SMSU baseball team has rough weekend in Arizona

Spring break in Arizona should be a tempting prospect to any college student from Minnesota, but after an 0-3 weekend on the diamond the Southwest Minnesota State baseball team may be looking to get back home sooner rather than later.

SMSU was stifled in its lone game in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday by Arizona Christian pitcher Mike Lachapelle, who transferred to the NAIA school from the University of New Mexico.

“He was a very, very good pitcher and a left-hander,” SMSU head coach Paul Blanchard said. “He transfered from the University of New Mexico where he had pitched against and beaten the University of Texas. He was definitely the difference in our game.”

Lachapelle allowed one run on six hits over eight innings pitched with nine strikeouts, while his teammates knocked in nine runs off of 15 hits against three Mustang hurlers.

Seth Neely went 5-for-6 with a home run, a triple and three RBIs to lead the Firestorm at the plate.

Travis McGlauflin picked up the loss, allowing five runs over 5 1/3 innings. Ryan Ecalbarger was stung for four runs and seven hits over just 1 2/3 innings pitched, while Eric Giddings finished things up for SMSU throwing two scoreless innings.

The Mustangs had hoped to bounce back during a doubleheader Sunday with Minot State. Unfortunately for SMSU, the breaks went the Beavers’ way on the day as Minot State swept the Mustangs by scores of 6-4 and 3-1.

“We couldn’t get a timely hit,” Blanchard said. “We had a lead-off guy on base a couple different times, but didn’t seem to capitalize on it. Minot State pitched well enough, we just couldn’t get hits at the right times. They had some breaks that helped their cause. We threw the ball around a lot and they took advantage of every possible advantage we could give them.”

SMSU (3-6-1 overall) led 3-1 after the first inning of the day’s opening tilt, but four errors and an erratic arm for Steven Wehr ushered the Beavers back into the lead after the top of the fifth inning. Wehr walked five and had three wild pitches over his three-plus innings of duty.

The Mustangs tied the game on Jarred Carlson’s sacrifice fly to score Jordon Kontz in the bottom of the fifth, but left a pair of runners on base to end the inning.

Minot State answered with two runs in the top of the sixth off of Mustang reliever Landon Gacke, who was credited with the loss.

In Game 2, SMSU received an excellent start on the rubber from Alex Alvarez. Making his first appearance of the season, Alvarez allowed three runs on six hits with five strikeouts in five-plus innings. The Mustangs scattered seven hits over seven innings and scored their only run in top of the fifth to tie the game at 1-1. Minot State scored a run in both the fifth and sixth innings to grab the win for starter Jesse Goertzen, who went the distance.

Brian Ness went 3-for-6 with a double at the plate for SMSU over the twin billing with the Beavers, while Kontz was 2-for-6 with a double as well. Steven Kremer went 2-for-5 over the two games with a double and a pair of RBIs.

The 0-3 start to the spring break road trip has left a sour taste in the mouths of the Mustangs, especially when two of those losses came to a team as familiar as Minot State.

“It’s a long way to travel for three losses,” Blanchard said. “Minot is in our region, whether its a conference game or not you don’t want to lose to a familiar team. It’s a disappointing way to start the season.”

Blanchard, however, did say there were some encouraging signs to come out of the less than stellar weekend.

“We’re really learning about this team, learning what the right mix is, but we need to add some consistency,” he said. “Everybody needs to play well at the same time. Sooner or later I think we’re going to start playing pretty well.”

The next chance to put it all together comes today when SMSU takes on Dickinson State (N.D.) in Tucson with first pitch of the nine-inning game set for noon.