With weather pushing Southwest Minnesota State's four-game series with Wayne State back a day, the Mustangs baseball team opened the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference series with a split on Sunday at Alumni Field, winning Game 1 5-1 before the Wildcats took Game 2, 14-3.
Now at 11-9 in the NSIC and 21-14 overall, SMSU matches up with Wayne State for another doubleheader today, starting at 1 p.m.
In the first game of the twin bill, Alex Alvarez continued his sharp play on the mound for the Mustangs, striking out five and allowing only three walks and six hits for his second complete game of the year. Alvarez is 3-3 on the season.
"Alex, in the last three or four starts, he's gotten progressively better," said SMSU head coach Paul Blanchard. "He continued what he's done the last couple starts by getting ahead of hitters and battling. He was the difference in the game."
Scoreless after the first inning, Adam Thygesen got the Mustangs' offense going after reaching base on a throwing error. With two outs and with Thygesen and Chris Eichten on base, Tyler Flattum and Jeff Watson each hit two-out RBI singles to put SMSU up 2-0. In the third, Jordon Kontz and Brian Ness led off with singles before reaching home on another Wayne State error.
"Once again, we got timely hits and they made some errors that we scored runs on," Blanchard said. "That was a plus for us that gave us a little breathing room. Wayne State's a team that can put up runs in a hurry and luckily, we had that four-run cushion."
The Wildcats would score their lone run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth. Alvarez held Wayne State hitless in the sixth and seventh innings.
"He got their better guys out at critical times and he battled like crazy," Blanchard said of Alvarez. "He's been a horse for us in the last few starts."
Ness brought in another run in the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run to put the score at 5-1.
In the nightcap, the quick-scoring Wildcats offense showed itself as Wayne State took advantage of a pair of errors and jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning. An RBI single by CJ Nolen bumped the lead to 6-0 in favor of the Wildcats.
"The second game, we didn't do much of anything well," Blanchard said. "We got two errors in the first that led to a few runs, then we walked seven guys and hit four guys. We had 11 freebies, as we call them, and you can't expect to win when you give up 11 freebies."
SMSU put together a small rally in the fourth with Eichten drilling a two-run single. Later in the inning, Eichten scored on a sac fly by Jon Ellis to cut the lead to 6-3.
Thygesen led the Mustangs in Game 2 with three of the team's seven hits.
WSC000 010 0-1 6 2
SMSU022 010 X-5 8 1
WSC-Tom Doran; SMSU-Alex Alvarez. WP-Alvarez. LP-Doran. HR: SMSU-Brian Ness. LOB: WSC-6; SMSU-4.
WSC501 001 201-10 14 1
SMSU000 300 000-3 7 2
WSC-Eric Schwieger, Trevor Reeves (8); SMSU-Jeremy Schmidt, Bryce Rippentrop (6), Steven Wehr (7), Colton Smit (8), Eric Giddings (9). WP-Schwieger. LP-Schmidt. 2B: WSC-Justin Beranek, CJ Nolen; SMSU-Adam Thygesen. LOB: WSC-10; SMSU-6.