By Drew Lyon Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — To borrow the title from a 1970s country song: “Don’t let the sunshine fool you.”
It was a chilly double bill Tuesday at the Minnesota State Baseball Complex. The school delayed the start of the first game to 2 p.m., and the first-pitch temperature was 34 degrees.
Not exactly optimal baseball conditions, but the Mavericks battled the raw, if cloudless, April elements to complete a sweep of Northern State Intercollegiate foe Bemidji State.
“The weather’s different every year,” shortstop Todd Standish said with a shrug after the Mavericks’ 7-4 victory in Game 1. They won the second game 8-0. “We just love playing at home; we usually don’t lose much at home. This is our turf.”
The Beavers held an early 1-0 after the first inning when a leadoff walk from MSU starting pitcher Mathias Butala led to an RBI single by Zach Braun. Walks hamstrung Butala throughout his four-inning start; he earned the win and allowed just three hits but walked three of the four leadoff batters he faced.
“The ball gets a little slick when the weather’s like this,” he said. “The big thing was I was trying to get ahead in the count, but I just couldn’t do it. But our bats were hot today. The run support was huge.”
The Mavericks scored in four consecutive innings, starting with a two-run second inning. Connor McCallum led off with a single to left-center and scored on Taylor Branstad’s double to the right-center fence. Hunter Harnisch added an RBI single to put MSU ahead 2-1.
Three MSU singles in the third, including a single by Standish, brought home a pair of runs to give MSU a 4-1 cushion.
“We do most of our damage when we’re going through the order a second time,” said Standish, who finished with two hits and scored two runs. “We might not score in the first or second innding, but once we get to the third, fourth, fifth inning, that’s when we get going.”
Batula walked the leadoff batter in the fourth, and it came back to haunt the right hander. After a single, another walk and a pair of RBI sacrifices, Batula nearly escaped with minimal damage. But Bemidji’s Terry Hadden drive to the left field fence bounced off Branstad’s glove, scoring two more and tying the game at 4-4.
The third-ranked Mavericks (30-7, 18-4 NSIC) regained the lead in the bottom of the inning when Standish reached third on a Max Waletich’s single. Standish later scored from third when Waletich was thrown out trying to steal second. The Mavericks, who finished with 11 hits, added two more insurance runs in the fifth. Relief pitchers Mitchell Bauer and Matt Geislinger added three innings of scoreless relief.
In Game 2, MSU broke a 2-0 lead wide open against the Beavers (13-14) in a six-run eighth inning. Nolan Johnson started the hit parade with a leadoff home run and his third RBI of the game. Parker Sullivan added a 2-run triple, and Standish’s double scored two more en route to the Mavericks’ win. MSU starter Josh Matheson went 5 1/3 innings, struck out five and allowed four hits.
After a 6-0 home stand, the Mavericks continue conference play with a doubleheader Thursday at Northern State