Tuesday's Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference doubleheader was a statement for the Southwest Minnesota State baseball team.
Facing No. 7-ranked St. Cloud State at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud, the Mustangs fell 4-1 to the Huskies in Game 1. But in the second game, SMSU got a solid pitching performance out of Ben Bartling to secure the 6-2 victory in a nine-inning game.
In six innings, Bartling gave up two runs on seven hits with no walks. Corby McGlauflin came in for 2 1/3 innings of relief for his second save of the season.
"Bartling was outstanding for us," said SMSU head baseball coach Paul Blanchard. "He was the difference in the game. Then, we got a good relief effort from Colby.
"Ben got ahead of quite a few guys and threw a lot of first-pitch strikes. You go up 0-1 on people, they have to do a lot more and are more defensive as a hitter. The best pitch in the game is strike one."
Ben Korger got SMSU on the board early in Game 2, leading the game off with a double and coming around to score on a ground out by Brian Ness. Chris Eichten added another run in the second off a double by Mark Hanson. Korger finished Game 2 with three hits and two runs scored.
Staying at 2-0 in the top of the fifth, Jon Ellis hit his first career home run, bringing home Brian Ness to put the score at 4-0.
"He's been really steady for us," Blanchard said of Ellis. "He got his first home run and we knew that that was going to come soon. Sure enough, he hits his first one on his birthday."
SMSU (4-2 NSIC, 14-7 overall) added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth on a bases-loaded walk and a St. Cloud State error.
"For us to go to their place and beat them, that showed our team a lot about itself," Blanchard said. "We can hang in there with good ranked teams. We put a couple hits together and we took advantage of some of their mistakes. Today was a step for our team in that we can compete with the better teams in the NCAA."
In the series opener, Alex Alvarez went 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs and nine hits in the SMSU loss.
Scoreless through the first three innings, the Huskies broke through with a sacrifice fly by Garrett Fischer. In the sixth, Brian Hansen, Travis Enger and Phil Imholte each drove in runs for St. Cloud State, which goes to 22-7 overall (7-3 NSIC) following the split.
Doug Mead brought in the lone run for the Mustangs in Game 1 on a sacrifice fly, scoring Ellis.
SMSU stays on the road for a four-game series at Concordia-St. Paul, starting at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
SMSU000 000 1-1 7 0
St. Cloud State000 103 X-4 10 0
SMSU-Alex Alvarez, Brandan Alfson (6); SCS-Scott Lieser. WP-Alvarez. LP-Lieser. 2B-Adam Thygesen; SCS-Eric Loxtercamp, Joey Benke, Brian Hansen, Travis Enger. LOB: SMSU-6; SCS-7.
SMSU110 020 002-6 7 2
St. Cloud State000 001 100-2 10 4
SMSU-Ben Bartling, Chris Koep (7), Corby McGlauflin (7); SCS-Garrett Anderson, Jamie Kissell (3), Parker Moorman (4), Shawn Riesgraf (9), Austan Bosch (9). HR: SMSU-Jon Ellis. 2B: SMSU-Ben Korger, Mark Hanson; SCS-Garrett Fischer. LOB: SMSU-11; SCS-14.