Golden Eagles snap losing skid by sweeping Northern State in doubleheader

Jacob Shames
Crookston Times

Consider the Minnesota Crookston baseball team back in its groove.

The Golden Eagles earned two resounding wins over Northern State on Wednesday afternoon at home, snapping a four-game losing streak and improving to 19-6 on the season (14-6 NSIC).

UMC built a big lead and held off a late rally to take the first game, 9-6, before pummeling the Wolves (15-16, 14-13) in a 14-3 mercy-rule win in the second game.

Jake Dykhoff, who came into Wednesday having pitched four straight seven-inning complete games and having struck out 25 batters in his last two starts, took the mound in the first game. The Golden Eagles turned to their ace to right the ship after a sweep at the hands of St. Cloud State last weekend in which they were outscored a combined 24-4.

Northern State took an early 1-0 lead with a two-out first-inning RBI single from Ramon Vega. But the Wolves didn't have much more success against Dykhoff afterwards, as the junior right-hander fanned 11 in 6.1 innings of work while walking just one batter.

Scott Finberg, mired in an 0-for-19 slump dating back to March 30 against Augustana, snapped out of his funk in a big way with UMC's first hit of the game, a solo home run in the bottom second. Jake Hjelle then doubled to right and came in to score on the error. The Golden Eagles didn't trail again.

Brock Reller celebrates after hitting a three-run home run.

UMC scored two runs in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings, and another in the sixth. All nine Golden Eagle starters reached base in the first game. Finberg went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs, and Ben Bryant and Landyn Swenson each had multi-hit games.

The Golden Eagles have been strikeout-prone this season, but Wednesday's first game was just the third of the season in which they combined for six strikeouts or fewer. In all, they had 10 hits — six for extra bases — and drew five walks.

Dykhoff ran into trouble in the seventh inning, exiting after giving up a two-RBI single to Justin Hutter that made it 9-4. Northern State scored two more runs and brought the tying run to the plate, but Conner Fonger made a sprawling catch in left field on a sharp one-out liner by Reece Ragatz and doubled an NSU runner off second base to end the game.

Looking to bounce back, the Wolves sent their own ace — Seth Brewer, owner of the NSIC's sixth-best earned-run average — to the mound in the day's second game. Brewer lasted one inning. 

After leadoff man Bryant singled and Mason Ruhlman doubled to right, Brock Reller smoked a 1-2 pitch to deep centerfield for his NSIC-leading 10th homer, giving UMC a 3-0 lead. The Golden Eagles were off and running from there.

Alex Koep steps into a pitch.

UMC extended its lead to 9-1 after the fourth inning when Hjelle hit a three-run home run to centerfield. Northern State scored two runs in the fifth inning, but the Golden Eagles' big blow came an inning later on a grand slam by Ruhlman. That made the score 14-3 and put UMC three outs away from winning by run-rule.

Alex Koep set the table on the mound, striking out six in 4.2 innings, and Jake Osowski did the rest. Osowski struck out four in 2.1 innings of work, earning the final three outs and earning the win.

The Golden Eagles, the second-highest scoring offense in the NSIC, banged out 13 hits in the second game and scored over 10 runs for the first time since a 10-6 win over Upper Iowa on March 29. Bryant, Ruhlman and Reller each had three hits in the game, and Ruhlman and Reller both drove in four runs.

UMC kept up its strong plate discipline in the second game, as it struck out just five times while drawing six walks.

UP NEXT: The Golden Eagles will be at home for the final time in the regular season Saturday and Sunday when they host Bemidji State (6-26, 5-22). UMC beat the Beavers twice in non-conference games in Fort Scott, Kan. back in March, winning by scores of 23-6 and 17-6.

Mason Ruhlman gets into his stance.

MINNESOTA CROOKSTON 9, NORTHERN STATE 6 (7)

Northern State 1-0-0-1-0-0-4—6-8-4

Minnesota Crookston 0-2-2-2-2-1-X—9-10-1

  • WP: Jake Dykhoff (6.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 11 K)
  • LP: Brian Baker (4.0 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K)
  • SV: Brody Sorenson (0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K)

MINNESOTA CROOKSTON 14, NORTHERN STATE 3 (7)

Northern State 0-1-0-0-2-0-0—3-6-2

Minnesota Crookston 3-0-1-5-0-5-X—14-13-0

  • WP: Jake Osowski (2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K)
  • LP: Seth Brewer (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K)

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