SMSU baseball team puts on power display, splits with UMD

Using a power surge at the plate, the Southwest Minnesota State baseball team earned a split with Minnesota-Duluth in a four-game series held Saturday and Sunday in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The Mustangs smashed nine home runs over the four games, winning the second game of each day’s doubleheader. On Saturday, SMSU was rocked by the Bulldogs 17-6, but bounced back to take the second game 11-9 thanks to three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Sunday, SMSU dropped the first game of the twin bill 5-4 before exploding for a 14-run sixth inning in Game 2 on its way to a 19-4 win.

The games were all played at Augustana College’s Ronken Field. They were originally scheduled in Marshall but had to be moved due to poor field conditions.

But SMSU’s batters seemed to like Augustana’s field just fine, pounding six home runs in Saturday’s games and three more on Sunday.

“Augie’s park has a short fence to right and a fairly short fence to left,” SMSU head coach Paul Blanchard said. “If the wind is blowing right you have a chance to put up some big numbers and see some fly balls can carry on out of there.”

The Mustangs are now 9-15 overall and 4-6 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. UMD is 4-18 overall, 4-4 in conference play.

SMSU got off to a rough start to the doubleheader, committing five errors and giving up 17 hits in a lopsided 17-6 loss. UMD scored nine runs over the first two innings and scored seven runs in the seventh.

“In the first game we didn’t do anything right and UMD took advantage. We got beat pretty badly,” Blanchard said.

There were a few highlights for SMSU in the loss, most coming by way of the long ball. Ben Korger and Jarred Carlson each hit their first career home runs in the game, while Kyle Young had a home run and a double.

Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader didn’t get off to a promising start for the Mustangs either, as UMD scored five runs in the opening inning. SMSU responded with four runs in the second inning to cut into the lead. Trailing 9-8 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, SMSU rallied for three runs to take over the lead. Tanner Neale had a key RBI double in the inning to help break a 9-9 tie.

The Mustangs found the power again in the second game of the day. Half of their 12 hits went for extra bases, including three home runs from Jon Ellis, Nick Tillo and Ben Korger.

After giving up 35 hits on Saturday, SMSU’s pitchers came to play on Sunday. Brandon Alfson got the start and gave up just one earned run, but UMD scored three unearned runs while he was on the mound. Alfson worked six innings, allowing six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in the 5-4 loss.

SMSU scored all four of its runs on a grand slam by Jon Ellis in the second inning. UMD scored three of its five runs in the final two innings. The Mustangs finished with three errors in the game.

“Brandon, that was his first start and he pitched well, only giving up one earned run and two walks on the day. He did a good job,” Blanchard said. “But we didn’t take care of the baseball and we only scored on that grand slam in the second. We had our chances and couldn’t capitalize and it was probably the biggest disappointment for our season so far.”

The second game Sunday brightened the mood for the Mustangs, especially the sixth inning. Already up 5-4 going into the bottom of the sixth, SMSU exploded for 14 runs in the inning, 13 of which came with two outs. The Mustangs tagged the Bulldogs for 10 hits in the inning and UMD committed six errors as SMSU put the game well out of reach.

Neale, Ellis and Serbus all had three hits for SMSU. Neal had two doubles, while Serbus had three. Brian Ness and Jarred Carlson both tacked on a home run apiece in the blowout.

Joe Axelson went the distance for the Mustangs, giving up four runs on eight hits with just one walk. He also struck out three batters.

SMSU is scheduled to play its first home games of the season Wednesday at Alumni Field against St. Cloud State. The first pitch of the doubleheader is set for 1:30 p.m.