Golden Eagles sweep Concordia-St. Paul in return home
Back at home for the first time in nearly two years, the Minnesota Crookston baseball team swept Concordia-St. Paul in a doubleheader Saturday afternoon.
The Golden Eagles beat the Golden Bears 4-2 in seven innings in the first game and finished off the afternoon with a 6-3 win, continuing a program-best start and improving to 15-1 on the season (11-1 NSIC).
On a warm, sunny afternoon with family members lining the stands and making noise while tailgate smoke wafted through UMC Baseball Field, the Golden Eagles clearly savored being back at home.
"Lot of fans came out, I was kind of surprised," said first baseman Jake Hjelle. "It was nice, they were loud the whole time, we had the music going, we were just having a good time. ... It just kept us in a good mood. Even when we were losing, we were never out of the game. We were always happy and always staying positive."
UMC's home opener was originally supposed to be last weekend, but its scheduled series against Wayne State was cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols. This meant the Golden Eagles came into Saturday after a 10-day layoff, and while coach Steve Gust thought they still had some rust, they found a way to win both games regardless.
"Baseball's a game that was meant to be played every day," Gust said. "I was worried about how sharp were our pitchers gonna be, how sharp were our hitters going to be. ... We weren't great today, but we did enough."
Jake Dykhoff took the bump for Minnesota Crookston in first game. From the first pitch, the junior right-hander had his stuff working, overpowering Golden Bear hitters with his fastball and freezing them with his off-speed pitches.
The Golden Eagles got all the runs they would need in the first frame. Ben Bryant slashed a leadoff double to right field, sparking a four-run frame for UMC. Bryant, Mason Ruhlman and Scott Finberg all crossed the plate on errors, and Jake Hjelle scored on a wild pitch.
For the game, the Golden Eagles were outhit by CSP, 7-4, but took advantage of four Concordia errors, three of which came in the first inning.
When the Golden Bears made contact off of Dykhoff, they made it count. Patrick Bordewick stroked an RBI single in the third inning, and Nick Thimsen homered in the fifth inning to make it 4-2.
But Dykhoff shook off Thimsen's blast and gave up only one baserunner the rest of the way. With two outs in the seventh and Thimsen at the plate again, Dykhoff got him swinging this time to end the game.
Dykhoff fanned multiple hitters in every inning but the fourth and seventh. His strikeout of Thimsen was his 14th of the day, tying Jayden Grover's program record set last season against Saint Anselm.
"I had no idea what the strikeout record was going into the game," Dykhoff said. "I was just out there pitching, doing my thing and I felt really good today."
It was Concordia-St. Paul that started strong in the second game. Four Golden Bears made solid contact off Matt Nelson, resulting in four base hits and a 3-0 lead. Griffin Lapp, meanwhile, kept UMC silent through the first three innings.
But Nelson settled down after the shaky start, finishing his afternoon by tossing four scoreless innings and just two hits. The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, scratched a run across in the fourth inning when Ruhlman drew a walk, stole second and scored on a fielder's choice. That was just the spark they needed to take control.
Bryant and Will Zimmerman both got on base to begin the fifth, bringing Ruhlman to the plate. After swinging through a Lapp curveball, the second baseman powered the next pitch over the wall in right-center field, giving UMC a 4-3 lead.
"A lot of times, when you look ugly on a pitch they normally like to double up," Ruhlman said. "So I sold out for a curveball and he threw it again. I got a good barrel on it and that was that."
The Golden Eagles added to their lead the seventh inning. Hjelle blasted a fly ball down the left-field foul line that stayed fair and over the fence. Later in the inning, Landyn Swenson tripled to the deepest part of the park in centerfield, allowing Eli Jung to come home.
"I just think we went up to the plate and had more confidence for some reason," Hjelle said. "We just decided that we are better than these guys and we can hit a lot better than what we have been."
Alex Koep and Brody Sorenson teamed up in relief of Nelson. Koep went 2.1 innings and allowed just two baserunners, and Sorenson pitched 1.2 innings to earn the save.
Ruhlman reached base in all four of his at-bats in the second game. Hjelle went 3-for-4 in addition to his home run, and Brock Reller also had two hits.
UP NEXT: The Golden Eagles and Golden Bears square off again in a doubleheader Sunday afternoon, featuring a seven-inning non-conference tilt before the final game of the series.
MINNESOTA CROOKSTON 4, CONCORDIA-ST. PAUL 2 (7)
Concordia-St. Paul 0-0-1-0-1-0-0—2-7-4
Minnesota Crookston 4-0-0-0-0-0-X—4-4-0
- WP: Jake Dykhoff (7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 14 K)
- LP: Luke DeGrammont (4.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K)
MINNESOTA CROOKSTON 6, CONCORDIA-ST. PAUL 3
Concordia-St. Paul 3-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0—3-8-1
Minnesota Crookston 0-0-0-1-3-0-2-0-X—6-9-1
- WP: Matt Nelson (5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K)
- LP: Griffin Lapp (4.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K)
- SV: Brody Sorenson (1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K)
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