capable.”
The Beavers are currently in eighth place in the league standings. Concordia-St. Paul, at 9-7 in the league, is in seventh while Sioux Falls (12-12) is in ninth; however both teams have four games to play while BSU has just two.
Bemidji State 4, St. Cloud State 1
St. Cloud State 100 000 0 – 1 4 0
Bemidji State 002 101 x – 4 11 0
K.Fischer (L, 9-2) and Enger. K-2, BB-2.
Bray (W, 3-3) and Braun. K-8, BB-1.
St. Cloud State 8, Bemidji State 1
St. Cloud State 021 010 103 – 8 14 1
Bemidji State 000 000 100 – 1 5 1
Fitzgerald (W, 5-0) and Jurgella, Enger (6). K-4, bb-1.
Marks (L, 4-4), Van Someren (8) and Hirsch. K-5, BB-2.