SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Southwest Minnesota State moved into eighth place in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings with two key victories over Bemidji State on Thursday, winning 3-1 and 13-2 in seven innings at Karras Park on the campus of Augustana College.
SMSU (23-20, 14-13) has won six straight games and moved a half-game ahead of BSU (19-20, 13-13 NSIC) in the league standings. The top eight teams qualify for the NSIC tournament next week in Sioux Falls.
The Mustangs conclude their regular season with a four-game series versus Northern State on Saturday and Sunday at Alumni Field. Saturday's doubleheader begins at 1:30 p.m.
Patrick Rients continued his torrid hitting for SMSU, finishing the two games with two home runs and seven RBI. He now has a team-leading 15 home runs this season.
In the opener, Sam Haas, who finished 2-for-3, snapped a 1-1 tie with an RBI double in the sixth for the game-winning hit. Ryan Engels followed two batters later with a key two-out, two-run single to extend the lead to 4-1.
The run support was enough for Mustang starter Steven Wehr (5-4), who tossed his fourth complete game of the season, allowing one run on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
SMSU opened the game's scoring in the first inning on three straight hits by Ben Korger, Jordon Kontz and an RBI single by Patrick Rients to take an early 1-0 lead.
The Beavers tied the game in the fifth on a one-out RBI triple, but Wehr ended the threat with a double play line out to keep the game tied at 1-1.
In the nightcap, the Mustangs started quickly again, scoring a run in the first inning on an RBI ground out by Rients to score Korger.
SMSU added to the lead in the third as Tanner Neale started the inning with a hit by pitch and was followed by a walk to Engels. After a sac bunt and a pop out, Rients came through with a clutch two-out, three-run homer over the left field wall to give SMSU a 4-0 lead.
The Mustangs pushed across two more runs in the fourth on an RBI ground out by Neale and a sac fly by Engels to extend the margin to 6-0.
The Beavers scored a run in the fifth to make the score 6-1, but SMSU answered in the bottom of the inning as Austin Stubbs crushed a two-run homer to left field to push the lead to 8-1.
Bemidji State cut the deficit to 8-2 in the sixth before SMSU rallied with five runs to put the game away. Kontz ripped a two-run double to make the score 10-2, before Rients crushed a two-run homer over the scoreboard in right field to give SMSU a 12-2 lead. Jason Minnet closed the scoring with an RBI ground out to extend the lead to 13-2.
SMSU held BSU scoreless in the seventh to end the game via 10-run rule.
Joe Axelson (4-3) pitched six innings to pick up the victory, allowing five hits, two runs (one earned) with three strikeouts.
The Mustangs finished game two with 10 hits as Kontz finished 3 for 4 with two runs scored and two RBI, while Korger and Rients each finished with two hits, while Rients tied a career-high with six RBI.