Golden Eagles ride seniors and homers to sweep, NSIC Tournament spot
The University of Minnesota Crookston baseball team ended their regular-season home schedule with a 9-8 victory over Bemidji State University. The Golden Eagles were led by a two-run home run by Mason Ruhlman (R-Sr., 2B, Algonac, Mich.) to tie up the game, and a solo shot from Brock Reller (Sr., OF, Grand Forks, N.D.) in the next at-bat to secure the lead.
Jayden Grover (R-Sr., RHP, Cooperstown, N.D.), one of the top pitchers in program history, earned the victory. Grover is the program’s all-time strikeout leader, along with being in the top 10 in many statistical categories. Grover went two innings and allowed two earned runs on three hits, with two strikeouts. Jackson Schneider (Jr., RHP, Forest Lake, Minn.) earned his first save of the season. Schneider shut down the Beavers in order in the top of the ninth.
Minnesota Crookston moves to 22-6 (17-6 NSIC) with Sunday’s win. The swept the Beavers on the season, with five victories. The Golden Eagles have now won five-straight games. The Golden Eagles secured their fifth NSIC Tournament appearance in six full NSIC seasons with Sunday’s victory. Minnesota Crookston can secure a home playoff game in the first round with two more victories. The Golden Eagles have five games remaining on the schedule. The first round of the NSIC Tournament will be played at the top four seeds May 13-14. Minnesota Crookston is currently second in the NSIC standings. Bemidji State falls to 7-28 (6-24 NSIC) despite a gritty effort throughout the series.
In addition, Minnesota Crookston is six wins short of tying their school-record for victories. The mark was set in 2019 with 28 wins. The Golden Eagles have reached 20 or more wins five times since 2015. Minnesota Crookston has won 145 games since Steve Gust took over as head coach prior to the 2015 season. Earlier this season, Gust overtook women’s basketball coach Mike Roysland as the winningest Golden Eagle head coach in any sport during the NCAA Division II era.
The Golden Eagles were led by the play of Ruhlman, who went 3-of-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Ruhlman has had an outstanding the week. He has hit four home runs, batting .500 for the week with eight runs scored, three doubles, and 11 RBIs. Will Zimmerman (R-Sr., OF/SS, Park River, N.D.) finished 3-of-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. Parker Stroh (R-Fr., C, Grand Forks, N.D.) went 2-of-4 with one RBI, while Landyn Swenson (R-Sr., OF, Devils Lake, N.D.) was 3-of-5 with a run scored.
Logan Barrick suffered the loss for Bemidji State, allowing three runs on four hits in two innings of work.
Jake Osowski (R-Fr., RHP, East Grand Forks, Minn.) got the start Sunday and tossed six innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits. He struck out seven and walked just two.
Minnesota Crookston took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Scott Finberg (R-Sr., 3B, Stillwater, Minn.) hit an infield single to drive in Zimmerman. The Golden Eagles got a second run on an unconventional play. Stroh hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Ruhlman. It turned into an unconventional double play as Bemidji State threw out Finberg at first base.
Bemidji State got the home run bug in the top of the third. Carter Simon hit a two-run blast to drive in himself, and Derek Dolezal. Two batters later, Parker Borg hit one to right center to give Bemidji State a 3-2 lead.
The Golden Eagles tied up the game 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth with a Zimmerman double to left field to score Jack Peppel (R-Fr., 1B, Olivia, Minn.).
Bemidji State countered in the top of the sixth. Tom Keohen hit the third home run of the day for the Beavers to drive in himself and Isaiah Grancorvitz to put BSU up 5-3.
The Golden Eagles came right back in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Conner Fonger (R-Fr., OF< Superior, Wis.) came on as a pinch-hitter. He took the first pitch all the way to the right field foul pole for a double to drive in Swenson and Finberg and knot the game up 5-5. Fonger came in to score on a Zimmerman single to make it 6-5.
Bemidji State responded in the top of the seventh. With the bases loaded, Boser hit a bases clearing triple to score Grancorvitz, Borg, and Sam Kalberer to give the Beavers an 8-6 advantage.
Minnesota Crookston made the comeback in the bottom of the eighth. With one out and one runner on, Ruhlman, who has been clutch all week, came through again with a two-run home run to score himself and Teddy Giefer (Fr., 1B, Courtland, Minn.). In the next at-bat, Reller blasted one to right center to give the Golden Eagles a 9-8 advantage.
Bemidji State had a final chance, but Schneider retired the Beavers in order to come through with the 9-8 win.
The game was the final regular-season home game for 12 seniors including: Ruhlman, Reller, Finberg, Zimmerman, Eli Jung (Sr., OF, Dickinson, N.D.), Swenson, Grover, Garrett Hohn (R-Sr., RHP, Wausau, Wis.), Gregory Diaz (R-Sr., RHP, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), Jared Andersen (Sr., LHP, Cannon Falls, Minn.), Bobby Chu (R-Sr., C, Redwood City, Calif.), and T.J. Hokanson (R-Sr., 3B, Chanhassen, Minn.).
The Golden Eagles travel to Duluth, Minn., to take on University of Minnesota Duluth Wednesday, May 5 at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.