The sixth-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato baseball team completed a two-day, four-game sweep over Southwest Minnesota State with a pair of comeback wins Monday in Mankato.
In Game 1, the Mavericks trailed 4-3 through five innings before striking for three runs in the sixth inning to take a 6-4 win. In Game 2, the Mustangs broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the sixth inning, but MSU-Mankato scored four runs in the bottom half of the inning and held on for a 4-3 win.
Ranked first in the Central Region, the Mavericks have now won 11 games in a row. They improve to 35-7 overall and boast a 23-3 record in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The Mustangs fall to 22-21 overall and remain seventh in the NSIC with a 12-16 conference record. The top six teams in the conference advance to the NSIC tournament.
After scoring two runs combined in Sunday's doubleheader against MSU-Mankato in Marshall, the Mustangs picked up their offense Monday, scoring a combined seven runs on 19 hits. But again, it just wasn't enough.
"We played some decent ball today," SMSU head coach Paul Blanchard said. "We pitched well, for the most part, but again, they just made the plays when they needed to.
"We had a couple of chances to build a lead or extend a lead and we let them slip by, but we hit the ball pretty well, especially in that second game."
Ben Bartling got the start on the mound for the Mustangs in Game 1. He gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits in five innings of work. He struck out two batters and only surrendered one walk, but he also hit four batters.
Jon Ellis led the Mustang offense in the opening loss, coming up with a pair of hits, an RBI and a run scored.
Aaron Johnson took the ball for SMSU in Game 2 and kept the Mavericks' potent offense off the board through the first five innings before giving up four runs in the sixth after his offense had given him a 3-0 lead in the top half of the inning. He finished the game giving up eight hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
"We had a double and a triple and got some guys on base to put together a big inning and take a 3-0 lead," Blanchard said. "We thought we had it, but they put the ball in play the next inning and ended up getting four runs.
"That's the way baseball works sometimes. We just got beat by a better team."
Ellis had a hand in all three of SMSU's runs in Game 2. He had a triple, two RBIs and scored a run in the game. Chris Eichten and Adam Thygesen each added two hits for the Mustangs.
After the Mustangs lost on Monday, they hopped on the bus and rode to their next destination of Bemidji, where they will play their third doubleheader in three days. Blanchard said the team expected to get in to Bemidji today at 1:30 a.m. and will begin the first game of its doubleheader with Bemidji State at 1:30 p.m.
With just six games left to make up ground in the conference standings, Blanchard said he'll see what his team is made of in today's games.
"We had to reschedule a doubleheader with Mankato from Saturday to Monday, so that means (today) we'll be playing our fifth and sixth game in three days (today), and it's finals week," Blanchard said. "We have some adversity going on, and if we're an NSIC tournament team, we'll need to play well. You have to be able to overcome some adversity if you want to be a part of the tournament."
SMSU210 010 0-4 8 2
MSU120 003 X-6 6 1
SMSU-Ben Bartling, Corby McGlauflin (6). MSU-Bryce Bellin, Mathias Butala (5), Nick Sutherland (7). WP-Butala. LP-Bartling. Save-Sutherland. 2B: SMSU-Adam Thygesen, Tyler Flattum; MSU-Lucas Skjefte, Matt Kuchenbecker. LOB: SMSU 8, MSU 8.
SMSU000 003 000-3 11 1
MSU000 004 00X-4 9 1
SMSU-Aaron Johnson, Nate Dickhausen (6). MSU-Jason Hoppe, Mahlon Zimmermann (8), Nick Sutherland (9). WP-Hoppe. LP-Johnson. Save-Sutherland. 3B: SMSU-Jon Ellis. 2B: SMSU-Ryan Engels. LOB: SMSU 6, MSU 9.