UMC drops two out of three at Minot State, headed back for NSIC Tournament
Both the Minnesota Crookston and Minot State baseball teams went into this weekend's series in Minot knowing their postseason berths were secure. But their series, the last of the regular season, was not without consequence.
If either team were to take two out of three games, it would earn the privilege to claim a top-four seed in the conference and host the first round of the NSIC Tournament, being played on campus sites Thursday, May 13 and Friday, May 14.
The Beavers made short work of that debate. They swept the Golden Eagles (23-10, 18-10 NSIC) in a doubleheader on Friday afternoon to clinch their spot at home. A day later, UMC rallied to win the final game of the series, 4-3, ensuring it would be headed back to Minot for the conference tournament.
Minot State (24-15, 22-12) sat fifth in the conference standings coming into the series while Minnesota Crookston sat in third. But the Beavers quickly jumped the Golden Eagles on Friday behind strong pitching and an explosive performance at the plate in the second game.
Noah Myhre pitched a complete game in Minot State's 4-1 win in Game One, allowing just four hits. UMC took an early lead when Teddy Giefer scored on an error, but fourth-inning home runs by Tyler Wiltshire and Drew Behling put the Beavers back in front.
After two singles, the Golden Eagles brought the tying run to the plate with no outs in the seventh inning, but Myhre forced Parker Stroh into a double play.
The Beavers throttled Minnesota Crookston, 19-0, in the second game, scoring 12 runs during a monster sixth inning. On the mound, RJ Martinez pitched a gem, striking out nine Golden Eagles and allowing just one hit.
UMC sent five different pitchers to the mound in the defeat. All of them allowed at least three hits and three runs. Jordan Williams went 4-for-5 with five RBIs for Minot State, while Kaiden Cardoso went 3-for-4 with four runs driven in.
With the Golden Eagles having fallen out of hosting consideration after Friday's sweep, Saturday's finale would determine where they'd be headed for the conference tournament. A Beaver win meant that MiSU, currently seeded fourth, would rise to the third seed and UMC would travel to No. 4 St. Cloud State. A Golden Eagle win meant UMC would be going back to Minot as the fifth seed.
Minnesota Crookston earned the rematch with a 4-3 victory sparked by Mason Ruhlman and Brock Reller, the NSIC's leading home-run hitter. Reller socked a double to give UMC a 1-0 lead in the first inning and came home on a wild pitch later in the frame.
Minot State took a 3-2 lead after the sixth inning, but Ruhlman tied the game with a solo shot in the seventh. Reller was next at the plate, and he gave the Golden Eagles the lead for good with his 14th homer of the season.
Matt Nelson struck out 12 Beavers in 5.2 innings, Tyler Hegg picked up the win with 1.1 scoreless innings and Brody Sorenson pitched the final two shutout innings to earn the save.
UP NEXT: The Golden Eagles have qualified for four of the last five NSIC Tournaments. Previously, the top eight teams in the conference all qualified for the main draw of the double-elimination tournament at a single site, but that isn't the case this year.
This season, the top four seeds will host the teams seeded fifth through eighth in a best-of-three series from May 13-14. UMC finished fifth in the conference standings, meaning it will take on Minot State.
The winners of the best-of-three series will head to Sioux Falls, S.D. for the conference semifinals and finals May 19-21, with the winner earning an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
UMC and Minot State will play the first game of the series Thursday at 1 p.m. Friday's second game will be played at 3 p.m., and a third game, if necessary, will take place 30 minutes after the conclusion of that game.
MINOT STATE 4, MINNESOTA CROOKSTON 1 (7)
Minnesota Crookston 0-1-0-0-0-0-0—1-4-2
Minot State 0-0-1-3-0-0-X—4-8-1
- WP: Noah Myhre (7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K)
- LP: Conner Richardson (5.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K)
MINOT STATE 19, MINNESOTA CROOKSTON 0 (7)
Minnesota Crookston 0-0-0-0-0-0-0—-0-1-1
Minot State 1-0-3-3-0-12-X—19-18-0
- WP: RJ Martinez (7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K)
- LP: Jake Osowski (2.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K)
MINNESOTA CROOKSTON 4, MINOT STATE 3
Minnesota Crookston 2-0-0-0-0-0-2-0-0—4-8-2
Minot State 0-0-1-0-1-1-0-0-0—3-3-0
- WP: Tyler Hegg (1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K)
- LP: Trevyn Badger (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K)
- SV: Brody Sorenson (2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K)
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