NCAA BASEBALL: Winona State elimimates SMSU from postseason

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Winona State pushed across two runs in the bottom of the eight to earn a 4-3 victory over Southwest Minnesota State in an elimination game at the NSIC tournament Thursday at Sioux Falls Stadium.

The loss ends the season for the Mustangs with a 27-23 record, while the Warriors improve to 25-21 and advance to play St. Cloud State at 3:30 p.m. today.

SMSU left eight runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded in the first and runners on the corners in the second inning.

“We had a chance to win but we left too many runners on base early in the game. We needed those runs at the end,” Southwest Minnesota State head coach Paul Blanchard said. “We made some mistakes by not taking care of the baseball and a good team like Winona State took advantage of it.”

The Mustangs scored the game’s first run in the fourth as Sam Haas reached on a bunt single, stole second and later advanced to third on a throwing error by the WSU catcher. With runners on the corners and two outs, Tanner Neale was caught in a run-down attempting to steal second and, in the process, Haas came home to score before Neale was tagged out.

The Warriors tied the game in the fifth as Michael Hommes connected on a two-out RBI single to make the score 1-1.

SMSU answered in the sixth as Jon Ellis led off with a double and, with one out, advanced to third on a wild pitch. Following two walks and strikeout, Ben Korger drilled a two-run single to right to score Ellis and Haas to give the Mustangs a 3-1 advantage.

Winona State scored a run in the sixth to trim the lead to 3-2 off of SMSU starter Joe Axelson, but relief pitcher Mitch Wurm entered the game with two runners on base and coaxed a foul out to end the threat.

The Mustangs had a lead-off single in the seventh and a one-out triple in the eighth, but failed to capitalize and add to the lead.

Wurm tossed a perfect seventh inning but, in the eighth, a lead-off double and an infield single put Warriors on first and second. Wurm then got WSU clean-up hitter Travis Evanson to hit a comebacker, but he bobbled the ball and then threw the ball into center field to score the tying run.

A single loaded the bases with no outs, before Wurm recorded a strikeout. The Warriors’ Nathan Krause then pushed across the game-winning run on a ground out to give the Warriors a 4-3 lead.

Lucas Crimmins retired the Mustangs in order in the ninth to secure the victory. The right-hander tossed the final 3 2/3 innings for WSU and allowed just three hits and struck out three.

Wurm (5-4) suffered the loss giving up two runs (one earned) in 2 1/3 innings with two strikeouts. Axelson pitched the first 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits with six strikeouts and two walks.

SMSU was held to seven hits with Korger leading the way going 2-for-4.

The Mustangs Patrick Rients finished 0-for-3 and had his season-high 17-game hitting streak come to an end.

Blanchard said the Mustangs exceeded expectations late in the year.

“It was a pretty successful season because of our strength of schedule. We battled very closely with some tough teams,” Blanchard said. “We were picked at the preseason No. 10 team in the NSIC and we’re not expected to make the league tournament. As the seventh seed in the tournament, we won a game and we finished in a tie for sixth.”