NCAA BASEBALL: Minnesota-Duluth rallies for split after Wurm throws gem

MINNETONKA – Minnesota-Duluth rallied for three runs in the final two innings, including two with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to earn a 6-5 victory over Southwest Minnesota State in Game 2 of a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference doubleheader. The Mustangs won 5-0 in Game 1 behind a shutout from Mitch Wurm.

The two teams split the four-game series that was played in Minnetonka due to poor field conditions in Duluth. SMSU is now 12-12 overall, 3-5 NSIC, while Minnesota-Duluth is 7-15, 3-9 NSIC.

“We pitched really well in the first game. Mitch Wurm was exceptional and he was difference-maker for us,” SMSU head coach Paul Blanchard said. “Jordon Kontz and Patrick Reints gave us some timely hits which happened to be long home runs. We made the plays on defense and it was a pretty clean game.”

In Game 1, Wurm (2-2) was brilliant in tossing his first career shutout at SMSU, throwing just 76 pitches, including 58 for strikes. He allowed just one Bulldog to reach second base and retired the final 13 batters of the game.

The Mustangs got all the run support they needed in the first inning as Ben Korger started the game with a triple and scored on a single by Jordon Kontz. SMSU made it 2-0 in the third as Ryan Engels started the frame by getting hit by a pitch and later came around to score on a ground out by Jon Ellis.

The Mustangs then used the long ball in the fourth and fifth innings as Patrick Rients belted his team-leading fifth homer to make the score 3-0, before Kontz connected on his first career homer to push the margin to 4-0.

The Mustangs added an unearned run in the seventh for the final margin.

Korger led SMSU’s nine-hit attack going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, while Kontz added two hits and two RBIs.

In Game 2, Minnesota-Duluth finally broke free on the scoreboard, snapping SMSU’s 20-inning scoreless streak, with two runs in the third. The Bulldogs took advantage of two bunt singles, a walk, a fielder’s choice and an SMSU error to plate two runs.

The Bulldogs then added an unearned run in the fourth on a one-out triple that was misplayed and a pop up that was dropped with two outs. The Mustangs had five errors in the second game.

SMSU answered in a big way in the fifth, taking advantage of Minnesota-Duluth’s wild pitching. Two walks and two hit by pitches scored the Mustangs’ first run before Rients ripped a clutch three-run triple down the right field line to give SMSU a 4-3 lead.

The Mustangs added to their lead in the seventh on a one-out double by Kontz and then with two outs Austin Stubbs hit a hit pop up to third base that was misplayed for a double and make the score 5-3.

“In the second game, we gave Minnesota-Duluth too many chances,” Blanchard said. “We didn’t make some plays, missed some pop ups and dropped some fly balls. We had a 5-3 lead, but we gave them too many walks in the end and UMD took advantage of it.”

UMD scored an unearned run in the eight to make the score 5-4 and set up the rally in the final inning.

Brandan Alfson (2-1) – who relieved SMSU starter Joe Axelson in the seventh – walked the first batter in the ninth, before a sacrifice bunt and a ground out put SMSU one out away from victory.

Alfson then hit the next batter, putting runners at first and second. Down to their last strike, the Bulldogs’ Matt Vogt fouled off four pitches to stay alive before tying the game with a double and putting the winning run on third. Following an intentional walk to load the bases, John Meyer worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch to score the winning run.

Joe Axelson started for SMSU and pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs (one earned) with three strikeouts and two walks.

“Axelson pitched well enough to win Game 2, but our offense left runners on base and our relievers walked to many hitters,” Blanchard said.

Game 1

SMSU 5, MINNESOTA-DULUTH 0

SMSU1011101-590

Minn.-Duluth0000000-031

HITTING: SMSU (Ben Korger 3-for-4, two singles, triple, two runs; Jordon Kontz 2-for-4, single, home run, two RBI, run; Jon Ellis 1-for-4, single, RBI; Patrick Rients, 1-for-4, home run, RBI, run; Brandan Alfson 0-for-2, walk; Sam Haas 1-for-3, double; Ryan Engles 0-for-2, run, hit-by-pitch); Minnesota-Duluth (Skyler Wenninger 1-for-3, single; Jimmy Heck 1-for-3, single; Grant Farley 1-for-3, single).

PITCHING (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO): SMSU (Mitch Wurm 7-3-0-0-0-3); Minnesota-Duluth (Ryan Lakin 7-9-5-4-1-5).

Game 2

MINNESOTA-DULUTH 6, SMSU 5

SMSU000040100-565

Minn.-Duluth002100012-691

HITTING: SMSU (Ben Korger 1-for-4, single, run, stolen base; Jordon Kontz 2-for-5, single, double, run; Jon Ellis 0-for-4, run, hit-by-pitch; Austin Stubbs 1-for-4, double, two RBI, run; Patrick Rients 2-for-3, single, triple, three RBI, walk; Brandan Alfson 0-for-3, walk; Sam Haas 0-for-2, two hit-by-pitches, stolen base; Ryan Engles 1-for-4, single, run); Minnesota-Duluth (Skyler Wenninger 3-for-4, three singles, two runs, walk; Jimmy Heck 1-for-3, single, walk; Alex Wojciechowski 0-for-3, RBI, two walks; Cody Aasen 2-for-4, single, double, run; Matt Vogt 1-for-5, double, RBI, run; Grant Farley 2-for-4, double, triple, RBI, run, walk; John Meyer 0-for-4, walk; Brian Pierce 1-for-4, single).

PITCHING (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO): SMSU (Joe Axelson 6 1/3-8-3-1-2-3; Brandan Alfson 2 2/3-2-3-2-4-1); Minnesota-Duluth (Chris Couillard 4 2/3-3-3-3-2-0; Kyle Fritz 2-2-2-2-1-2; Max Ryan 1 1/3-2-0-0-1-2; Charlie Conkel 1-0-0-0-0-1).