NCAA BASEBALL: SMSU splits pair in Tucson Invitational

TUCSON, Ariz. Southwest Minnesota State opened its 12-game trip to Tucson on Friday splitting a pair of games, defeating Malone (Ohio) 5-3, before dropping a 10-5 decision to Cal State San Bernardino.

In the win over Malone, Steven Wehr (1-0) picked up the win tossing seven innings, allowing eight hits with three strikeouts and two walks.

SMSU started the scoring in the top of the first as Ben Korger led off the game with a walk and came around to score on a Rients single.

Malone tied the game in the second, but SMSU quickly regained the lead in the top of the third with a leadoff triple by Korger, followed by an RBI ground out by Jordon Kontz.

SMSU added an earned run in the fourth to make the score 3-1, before adding to the lead in the fifth. With two outs, Kontz singled and moved to third on a double by Jon Ellis. Rients then delivered a double that bounced off the first base bag down the line to drive in two runs and extend the lead to 5-1.

The Pioneers scored a run in the eighth off of Mustang reliever Ryan Ecalbarger and had runners on first and second with two outs, by Brandan Alfson came on and record a pop out to end the threat and keep the lead at 5-2.

Malone closed the gap to 5-3 with a run in the bottom of the ninth and had the tying run at the plate before Alfson coaxed a 4-6-3 double play to end the game and secure his first career save.

Rients led SMSU’s nine-hit attack going 3 for 4 with three RBIs, while Austin Stubbs was 2 for 4 with a run scored.

In the setback to CSUSB, SMSU opened the game’s scoring in the top of first as Elliott Serbus was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score Kontz.

CSUSB pushed across an unearned run in the second to tie the game before SMSU answered back to take the lead in the third. Ellis reached on a one-out single and moments later came around to score on deep double to the left-center field wall by Stubbs to give SMSU a 2-1 advantage.

The Coyotes came right back to score three runs off of two hits and two walks to take a 4-2 lead.

The score remained 4-2 until the seventh when Alfson crushed a leadoff double off the left-center field wall and later scored on a ground out by Ben Korger to trim the deficit to 4-3.

CSUSB answered back in the home half of the seventh putting together a huge two-out rally to score three runs. With two outs, a bloop single, followed by a single and a walk loaded the bases before a triple scored all three runs to make the score 7-3.

SMSU responded in the top of the eighth on a pinch-hit RBI single by Mason Schnaible and a bases loaded hit by pitch to Sam Haas to make the score 7-5, but that was as close as the Mustangs would come as a strikeout with the bases loaded ended the inning.

CSUSB put the game away in the bottom of the eight scoring three runs with two outs to push the lead to 10-5.

Joe Axelson (0-1) pitched five innings giving up four runs on six hits with six walks and two strikeouts to suffer the loss.

Stubbs led the SMSU offense with two hits.

Southwest Minnesota State takes on Concordia (Neb.) today for a single nine-inning game starting at 5 p.m. CST.