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Bemidji State’s Cole Bjorge, center, is congratulated by teammates after hitting a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th against Minot State Saturday afternoon. The Beavers beat Minot 4-3 in the first game of their doubleheader but lost in the second game 3-0. BSU Photo Services

BEAVERS: BSU, Minot split key doubleheader; play season finale today with playoffs on the line

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Jack Hittinger

BEMIDJI — With just four games remaining in the regular season coming into Saturday’s doubleheader, the Bemidji State baseball team needed every win it could possibly get to make the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference playoffs.

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But then again, so did Minot State.

In Game 1 Bemidji State rallied from a 3-0 deficit and eventually walked off to win 4-3 in extra innings. However, Minot State earned the split in the nightcap with a 3-1 win.

Now both BSU (20-21, 14-14 NSIC) and Minot State (18-22, 12-14) virtually need to sweep today’s doubleheader, scheduled for noon at the BSU baseball diamond, to have a chance at making the NSIC playoffs.

“I think now both teams’ backs are against the wall for any chance to get into the playoffs,” BSU head coach Tim Bellew said. “(Minot State) is not going to be an easy team to beat twice. We’ll have to play our best baseball tomorrow to get one.”

The top eight teams in the standings make the playoffs. BSU is currently in ninth place — a half-game behind eighth-place Southwest Minnesota State, which is 14-15 in NSIC play. Minot sits in tenth place and could get in depending on other results.

On Saturday, Zach Braun, Chad Hanson and Cole Bjorge each had clutch hits to carry BSU to a game-one victory.

Minot had scored three runs off BSU starter Terry Hadden — two in the first and another in the sixth — and Minot starter Austin Zorn showed no signs of giving up the lead. Then Hansen homered off him in the bottom of the sixth.

That gave BSU some momentum going into the seventh, as the Beavers were able to manufacture some runs ahead of Braun, who tied the game with a two-run single to left-center.

Collin Eckman reached on an error to kick off the bottom of the seventh and the speedy Nick Hovila pinch ran for him. Logan Ridel then walked and Tyler Nelson laid down a perfect bunt to move the runners over to second and third before Braun tied it.

“We got two great leadoff guys on,” said Braun, who went 3-for-8 over the course of the doubleheader with a homer and three RBIs. “We played some small ball and got the runners over. Then I was able to come up with a timely hit and we ended up winning in the 10th. It was a good team win for sure.”

Zorn got himself out of the inning by forcing a double play and pitched well until he was removed in the bottom of the 10th for Alec Grothe.

Grothe immediately gave up a leadoff double to Braun, then intentionally walked Joey Hanowski to set up a force situation. Bo Schmitz singled to load the bases and, after Groth struck out Hanson, Bjorge knocked the game-winning single to left field.

“We got it done,” Bellew said. “We found a way to scrap and claw and get it done. You don’t win a lot of games in this conference down 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth and we found a way to do that.”

In game two it appeared as though BSU’s momentum would carry over when Braun homered to right field in the top of the first to give BSU the early lead.

However, Minot starter Austin Berntson to got into a groove — after giving up three hits in the first inning he allowed just one the rest of the game.

Meanwhile Minot scored three runs on five hits off BSU starter Mark Kosmalski. Nicholas Hammerl’s sacrifice fly in the third inning scored Minot’s first run of the game and they took the lead in the sixth on singled by Connor Oliver and Connor Moughtin.

“I feel like we didn’t come up with the same intensity in the second game,” Bellew said. “We scored a run, then hit a couple balls hard and couldn’t do anything after that. Their kid on the mound did a good job. We let him settle in and once he did he shut us down.”

The two teamds of Beavers will take on each other again in another doubleheader starting at noon today. Tyler Saeugling and Jesse Katz are scheduled to take the mound for BSU.

“We gotta come out on fire tomorrow,” Braun said. “We control our own destiny. If we play our game, we should do fine.”

Game 1

Bemidji State 4, Minot State 3

MSU 200 001 000 0 — 3 10 2

BSU 000 001 200 1 — 4 10 2

Zorn, Grothe (L, 10) and Moughtin. K-4, BB-4.

Hadden, Huggans (W, 8) and Braun. K-5, BB-4.

Game 2

Minot State 3, Bemidji State 1

MSU 001 002 0 — 3 7 0

BSU 100 000 0 — 1 4 0

Berntson (W) and Moughtin. K-4, BB-1.

Kosmalski (L), Masberg (6) and Schmitz. K-2, BB-0.

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on Bemidji State but also covering area high schools. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
(218) 333-9772
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