MANKATO — Nolan Johnson remembers the feeling well.
It was right around this time last year when the Minnesota State baseball team put together an impressive run — winning 25 of 26 games — to reach the championship of the Division II World Series in North Carolina. Johnson doesn’t think the team is quite in the same stratosphere yet, but he was encouraged with the way the team play Saturday in a doubleheader sweep against Minnesota Crookston.
The Mavericks won the twinbill at the MSU field by scores of 14-0 and 14-1 and seemed to be clicking in all three phases of the game.
“We have a pretty good idea of where everybody fits now,” Johnson said after going 4 for 4 with three RBIs in the opening game. “The newer guys have mixed in well with the veterans, and our pitching has been very strong all season. I could see us going on the same kind of run.”
Johnson is in the midst of another stellar season for MSU. Going into the series he was batting .345 with seven doubles, two home runs and 17 RBIs. Defensively, he’s been throwing out 1 of every 3 would-be base stealers and has made just two errors all season.
The Mavericks combined for 36 hits in Saturday’s sweep. Eric Peterson led the way, going 6 for 7 with a double, two triples, a home run and six RBIs. Max Waletich finished 4 for 9 with a double and five RBIs. Connor McCallum was 4 for 8 with a double and a home run, and Hunter Harnisch ended up 4 for 6.
MSU’s winner in Game 1 was senior Jason Hoppe. The right-hander set an all-division NCAA record last year by throwing 55.1 consecutive scoreless innings. While he wasn’t quite as sharp as usual Saturday, he was again throwing goose eggs. He pitched six shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out nine without walking a batter.