Bemidji State drops four-game series to SW Minnesota State
Monday, March 29, 2004
MARSHALL, Minn. (Alumni Field) - Bemidji State’s baseball team opened Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play in a weather-delayed four-game series against the Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs Sunday and Monday in Marshall. Southwest State swept the four-game series by scores of 23-2, 5-4, 3-0 and 4-2 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opener for both squads.

BSU opened the seriers with a 23-2 setback in Game 1, which was pushed to Sunday afternoon due to weather conditions in Marshall. The Beavers scored first, as John Grindeland scored on Matt Middendorf’s double in the top of the first inning. But the Mustangs scored three runs in the home half of the first, then sat BSU down 1-2-3 in the second and blew up for 10 runs in the bottom of the second to ice the game. The Beavers generated just five hits - with three coming in the run-scoring first inning.

Russell Berner started for BSU and was pulled after 1.1 innings; he allowed six runs (all earned) on six hits and took the loss to fall to 0-4 on the season. Dan Wagner, Josh Langlie and Dave Zothman each threw less than two innings of relief; Zothman allowed just one hit in an inning and a third and was the only BSU pitcher in the game who did not allow a run.

The Beavers got off to a quick start in Game 2, scoring four runs in the top of the first inning. After Grindeland grounded out to third to open the game, BSU put its next five hitters on base. Middendorf reached on a single into the gap in right center and later scored; Shaun Ross doubled home Middendorf and would later score; and Jared Podraza and Jon Czech drew back-to-back walks to load the bases for designated hitter Tony Klaers, who has been BSU’s finest offensive player so far this season. Klaers responded with a three-RBI double to center, but BSU’s seven- and eight-hole hitters each struck out to end the outburst and give the Beavers a 4-0 lead.

Unfortunately, it was all BSU would muster. The Mustang pitching staff strengthened and allowed just three Beavers to reach base safely after Klaers’ bases-clearing double. Ross doubled to lead off the third and was stranded at second base; Grindeland singled and eventually reached third base to lead off the fifth, and Eric Pilgrim singled to lead off the sixth.

The Mustangs chipped away, picking up a run in the bottom of the first and a run in the fourth, then pulled ahead with a three-run fifth. The game was suspended due to darkness in the top of the sixth inning and resumed at noon Monday, but even with a night’s rest BSU could not muster the tying run.

Stephen Heesen started for BSU. He went four innings, allowing just three runs (all earned) on seven hits. He struck out four and did not walk a batter, but hit two Mustang hitters and threw two wild pitches. Heesen left with the lead, but Scott Pugliese would blow the lead and take the loss in relief. He allowed two runs (both earned) on three hits in two innings of relief work and saw his record fall to 0-4.

The Beavers were held to just two hits in a 3-0 Game 3 loss, and a three-run third inning gave the Mustangs the only runs they’d need. Just three BSU hitters reached base in the game. Klaers doubled with one out in the second, and Grindeland and Chris Dvorak both singled in the third but both were eventually thrown out on the basepaths trying to steal.

Tyler Norland put up his second complete game in as many starts, and again took a hard-luck loss with a lack of run support. He allowed just six hits and struck out five in six innings and allowed three runs (all earned).

BSU probably had its best chance for a victory of the series in Game 4. The Beavers got another solid pitching performance as Chad Schwegel allowed just four runs (and only two earned) on eight hits in 5.1 innings of work. Schwegel struck out four in the losing effort.

But the Beaver offense was unable to come up with a clutch hit with runners in scoring position. BSU had its first two batters reach base but saw Klaers hit into a double play; Norland led off the fourth wtih a single but was picked off; Czech led off the fifth with a single and reached second before being erased on a double play, and Dvorak led off the sixth with a single but was erased at third base on a fielder’s choice.

BSU finally got on the board with two runs in the top of the sixth, but by then Southwest had built a 4-0 lead and the two-run rally was not enough.

The four losses to Southwest Minnesota State leaves Bemidji State with an 0-18 record to open the 2004 season. The 18 consecutive losses to open the season give the 2004 Beavers the worst start in school history, surpassing an 0-16 winless 1958 season. The Beavers see their overall losing streak reach 19 consecutive games dating back to last season, the second-longest losing streak in school history.

The sweep left Bemidji State 0-18 overall and 0-4 in NSIC play; Southwest Minnesota State improved to 14-7 and opens NSIC play 4-0. BSU is back in action March 31, when it plays a non-conference double-header at St. Cloud State. Opening pitch for Game 1 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Central time in St. Cloud, Minn.