After dropping the first conference series of the spring with a pair of losses to Western Illinois last week, North Dakota State baseball took a pair of wins at Fort Wayne, winning 2-1 Friday and 15-0 Saturday.
Friday’s game was a pitchers’ duel from the start as the hitting side left men on base. Bison pitcher Riley Johnson held his ground with a pair of baserunners on in each of the first three innings, but the Bison held strong to keep the game scoreless. In the third, Johnson struck out Robert Young III to get out of the frame.
NDSU hitters struggled to reach base against the Mastodon’s starter Brandon Phelps. The Bison managed just three hits in the first five innings.
In the sixth, the Bison would need just one hit to get on the board. Bennet Hostetler tripled to right field and was brought home by Mason Pierzchalski’s sacrifice fly.
Johnson worked a 1-2-3 inning in his last frame of work. The second out came on his ninth strikeout of the night, a career high for the sophomore from Apple Valley, Minnesota.
Phelps was replaced in the eighth as well, and NDSU quickly tacked on another run. Matt Elsenpeter led off the inning with a single. Four batters later, he came home on a Jayse McLean sacrifice fly.
With Johnson’s night done after a century of pitches, senior Kevin Folman came in for the six-out save. The first three were a bit of a struggle. Folman walked the leadoff batter and allowed a pair of hits as the Dons closed within one.
The final three outs came in quick succession as the Bison held on.
The next day, a closer was not needed as the Bison romped Fort Wayne from the opening inning.
Hostetler led off with a single and was standing on third after a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch. Pierzchalski got credit for the RBI as Hostetler came home on a ground ball out.
Hostetler was involved again in the second. Another single plated Alec Abercrombie, who doubled two batters prior. Drew Fearing brought in Hostetler for the second time in the afternoon with a single to center.
The Bison continued the offensive onslaught in the third. McLean had a leadoff double and was brought in by Tucker Rohde. Sean Noel brought in Rohde with a single to left, forcing Fort Wayne to replace starter Damian Helm.
New pitcher Chase Phelps added to the Dons’ troubles, walking three batters in the inning, leading to Noel getting walked home.
The floodgates closed briefly for Fort Wayne, but Noel made a big impact in the sixth. With the bases loaded, the catcher cleared the bases with a double to left field. The hit pushed the lead to 10-0.
Noel scored later in the inning to make it a five-run inning for the Bison.
The seventh was just as fruitful for NDSU. Noel got credit for another RBI as a pair of runners came home as he reached on a throwing error.
Hostetler walked in a run, and Pierzchalski knocked in the final run of the night as the Bison put another four runs on the board.
Bison pitcher Blake Stockert was replaced in the seventh after giving up seven hits in six innings of work. Hunter Koep completed the team shutout in the seventh as the game was called due to the 10-run rule.
NDSU improved to 10-11 (3-2 in the Summit League). The Bison and Mastodons faced off in the series finale on Sunday. NDSU is set to travel to Oral Roberts for a three-game set next weekend.