BASEBALL: Beavers return home, battle UMD despite doubleheader sweep
Bemidji State finally crossed the chalk lines at the BSU baseball field, albeit in a rescheduled road doubleheader against Minnesota Duluth. But the Beavers wouldn’t have it any other way.
BEMIDJI – The Bemidji State baseball team has been through a lot this season.
With a snowed-over field most of the year, the Beavers have traveled far and wide to face opponents across the country, playing neutral-site games in far-flung locales like Mauston, Wis., Wayne, Neb., and Sioux City, Iowa.
But on Tuesday, Bemidji State finally crossed the chalk lines at the BSU baseball field, albeit in a rescheduled road doubleheader against Minnesota Duluth. Temperatures hovered in the low 50s with chilling winds, and the Beavers played as the visiting team in their home ballpark. But they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s always special, opening day at home,” BSU head coach Matt Ellinghuysen said. “You can’t beat it. We got a beautiful day today. If the whole spring was like this, it’d be awesome.”
Bemidji State took advantage, battling the Bulldogs in the opening game. The Beavers erased a 5-3 deficit in the top of the seventh inning to prolong that contest, but UMD walked it off in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run home run.
After that 7-5 win, Minnesota Duluth (14-20, 7-14 NSIC) clinched the sweep with an 11-1 run-rule victory in the second game.
“I was overall very impressed with our guys’ stick-to-it-ness,” Ellinghuysen said. “To come back in that first game, we talked about afterwards that if we play baseball the way we did in the first game, our record isn't what it is right now. Obviously, the second game, we played a lot like we've been all year. We've struggled, and then it's kind of fallen apart on us.
“But the first game was huge, and definitely a step in the right direction to show our guys, ‘Hey, we can do this. It's just we have to do it on a more consistent basis.’”
Multiple players came through for BSU in the first matchup. Nick Ekstrum hit his first career home run in the fifth inning, a three-run shot that gave Bemidji State a 3-2 lead. In the seventh, Zach Listiak raked a double to left field, knotting up the score at 5-5.
Things got away from the Beavers in the second game, but in a season that has involved plenty of shifting plans and shuttling around the Midwest, Tuesday’s opener represented a solid foundation for Bemidji State to build upon.
“That's what we talked about at the end here,” Ellinghuysen said. “Moving forward, we're going to get a chance to play another five (games) at home, and that's huge. There's something special about this place that our guys usually play really well at home. They get up to play at home, and it's a fun atmosphere. Nice day like today, people come out to watch and support, which is awesome. But ultimately, there's still time to do enough good things to keep us in the right direction.”
The Beavers’ tribulations aren’t done yet – by the end of this season, they’ll have played 84 games on the road the past two years, compared with 10 at home. But with half their remaining contests scheduled to be played on campus, the opportunity is there for BSU to reform its fortunes.
First, Bemidji State (2-36, 1-22 NSIC) will return to the road to face Southwest Minnesota State in a three-game weekend series starting at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, in Marshall.
Minnesota Duluth 7, Bemidji State 5 (F/7)
BSU 000 030 2 – 5-8-2
UMD 020 012 2 – 7-12-0
WP: Wattermann (1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K)
LP: Lindow (1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K)
Minnesota Duluth 11, Bemidji State 1 (F/7)
BSU 001 000 0 – 1-7-0
UMD 010 204 4 – 11-11-0
WP: Pokornowski (6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K)
LP: Lung (4 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K)