Darkness can’t stop the Bison from lighting up the Mastodons
In a week in which Murphy’s Law seemed to curse the North Dakota State baseball team, everything went right on the diamond. The Bison steamrolled Purdue Fort Wayne en route to a series win over the Mastodons.
At almost every turn, the weekend was a logistical nightmare for NDSU. The difficulties began this past Monday, when it was announced that the series was being moved from Fargo to Fort Wayne, Indiana. The series was intended to be the Bison’s home opener, but the snow on Newman Outdoor Field had the last laugh.
The relocation was just the first of a series of headaches for the Bison. Once they took the field, however, matters turned to picking up key conference victories.
NDSU couldn’t have hoped for a better start to that endeavor, trouncing the Mastodons in the first game of the series Friday. The Bison hung 17 runs on Purdue Fort Wayne, scoring in all but the fourth and fifth innings for a 17-8 win.
The onslaught started with a leadoff double from Bennett Hostetler in the first inning. First baseman Brock Anderson drove Hostetler in two at-bats later. A single from Carter Thompson brought in Anderson, then a double from Charley Hesse gave NDSU a 4-0 lead.
The Mastodons attempted to claw back into the game, but NDSU always had a response. Opening up a 7-1 lead in the top of the third inning, the victory seemed secure. Within two innings, Purdue Fort Wayne slashed the deficit to one as Bison starter Zach Smith was tagged for 10 hits.
Smith was lifted after 4 1-3 innings, but Jake Malec bailed out his starter in the top of the sixth with a 3-run home run. The home run was the second of Malec’s collegiate career and provided the decisive blow in the game.
Hesse and Jack Simonsen led the Bison with three hits and two RBIs each. Parker Harm notched his third win of the year in relief of Smith, and Gabe Pilla pitched a scoreless ninth.
The runs didn’t stop there. The Bison won the second half of Friday’s doubleheader 5-4, though it took two days to do so. Because the first game lasted four hours, the second wasn’t able to begin until 3:30 p.m. Intended to start at 3 p.m., the half-hour delay resulted in the game being suspended due to darkness shortly after 7 p.m.
The Mastodons got out on the front foot, plating three runs in the third inning. Again though, the Bison were able to respond and tied the game in the top of the fifth with a single from Anderson.
Neither side could break the deadlock until Anderson came to the plate with one out in the top of the ninth inning. Anderson laced a single in the left-centerfield gap, scoring Malec and giving NDSU a one-run lead. The Bison left the bases loaded at the end of the ninth.
After a six inning, nine strikeout outing from Max Loven, Hunter Koep moved from the batter’s box to the pitcher’s mound. Koep pitched two straight 1-2-3 innings, but ran into trouble in the bottom of the ninth.
Mastodons’ first baseman Travis Upp hit a double to tie the game. Koep was able to limit the damage, but the game was called before extra innings could begin.
The game was set to resume 3 p.m. Saturday, but because the Mastodons’ softball team was playing a game on the adjacent field, play couldn’t begin until roughly 4:45 p.m. The Bison made quick work of the extra innings, with Simonsen driving in the winning run with an 11th inning double.
Game three also became a two-day affair. Again, the Bison scored early and often, highlighted by a bases loaded double off the bat of Peter Brookshaw in the fourth inning. Another double from Hesse drove in two more runs in the following inning, giving NDSU a 7-0 lead.
Darkness once again foiled the Bison. The game was suspended at the end of the fifth inning with NDSU well on its way to a sweep. The game was set to resume after press time Sunday.
The two wins moved the Bison’s record to 5-6 in Summit League play, while the Mastodons are still in search of their first conference win.
NDSU travels to Minnesota Tuesday before a weekend series at South Dakota State. If all goes to plan, NDSU’s home opener will take place April 16 against Valley City State.