SMSU closes 2013 baseball season with 4 wins vs. UMC

The Southwest Minnesota State baseball team wrapped up the 2013 season with a four-game sweep against fledgling Minnesota-Crookston over the weekend.

SMSU defeated the Golden Eagles by scores of 2-0 and 5-2 on Saturday, then started Sunday by sneaking out a 3-2 win before blasting Crookston 16-6 in Game 2. The four-game series was originally scheduled to be played in Marshall but was moved to Crookston due to wet weather. The road-weary Mustangs had all 16 of their scheduled home games either canceled or moved to other locations this season.

“It’s really kind of unfair that way, but I certainly know that we don’t want to have a year like we did this year, weather-wise,” said SMSU head coach Paul Blanchard. “It’s tough to jump on the bus and keep going and not always know until the day before if you’re going to play or where you’re going to play. It gets to be a grind that way.

“For the season we had one practice on our field this spring,” he added. “It would be nice just to be able to stay here and play a four-game series on a weekend.”

A five-game winning streak to end the year helped the Mustangs finish with an 11-13 record in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and 17-23-1 overall. SMSU finished 10th in the 15-team NSIC. The top eight teams qualified for this week’s conference tournament which will be played in St. Cloud.

“It was a good series for us, we executed some things,” Blanchard said. “We pitched well. Going into next year, it’s obviously nice to end the year on a good note. We talked about how one game could have put us in a spot to make the playoffs. If we had won just one more game during the year, that could have made the difference. We thought we let some games go.

“We did some research and we had the toughest schedule of the teams that didn’t make it in,” Blanchard added. “But with the schedule we had, we just weren’t good enough to make the playoffs. By the end we thought we had things figured out and we had a good squad. It was good to end the year on a winning note.”

The Golden Eagles closed out 2013 with a 1-29 conference record and went 1-42 overall.

“It was a good series for us, we hit the ball well in general. In that fourth game, we got quite a few hits going there,” Blanchard said. “I had heard before we played them that Crookston was capable of winning some games. Their record isn’t great, but I told their coach after that I was amazed at what their record is compared to what they have out on the field.”

Mustang senior Corby McGlauflin, one of the team’s top relievers, made his first career start in Game 1 Saturday and ended up throwing a five-hit shutout in the 2-0 victory. In seven innings of work, McGlauflin fanned seven batters and walked just one.

Jon Ellis handled the offense for SMSU. Batting leadoff, Ellis went 3-for-3 and scored the team’s only two runs, one in the first inning and one in the third. Jordon Kontz and Kyle Young each had an RBI base hit in the game.

SMSU got another strong start on the mound in Saturday’s second game, a 5-2 win. Steven Wehr earned the victory, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk. He struck out eight batters in eight innings.

Ellis was again a catalyst for the offense, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Young was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. Marshall graduate and SMSU freshman Mason Schnaible had a triple and a walk.

Crookston put a scare into the Mustangs in Game 1 Sunday. SMSU scored all three of its runs in the second inning and fended off a late rally as the Golden Eagles scored a run in the fifth and another in the sixth.

The Mustangs went through four pitchers in the game. Brandan Alfson got the start and pitched three scoreless innings before Joe Axelson came on in the fourth and allowed one run in two innings. Eric Giddings surrendered another run in the sixth and was relieved by Kontz after recording two outs. Kontz didn’t allow a hit or a walk in the final 1 1/3 innings to earn the save.

Josh Hanson and Jarred Carlson each had an RBI double in SMSU’s three-run second inning.

Game 2 Sunday saw the Golden Eagles get off to a quick start, as they scored four runs in the second inning and held a 4-3 lead through three innings. But the Mustangs exploded for 13 runs over the next five innings, putting up two or more runs in each inning during the stretch.

A trio of players had four hits for the Mustangs. Kontz went 4-for-5 with a double, three RBIs and three runs scored. Steven Kremer went 4-for-5, scoring two runs and knocking in two more. Ben Korger finished the game 4-for-5 with a double, three RBIs and three runs scored.

SMSU trotted out seven pitchers in the final game of the season. Colton Smit threw 1 1/3 innings in relief and earned the victory, his first of the year.

“It was by design that we were going to try and play everybody,” Blanchard said. “We ended up winning by 10-run rule in the last game. One of our senior pitchers was going to throw the last inning but didn’t get a chance to. It was by design that we were going to play that many people. Every position player either started the first or the second game, so everybody got a chance to get in and do their stuff. It was the right thing to do.”

The Mustangs graduate five seniors – Alex Alvarez, Corby McGlauflin, Brian Ness, Dylan Shoemaker and Kyle Young – from the 2013 squad.