Outbursts in third, eighth innings help Minn. St.-Mankato drop Franklin Pierce
CARY, N.C. -- A five-run third inning and four-run eighth inning helped Minnesota State-Mankato remain unbeaten at the NCAA DII Baseball Championship as the Mavericks dropped Franklin Pierce 10-5 Monday evening.
It was the Mavericks’ 12 consecutive victory as the Purple and Gold have won 25 of their past 26 contests.
Senior second baseman Lucas Skjefte started the game with a bang for the Mavericks in the bottom of the first when he cranked a 1-1 fastball over the Minnesota State sign in left field off FPU sophomore Steve Hathaway for his fourth homer of the year, giving MSU an early 1-0 lead.
The Mavericks made it 6-0 in the top of the third by taking advantage of three Raven errors and tallying five hits in the frame. Junior centerfielder Parker Sullivan led off the inning with a leadoff single up the middle and came around to score on a wild pitch before Skjefte reached on an error. Next, sophomore catcher Nolan Johnson sent a double to the left-center field gap that plated Skjefte, and FPU reliever junior Ryan Leach proceeded to walk the next two batters loading the bases. Then, senior outfielder Scott Lindner hit into a fielder’s choice but the Raven shortstop threw the ball away attempting to turn a double play, scoring two runners before the Raven first baseman threw that ball away scoring Lindner all the way from second base.
Meanwhile, senior right-hander Harvey Martin was dealing for the Purple and Gold and didn’t allow a baserunner until a one-out double by senior Dan Kemp in the top of the fourth. He recorded four strikeouts through the first four frames. However, FPU fought back in the top of the fifth, cutting the lead to 6-1 after sophomore Matt Walsh began the inning with a double to right-center field and scored three batters later on fellow sophomore Matthew O’Herron’s single through the right side.
The Ravens sliced the MSU lead to 6-5 in the seventh when O’Herron reached on a two-out error by junior shortstop Todd Standish, advanced to second on a single by freshman Justin Brock and scored on a bloop off the bat of junior Calvin Graves that fell into shallow right field. The next batter, Kemp, worked a full count and belted an RBI single into center field that plated Brock and signaled the end of Martin’s evening. Junior right-hander Chris Williams came on in relief and surrendered a two-run double to junior Zach Mathieu that rolled to the fence, but Williams rebounded to fan Walsh on three pitches to hold onto the lead.
MSU threatened in the bottom of the seventh, putting runners on first and second with one out after junior first baseman Stetson Olson was hit by a pitch and Lindner drew a walk, but ran themselves out of the inning as junior Mike Andries was retired on an infield fly and Lindner got caught in a rundown between first and second.
Senior right-hander Mahlon Zimmerman worked his way out of a jam in the top of the eighth as the Ravens put runners at second and third with two down, but Zimmerman got Graves to pop out softly to Skjefte at second base and end the threat.
Skjefte gave MSU some breathing room in the bottom of the frame when he ripped a double down the left field line, his third extra-base hit of the game, that scored Standish and Sullivan, who had both reached on singles. Five batters later, with the the bases loaded and two outs, Lindner ripped a base hit through the left side that plated Skjefte and sophomore third baseman Connor McCallum, providing the Mavericks with a 10-5 advantage they did not relinquish as Zimmerman tossed a scoreless ninth to earn his 10th save of the year.
Martin improved to 9-0 on the year after striking out five in 6.2 innings, while allowing eight hits, one earned run and no walks. Hathaway fell to 0-3 for FPU with three strikeouts, two earned runs and one walk in 2.1 innings pitched.
Offensively, Skjefte was 3-for-5 with a home run, two doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored, while Lindner went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored. Kemp was 4-for-5 for the Ravens with an RBI and a run scored.