NCAA BASEBALL: Mustangs rally in sixth to win twice

CROOKSTON – Southwest Minnesota State used a pair of sixth-inning rallies to earn a doubleheader sweep of Minnesota-Crookston on Friday in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference baseball at the UMC Baseball Field.

SMSU won the opener 8-5, before holding on for a 7-6 victory in the nightcap.

The win in Game 1 snapped a seven-game losing streak for the Mustangs and, with the two victories improved, their record to 19-20 overall, 10-13 NSIC. UMC dropped to 1-39 overall, 0-28 NSIC.

In Game 1, SMSU scored six runs in the sixth inning to erase a 4-2 deficit and earn the 8-5 victory.

The Golden Eagles scored a run off of SMSU starter Mitch Wurm in the first, before the Mustangs countered with a two-run inning in the third on an RBI single by Jordon Kontz and another scoring on a wild pitch.

UMC regained the lead in the fourth with three runs on four hits to build a 4-2 lead and maintained the advantage until the sixth.

The Mustangs’ big rally started with a walk by Tanner Neale and was followed by a single by Sam Haas and a bunt single by Ryan Engels to load the bases. Jason Minnet walked to score the first run, before Ben Korger delivered with a two-run single to give SMSU a 5-4 lead. Two batters later Patrick Rients ripped a two-run triple to extend the lead to 7-4. The Mustangs would add another run later in the inning on a wild pitch.

Korger and Sam Haas led the Mustangs’ 10-hit attack in the game with two hits each.

Wurm (4-3) pitched six innings to pick up the victory allowing five runs (three earned) on 11 hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Brandan Alfson picked up his fifth save of the season tossing a perfect seventh inning with one strikeout.

In Game 2, UMC started strong again, scoring two runs in the first off of Joe Axelson until SMSU cut into the lead in the third. Neale doubled to lead off the frame and moved to third on a single by Minnet. Korger then came through with an RBI single to score Neale and make the score 2-1.

The Golden Eagles pushed across another run in the fifth to build a 3-1 lead, before the Mustangs answered with its second big sixth inning to take its first lead of the game. With one out, Rients ripped a triple and scored moments later on a single by Austin Stubbs.

A single by Jon Ellis and a fielding error by UMC scored another run to tie the game at 3-3. Engels laid down an RBI bunt single to give SMSU a 4-3 lead before Neale followed with a single to load the bases. Minnet and Korger then worked back-to-back bases loaded walks to score two more runs and extend the lead to 6-3.

The Mustangs added another run in the seventh as Rients started the inning with a single and later scored on a ground out by Jon Ellis to make the score 7-3.

The Golden Eagles wouldn’t go away and added a run in the eighth on a two-out RBI double to cut the deficit to 7-4 heading into the ninth. UMC, which lost two heartbreakers earlier in the week at Bemidji State, used another late rally in the ninth to make things interested. Axelson retired the first two batters of the inning before a single and double brought the tying run to the plate. Alfson entered the game and allowed a two-run single, but he closed the game with a strikeout to notch his sixth save off the year.

The Mustangs ended game two with 13 hits as Rients led the way going 3 for 5 with two runs scored. Rients had a triple in game two for his sixth of the season, setting a new school single-season record. Chad Funk (1997), Mark Lickfelt (1997) and Darrel Wiener (1973) held the previous record of five. Ellis, Neale and Minnet all collected two hits apiece.

Axelson (3-3) struck out eight and did not walk a batter in earning the victory, while allowing six runs on 11 hits.

The two teams conclude the series tomorrow with a doubleheader starting at

12 p.m.