The Golden Eagles' winning streak of eight came to an end in the loss.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The University of Minnesota Crookston came up just short Sunday afternoon as they fell 3-1 to No. 13 West Chester University of Pennsylvania. The Golden Eagles had several opportunities but stranded 11 runners on base in a hard-fought loss to the defending NCAA Division II National Champion. The Golden Eagles proved that they deserve to be on the field with one of the nation’s best Division II baseball teams as they went toe-to-toe with the Golden Rams for nine innings, leaving the game-tying run at the plate.
The game was played Sun., March 11 at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla.
Minnesota Crookston falls to 9-5 as they continue their best start in program history. The Golden Eagles have gone 8-1 in their last nine games including going 6-1 thus far during their trip to Florida. West Chester improves to 8-2 with Sunday’s victory. The Golden Rams have won two national titles in the past six years. Minnesota Crookston has dramatically improved since the last time they played West Chester as they fell 14-7 to the Golden Rams in 2014 when the Golden Eagles finished 1-47. Minnesota Crookston has put up a 72-90 mark since the 2015 season when Head Coach Steve Gust began his time with the Golden Eagles.
Parker Hanson (Jr., RHP, Hawley, Minn.) picked up the loss despite putting the Golden Eagles in a great position to win. Hanson tossed six innings, allowing just three earned runs on nine hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
Jacob Butcher (R-Sr., RHP, Palmer, Alaska) continued the dominant performance by the Minnesota Crookston bullpen in Florida. Butcher went two innings and allowed no runs on hits with three strikeouts and two walks. The Golden Eagles have allowed just one run in the last 23.2 innings on relief.
Reed Hjelle (Jr., 1B, East Grand Forks, Minn.) led the Golden Eagles at the plate as he went 3-of-3 with one RBI. Anthony Stewart (R-Sr., OF, Oak Harbor, Wash.) finished 2-of-5 with one run scored, while Jonathan Lund (Jr., 3B, Tolna, N.D.) was 1-of-3.
West Chester looked poised for a big inning in the bottom of the first as Horn and Nick Ward opened the game up with a single and double, respectively. Jared Melone hit a sacrifice fly to plate Horn and put West Chester on the board first 1-0. Shane Dressler then singled up the middle to plate Ward to move the advantage to 2-0. Hanson came up big on the mound as he got John Hansen to hit into a double play to get out of any further damage.
UMC looked to answer in the top of the second as he they had the bases loaded following an infield single by Hjelle, a hit by pitch offered to James Cullinane (Sr., OF, San Francisco, Calif.) and a walk earned by Wyatt Peppel (R-So., DH, Greenbush, Minn.). However, pitcher Zach Rice got David Anaya (R-Sr., 2B, Tucson, Ariz.
UMC got on the board in the top of the third when Hjelle doubled to right center to drive in Stewart and cut the deficit to 2-1.
UMC looked to add runs in the top of the fourth after an infield single by Zach Frazier (R-Sr., C, Grand Rapids, Minn.) and a walk to Peppel. However, Rice again got West Chester out of trouble to hold the 2-1 lead.
The Golden Rams added a run in the bottom of the fifth when Ward scored on a fielder’s choice by Dressler to move their advantage to 3-1.
Minnesota Crookston looked to have an answer in the top of the seventh. After a Stewart single, Mitchell Bornhauser (Sr., OF, Northfield, Minn.) launched one to deep right field for a double. Stewart tried to stretch it and rounded third heading to home, but he would be stopped in his tracks as a throw from right field got to the catcher as the Golden Rams retired Stewart in a pickle at third base. The score remained 3-1 as Ethan Mushitz (Sr., SS, East Grand Forks, Minn.) struck out with Bornhauser on second.
West Chester got two runners on in the bottom of the seventh with Butcher now on the mound. However, he got out of trouble with a strikeout of the All-American Dressler and a ground out to Drew Jarmuz.
The Golden Eagles threatened again in the top of the eighth with back-to-back singles by Hjelle and Lund. Cullinane looked to want to put the bunt down early in the count in the following at-bat, but switched to swinging away in the final pitches. He would strike out, as would the next two batters as Minnesota Crookston remained behind 3-1.
West Chester threatened to add more runs again in the bottom of the eighth as Hansen singled and advanced to second on a Butcher throwing error over to first base on a pick-off play. He then walked Bill Ford with two outs. However, Butcher stepped up again and got Justin Horn to line out to center to hold the game at 3-1.
Minnesota Crookston looked to make a final charge in the top of the ninth. Scott Mortenson (Sr., East Grand Forks, Minn.) led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch in his pinch-hit appearance. Stewart then powered a pitch deep to left field but the ball hooked just foul. He would eventually reach on a fielder’s choice, as Mortenson was out on second on the play. Neither Eli Jung (Fr., OF, Dickinson, N.D.) nor Mushitz could reach base as West Chester held on for the 3-1 victory.
The Golden Eagles will conclude their trip to the Sunshine State Mon., March 12 as they take on Pace University at 12 p.m.