SMSU baseball starts season with split vs. UIU

A five-run top of the eighth in Game 2 of a doubleheader with Upper Iowa lifted the Southwest Minnesota State baseball team to a split at the H.H.H. Metrodome in Minneapolis to open the 2013 season for the Mustangs.

Jarred Carlson was struck by a pitch with the bases loaded to score Ben Korger in what proved to be the game’s winning run, while Kyle Young drove in Brian Ness in the next Mustang at-bat.

William Loza committed a throwing error for the Peacocks on the play, allowing Carlson and Young to both score to put the score at 7-2.

Brandan Alfson held the Peacocks scoreless in the bottom of the inning to give the Mustangs (1-1 overall, 1-1 NSIC) their first win of the season.

The Mustangs had a two-run lead heading into the seventh inning but the Peacocks struck for a pair of runs to tie things up. Due to time constraints in a busy day at the Metrodome, it was announced that the eighth inning would be the final inning, and SMSU head coach Paul Blanchard said it was a relief to put some runs on the board and get a win.

“We were fortunate to have that eighth inning granted to us. The umpire said we’ll play one more and we were fortunate to come up with five runs in that inning to get the win,” Blanchard said. “It was a very good win for us. We had a lead, had a good pitching performance, gave up the lead and then were able to come back to win.”

Jordon Kontz was credited with the win for SMSU in the nightcap, striking out two Peacocks on 14 pitches in 2/3 of an inning pitched. Steven Wehr got the start for the Mustangs and struck out five over five scoreless innings.

Blanchard beamed about Wehr’s outing after the game. The 6-foot-4, 159-pound right-hander tossed just 11.1 innings last season, but got his team off to a strong start Thursday.

“Steven Wehr pitched the best game I’ve seen from him since he’s been a Mustang,” Blanchard said. “In the middle of the innings he threw first-pitch strikes quite often and that makes such a difference. We’re hoping for big things from him this year.”

Young went 2-for-4 in the game with an RBI and a run scored. Korger was also 2-for-4, scoring twice.

SMSU fell 6-4 in the first game of the doubleheader, as its four-run sixth inning was not enough to draw even with UIU. The Peacocks used three runs in the third inning, as well as a run in each of the fourth, fifth and seventh innings to take the opening game.

Joe Axelson picked up the loss for the Mustangs, allowing four runs over four innings and setting down two batters.

“He pitched the first two innings pretty well and then got behind some guys and they got their leadoff batter on in quite a few innings that game,” Blanchard said. “But he kept us in the game and only two of those runs he gave up were earned. We didn’t take very good care of the baseball at times.”

The Mustangs will be right back at the Metrodome on Sunday for an early 6 a.m. start time for their doubleheader against the University of Mary. Blanchard said Thursday’s games provided a positive start for his team that it will look to build upon this weekend.

“Offensively, I think we’ll be a team that’s very capable of putting some runs on the board, we’ve been saying that all fall and winter,” Blanchard said. “Our offense is going to be a strength of this squad and I think we’ll have the ability of putting up runs in bunches.”