‘Never give up’

Mustangs claim two out of three in series against Winona State

Photo by Jake McNeill Southwest Minnesota State catcher Brady Petron slides into home plate during a baseball game on Saturday against Winona State at Legion Field in Marshall. The Mustangs won two out of three games in the series, sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader 2-1 and 11-7 before falling 11-8 on Sunday.

MARSHALL — The Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs claimed two out of three games in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference baseball matchup against Winona State this weekend. SMSU picked up 2-1 and 11-7 victories to sweep Saturday’s doubleheader before falling 11-8 on Sunday.

Kolby Kiser started the first game on the mound for the Mustangs and he was dealing. The 6-foot-5 senior went the distance for the Mustangs, allowing just four hits and a walk over seven innings. He also struck out a pair of batters and his only run allowed was unearned.

“I was just attacking the zone and the defense did a great job. They made a ton of plays,” Kiser said. “I only had two strikeouts so that means the defense worked well. They didn’t have a single error all game, played amazing.”

“It’s kind of just the way it’s been happening for him,” SMSU head coach Ische said of Kiser’s performance, saying that opposing hitters have started to take note of Kiser’s abilities since he set the school record for strikeouts with 16 during SMSU’s spring trip. “[Opposing hitters] get in there, they swing at the first couple three pitches that they see… he doesn’t get a lot of two-strike stuff because he’s a senior, his reputation’s out and guys get in there and swing on him right away.”

Ische added that he was proud of Kiser’s efficiency on the mound, throwing just 75 pitches in the game, and that he was proud of Kiser giving the team a chance to win.

While Kiser got the win to improve to 5-2 on the season, Winona State’s Peter Tveite did everything in his power to make it a pitchers’ duel. Tveite also pitched all six innings for Winona State, allowing one earned run and one unearned run on seven hits and three walks. He also struck out four batters.

The game was tied at 1-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth when the Mustangs pulled ahead. Max Kalenberg hit a leadoff single and advanced to second when Keenan Wenzel followed up with another. After an infield fly put one away, Caleb Gardow walked to load the bases and Jake Tauer drove in the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice. 

The hit was Tauer’s second go-ahead RBI at Legion Field this season after he hit a walk-off single for a 6-5 win over Concordia-St. Paul on April 6.

A lineout left three Mustangs on base at the end of the fourth but the 2-1 lead was enough for SMSU to grab the win.

Winona State took the lead in the top of the first inning when Connor Weed was hit by the second pitch of the game. Jack Funke put runners on the corners after he reached base on an error and Cole Fuecker drove in the go-ahead run with a single to short.

Brady Petron caught Funke stealing third to put one away. After Fuecker advanced to third on a passed ball, the Mustang defense caught Fuecker trying to come home for a fielder’s choice and a groundout ended the inning with the Warriors leading just 1-0.

Winona State’s lead didn’t stay intact for long. The Warriors retired each of the first two batters to start the inning but Owen Latendresse walked and stole second to get in scoring position. He advanced to third when Jaxon Haase reached on an error and Max Kalenberg singled to drive in the tying run.

Kalenberg and Latendresse led SMSU with a pair of singles each while Fuecker had another pair of hits for the Warriors. Neither team had an extra-base hit on the day.

The Mustangs played some strong defense in the first game, coming up with a pair of double plays to help support Kiser’s performance.

Game 2

Chase McDaniel gave the Mustangs the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. The senior shortstop was 0-for-6 on the day when he stepped up to the plate with two outs in the frame. Wenzel had reached base with a single and Brady Petron drew a walk in an eight-pitch at-bat to put two runners on when McDaniel drilled a two-run double to right-center field, giving SMSU a 9-7 lead. The hit gave the Mustangs their fourth and fifth unanswered runs.

“I kind of expected a fastball early there, so I just saw it and fired,” McDaniel said. “You can’t really get down on yourself. Your day can change in one at-bat. Just a reminder that baseball is fun, that helps a lot to just go out there and relax.”

The Mustangs were getting out-hit 11-3 at one point before they started to rally back into the game.

“If you always compete in a nine-inning game, you always give yourself a chance,” Ische said. “That’s exactly what we did. We had some gritty at-bats, big two-run double by Chase McDaniel, big two-run double by Peyton Nash… that just stretched it. You never give up. You keep competing, you keep playing and you get into their bullpen and different things happen. 

Fuecker scored Weed in the top of the sixth with a bunt single to give Winona State its largest lead of the game, 7-4. In the bottom of the frame, however, the Mustangs surged right back into the game.

Singles from Peyton Nash and Tauer with a Brady Petron walk in between loaded the bases with no out. After McDaniel struck out, Isaac Nett drew a walk to force in the first run and Latendresse hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Petron. Haase knotted the game back up at 7-7 with a single to right field and Kalenberg threatened to give the Mustangs the lead, but his hard-hit line drive to second base was caught to end the inning.

Cameron Jensen entered the game as a reliever with two outs in the sixth inning and was dealing from the jump. Coming into the game with two outs and the tying run at the plate, Jensen struck out the batter to keep SMSU’s 7-4 lead intact. He went on to pitch three innings of relief, striking out seven of the 14 batters he faced while allowing two hits and two walks. 

“It’s big to stay calm in those close games. I always take deep breaths in between every pitch,” Jensen said. “It gets you amped up for sure, so those close games, they’re fun, man.”

Jensen attributed his success on the mound to working the strike zone and letting his defense work. He also said that he felt like his slider was working particularly well on the day, estimating he threw it 53 times in 55 pitches.

Bennett Knapper started the sixth inning, taking over for Carter Petron, with a strikeout. He then allowed three straight singles, the last of which was an RBI bunt, before being relieved by Kobe Lovell. Lovell got the one batter he faced out before being replaced by Jensen.

Noah Cekalla recorded the save for SMSU in the ninth inning. He came in with two outs in the frame, runners on first and second, and a two balls to the batter Jensen was facing prior to being relieved. Cekalla battled back for a full count before the pitch clock gave the runner ball four, loading the bases and putting the tying run at the plate. Yet, Cekalla got the next batter to foul out before allowing a run, securing his second save of the year and an 11-7 Mustang victory.

“When runners get on second base and we’re going through our packages of signs, maybe the pitcher doesn’t like the pitch that’s called, shakes, and we go back to the beginning, it takes a little more time,” Ische said of the pitch clock violation. “It’s unique, but it’s the same for both teams and it’s been around for a while.”

The Mustangs led 4-3 heading into the fifth inning when the Warriors rallied ahead. Weed started the inning with a game-tying solo shot to left-center field and Fuecker reached on an error before scoring on a passed ball. Alex Berreth also reached base before scoring on a fielder’s choice to give the Warriors a 6-4 lead.

SMSU got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning when Haase hit a two-run single, scoring Latendresse and McDaniel. Yet, a sacrifice fly and an RBI single in the top of the second for Winona State tied the game right back up. Jess Ondell and Haase then each hit solo home runs in the third inning to keep the game tied at 3-3. 

Kole Hinrichsen started on the mound for Winona State, allowing four earned runs and two unearned on four hits and four walks over five innings. After Cole Stanchina and Boyd Skelley combined to pitch the sixth inning, Mason Beltrand recorded the loss after allowing four runs in two innings.

Game 3

A pair of late four-run innings shifted momentum in Winona State’s favor in the series’ third game on Sunday as the Warriors captured an 11-8 win to stop the sweep on Sunday.

SMSU led 2-1 heading into the top of the fifth when the game changed. Fucker gave the Warriors their first lead of the day with a two-run double. He went on to score on a wild pitch and Austin Beyer drove in Berreth with a single to make the score 5-2 in the Warriors’ favor.

SMSU got a run back in the bottom of the frame when Nett drove in McDaniel with an RBI single but, after a scoreless sixth inning, the Warriors put together another four-run rally. Fuecker and Berreth hit home runs in consecutive at-bats, Fuecker’s being a two-run shot and Berreth’s being a one-run homer. Jerod Cyrus then replaced Lovell on the mound but the Warriors scratched one more run across the plate when Hefel capitalized on a wild pitch. The Mustang miscue made the score 9-3 in favor of the Warriors.

Nett got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the frame to force in an SMSU run but a double play ended the Mustangs’ half of the inning before any further damage. 

The Mustangs started to get back into the game in the bottom of the eighth with a Brady Petron two-run single to score Kalenberg and Haase. McDaniel also scored Wenzel on a groundout to cut the deficit to 9-7 heading into the final inning.

Winona State added on an extra pair of insurance runs in the top of the ninth with a Josh Gullickson solo homer and a Fuecker sac fly. A Latendresse double and Wenzel reaching on a single put runners on the corners with two outs. Nash singled to drive in Latendresse but a strikeout ended the game before the Mustangs could get back into it.

Ryan Chmielewski fell to 3-4 on the year after pitching 4 2/3 innings while allowing five runs on six hits and three walks for the Mustangs. Pierce Gritzmaker improved to 2-1 after allowing four runs on seven hits over six innings for Winona State.

Kalenberg finished the game with three hits while Latendresse, Nash and Petron each had another two. Latendresse and McDaniel each also had a double in the game.

SMSU improves to 23-15 overall and 17-12 in conference with the series win to move to sixth in the NSIC, sitting just a half game back of fifth-place Wayne State College (Neb.). Winona State falls to 15-25 (12-18 NSIC) after the series to drop to 11th place. 

SMSU will look to keep climbing up the standing when it heads west for a battle against first-place Augustana in Sioux Falls, S.D. on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. The Vikings are 33-6 overall and 24-4 in the NSIC so far this season, carrying a 16-game win streak into Wednesday’s matchup.


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