The Golden Eagles are seeking their first win at the NSIC Tournament in three previous appearances.
CROOKSTON, Minn. – The University of Minnesota Crookston baseball is set to open up their third NSIC Tournament appearance in the last four seasons Thurs., May 9 as they take on No. 3 seed St. Cloud State University at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud, Minn., at 6:30 p.m. The Golden Eagles are seeking their first win at the NSIC Tournament in three previous appearances. Minnesota Crookston is the No. 6 seed in the NSIC Tournament.
The winner of Thursday’s NSIC Tournament game will advance to play the winner of No. 2 seed Minnesota State University, and No. 7 seed Northern State University Fri., May 10 at 2:30 p.m. The loser of the Minnesota Crookston/St. Cloud State tilt, and the loser of the Minnesota State/Northern State game will play Fri., May 10 at 11:30 a.m., in a win or go home situation. The semifinal game in the winner’s bracket will take place Sat., May 11 with the Championship game set for Sun., May 12.
The Golden Eagles' games will be played at Putz Field, and Joe Faber Field. Other games will be played at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex (MAC), except for one game Saturday at Becker Park on the campus of Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minn.
“We got to be good everywhere,” Golden Eagles Head Coach Steve Gust said on facing St. Cloud State. “If we have an off day hitting or defense or pitching, we won’t have a chance. We’ve got to play an all-around baseball game.”
Minnesota Crookston vs. St. Cloud State
Thurs., May 8, 6:30 p.m., Putz Field, St. Cloud, Minn.
Minnesota Crookston vs. Minnesota State/Northern State
Fri., May 9, 11:30 a.m./2:30 p.m., St. Cloud, Minn.
NSIC Tournament Games (Steve Gust Era)
5/11/2017 – vs. Minot State – L, 3-2
5/10/2017 – vs. Minnesota State – L, 10-0
5/12/2016 – vs. Northern State – L, 8-6
5/12/2016 – vs. St. Cloud State – L, 17-3
The Golden Eagles are looking to continue their historic 2019 season. Minnesota Crookston set the school record for wins with a 28-19 mark. The 28 wins surpassed 25 victories in 2016. The Golden Eagles also set the school record for conference wins with 20, completing the NSIC regular season with a 20-12 mark.
Minnesota Crookston ended the 2019 regular season by putting up a 7-1 mark in their final eight games. The Golden Eagles picked up a win over 11 of 14 NSIC opponents in 2019. The Golden Eagles did not defeat University of Sioux Falls, and Northern State, and they did not play Winona State University with those games cancelled due to weather.
Minnesota Crookston comes into the playoffs hitting .265. The Golden Eagles have 269 runs scored, 69 doubles, 12 triples, 33 home runs and 232 RBIs. Minnesota Crookston has a .396 slugging percentage with a .376 on-base percentage.
The Golden Eagles are led by 2018 NSIC Player of the Year Reed Hjelle (Sr., 1B, East Grand Forks, Minn.), who is batting .361 with 42 runs scored, three doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 41 RBIs. Brock Reller (So., OF, Grand Forks, N.D.) ended the season on a great note, and is batting .294 with 37 runs scored, nine home runs and 47 RBIs. Jonathan Lund (Sr., 1B/3B, Tolna, N.D.) comes in hitting .280 with nine runs scored and four RBIs, while Bryce Jorgenson (Jr., UT, Thunder Bay, Ontario) is swinging .266 with a team-high 39 runs scored and 15 doubles.
On the mound, Minnesota Crookston has a 5.12 ERA with 299 strikeouts to 181 walks. The Golden Eagles have been led by one of the top closers in NCAA Division II baseball in Dalton Grose (R-So., LHP, Waterville, Minn.). Grose has been great, stepping in for current Atlanta Braves farmhand Zach Seipel. Grose has 13 saves with a 2-2 mark and a 2.45 ERA in 36.2 innings pitched with 38 strikeouts and 21 walks. Conner Richardson (Fr., RHP, Grand Forks, N.D.) has made an instant impact as both a starter and out of the bullpen. Richardson pitched five perfect innings last week in relief. Richardson is 1-1 with a 3.89 ERA in 39.1 innings pitched with 21 strikeouts to just eight walks.
The starting rotation is led by Zach Rustad (Sr., LHP, Blaine, Minn.), who is 6-5 with a 4.57 ERA in 61.0 innings pitched with 48 strikeouts and 31 walks. Opponents are hitting just .228 against Rustad. Nate Albrecht (Sr., LHP, Wahpeton, N.D.), who has battled injuries through much of his time in the Maroon and Gold, has had a huge season for the Golden Eagles. Albrecht is 2-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 53.2 innings pitched with 41 strikeouts to just 15 walks. Jayden Grover (Jr., RHP, Cooperstown, N.D.) comes in with a 5-3 mark and a 5.43 ERA with 43 strikeouts to 30 walks.
The Huskies and Golden Eagles have met earlier this season, with the Golden Eagles taking the first game 5-3, then the Huskies came back and showed why they are nationally ranked, winning the next two games over the Golden Eagles and win the series. The Huskies are currently 14th in the nation and head into the NSIC Tournament as a three seed with a 38-10 overall record.
“Their staff is stacked, so whoever they throw at us is going to be good,” Gust said. “I’m talking starter, closer, middle relief. Their whole staff is good, so it’s not going to matter. We got to get our pitch to hit. Guys need to get on base, and our RBI guys need to get some big hits for us. It’s going to come down to clutch situations. We’re going to have to grind out a victory.”
The winner between the Wolves and Mavericks will play the winner of the Golden Eagles and Huskies. Minnesota Crookston split with Minnesota State earlier in the season. Northern State is one of just two NSIC teams to sweep the Golden Eagles this season.