Pitching powers split: BSU beats Minot in nightcap of doubleheader
BEMIDJI—Pitching has, at times, been a challenge for the Bemidji State baseball team this season, but that wasn't the case in Wednesday's Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference doubleheader against Minot State.
Although neither of BSU's starters earned the win on the mound, BSU's pitching staff did enough to keep both games close and earn the series split. Minot won game one 5-2, but the Beavers took the nightcap 5-4.
"Our pitchers did a pretty good job," BSU head coach Tim Bellew said. "We pitched well, and we played good defense today. But offensively, we struggled."
Logan Ridel took a tough-luck loss for BSU in game one, going six innings and striking out eight batters while giving up just four hits, while Ryan Fransen earned the no-decision for the Beavers (13-23, 10-14 NSIC) in game two, also going six innings and giving up four runs—three earned—on 10 hits.
"The biggest thing today is, all of our pitchers got ahead in the count," Fransen said of BSU's pitching success. "You get up 1-2, 0-2, anything you throw could be deadly.
"For me it was my fastball command. I was kinda putting it where I wanted to. Those 3-4 guys for Minot are tough outs. You have to work really hard to get those guys, but if you can get ahead with your fastball you can start mixing in curveballs, sliders and keep them off balance, so that's what I was doing."
Fransen scattered his 10 hits and had a 4-2 lead going into the sixth inning, but Minot (21-13, 16-10 NSIC) pushed two runs across the plate to tie the game. The second run of the inning was unearned—Trevaun Smith singled with two outs but an error on catcher Gunner Olszewski resulted in Minot's run, which tied the game at 4-4.
"Franny pitched pretty well. He didn't deserve leaving 4-4," Bellew said.
Luke Benge kept Minot off the scoreboard in the seventh and eighth innings, which set up BSU's go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth.
Mason Bellew singled to short. Kai Haake pinch ran for Bellew and got to second on Noah Boser's sac bunt.
Scott Litchy—BSU's top hitter—hit a hard groundball at Smith, playing shortstop for Minot. Smith couldn't field the ball cleanly and Haake came around to score, giving BSU the 5-4 lead.
"Mason's been hitting into tough luck all year," Bellew said. "That may be the first leading hit he's got all year. Great bunt, then Scotty hit a ball that found the right spot and it went under the guy's glove and we scored."
In the ninth, BSU's Connor McNallan struck out Minot's Sean Alp before giving up a single to No. 3 hitter to Jordan Schulz. Cleanup hitter Michael Borst represented the go-ahead run, but McNallan forced a double play to help BSU salvage the split.
"We really needed to win that game," Bellew said. "Bottom line is, we needed to find a way. If it came by way of a ground ball the found the right spot, so be it."
In the first game, BSU and Minot had been tied at 1-1 going into the sixth inning. BSU took an early lead when Riedel tripled in the third inning and scored on Cole Easley's single on the next at-bat.
But Schulz—who went 6-for-9 in the doubleheader—homered in the fifth inning to tie it up.
Riedel, who had given up just two hits in the first five innings, went back out for the sixth and Minot scored four runs on two hits. He walked the first hitter and hit the second then Schultz doubled and Borst hit a sac fly to make it 3-1. Then Wyatt Schlosser homered to make it 5-1.
It was tough luck for Riedel.
"Logan did a nice job the first game," Bellew said. "We thought if we could get five out of him we'd be doing well. We got him into the sixth and he just made some mistakes."
BSU scored on an error in the bottom half of the sixth, but couldn't push any more across the plate.
"Really, (Minot) only had four hits that first game, and it was 5-2," Bellew said. "But all four of those hits were big hits."
Tanner Alexander earned the win for Minot, going all seven innings and holding BSU to two runs—just one earned—on six hits, one walk and nine strikeouts.
The split helped BSU keep pace in the NSIC standings. At 10-14, they're just two games out of a playoff spot. The top eight teams in the conference make the conference tournament; the Beavers are currently tied for 11th with Upper Iowa.
BSU hosts Minnesota State Mankato this weekend for a pair of doubleheaders Friday and Saturday. The Mavericks are on top of the conference standings and ranked No. 19 in the country. But the Beavers think they have a chance if they pitch like they did Wednesday.
"They're the best team in the conference," Fransen said. "You have to look forward to paying them and trying to take them down. They have good players, have good hitters, but if we can work ahead in counts again, there's no reason why we can't play right with them."