SMSU BASEBALL: Mustangs earn split against CSP behind Fleck grand slam

JOPLIN, Mo. – Jayden Fleck belted a grand slam in the sixth inning to help Southwest Minnesota State rally for a 6-5 victory over Concordia-St. Paul in game one of a doubleheader in the NSIC opener for both teams on Friday afternoon at Joe Becker Stadium. CSP earned a split of the twinbill with a 10-inning 3-2 victory in game two

The series, which was originally scheduled to be played in St. Paul, Minn., was moved to Missouri due to poor weather and field conditions in the upper Midwest. The teams will conclude the three-game series on Saturday with an 11 a.m. nine-inning game.

In the opener, SMSU trailed 4-1 in the sixth inning against CSP starter and NSIC Preseason Pitcher of the Year, Louie Varland, but quickly mounted the comeback. The rally started with back-to-back singles by Kip Gronholz and Nathan Kuhn, before a walk to Connor Johnson loaded the bases. After a strikeout, Fleck stepped to the plate and belted a 2-1 pitch over the left-center field wall to put SMSU in front 5-4. The inning wasn’t done however as Tanner Strommen tripled and later scored on a sac fly by Robbie Smith to give the Mustangs a 6-4 cushion.

CSP started the sixth inning with a single off of SMSU relief pitcher Donny Schroeder, but Teddy Broxterman came onto pitch and recorded a strikeout, a pop out and a ground out to end the inning.

In the seventh, the Golden Bears rallied behind two singles and a sac fly to cut the deficit to 6-5, but Broxterman struck out the final two batters to record his second career save.

SMSU opened the game’s scoring in the second inning as Smith hit a two-out double and scored moments later on an RBI single by Matt Bezdicek.

CSP rallied to take the lead in the third behind a two-run home run and a two-out RBI single to build a 3-1 lead. The Golden Bears then added a two-out run-scoring hit in the fourth to make the score 4-1.

Justin Clark started on the mound for the Mustangs and lasted four-plus innings allowing four runs on seven hits with two walks, two hit batters and two strikeouts.

Schroeder (2-0) earned the win in relief tossing one shutout inning and allowing one hit. Broxterman allowed one run on two hits with three strikeouts in two innings.

Fleck and Gronholz led SMSU’s eight-hit effort with two hits each.

In game two, SMSU took a 1-0 lead in the third inning as Spencer Rudnik hit a leadoff single and stole second. He came around to score on a two-out RBI single by Ben Heichel.

CSP pushed across two unearned runs in the fifth to take a 2-1 advantage, but SMSU would rally to tie the game in the seventh. Strommen started the frame with a single and moved to second on a walk to Matt Bezdicek. Following a fly out and a strikeout, Kuhn hit a run-scoring single to tie the game at 2-2.

The Mustangs had chances to break the tie later in the game but left two runners on base in both the eighth and ninth innings.

CSP started the game-winning rally in the 10th with a single and sac bunt to put the winning run in scoring position. Following a walk, Roch Whittaker singled through the left side to score the game-winning run.

SMSU closed the game with eight hits as Kuhn led the charge going 2 for 4 with a walk and an RBI.

SMSU starter John Bezdicek tossed a solid 6 1/3 innings, allowing two unearned runs on six hits, while striking out six and walking one and hitting one. Jeremy Stouffer (0-2) suffered the loss in relief tossing three innings and allowing two hits and one walk with two strikeouts.

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