Wildcat baseball riding five-game win streak

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Wildcat baseball riding five-game win streak

Junior Bryce Bisenius makes contact with a pitch against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs on Saturday.

Junior Bryce Bisenius makes contact with a pitch against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs on Saturday.

Emmalee Scheibe

Junior Bryce Bisenius makes contact with a pitch against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs on Saturday.

Emmalee Scheibe

Emmalee Scheibe

Junior Bryce Bisenius makes contact with a pitch against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs on Saturday.

Austin Svehla, Staff Writer

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The Wayne State baseball team swept Bemidji State in a doubleheader last Friday and completed a three-game sweep against Minnesota Duluth this past Saturday and Sunday at the Pete Chapman Baseball Complex in Wayne to improve its record to 14-7 on the season entering a doubleheader today against U-Mary. WSC is 5-3 in conference play, which is tied for fourth in the NSIC.

On Friday, the ’Cats put a recent sweep at the hands of Minnesota Crookston in the rearview mirror with a 5-2 victory over Bemidji State. Freshman starting pitcher Ryan Obrecht hurled 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball on the mound to set the tone for the Wildcats. WSC’s three games on Mar. 17 and 18 in Omaha because of poor field conditions in Wayne were recorded as home games but Friday’s opener against Bemidji marked the first official home game for the Wildcats.

“I felt really good going in,” Obrecht said. “It being my first conference start, I was a little nervous to start but I settled in towards the middle of the game and got all the nerves out and started to feel really good.”

The Wildcats got on the board in the first inning, as Alex Logelin scored on a Bryce Bisenius sacrifice fly to give WSC a 1-0 lead. Logelin reached base on a single in the third and Bisenius followed with a two-run homer to extend the Wildcat lead to 3-0.

“Alex (Logelin) has been a spark plug for us,” head coach Alex Koch said. “He’s just been phenomenal hitting with power for us. He leads the NSIC in doubles and so when he goes, we kind of go, and he does it with a big stick.”

Andrew Hanson laced a double down the left field line in the sixth to score Travis Miller. Miller then advanced to third and scored on a groundout from Garrett Graveline to give Wayne State a 5-0 lead. BSU notched two runs off Obrecht in the seventh but Charles Hasty relieved Obrecht and recorded the final out of the ballgame, earning his second save of the season and helping WSC to their first inter-conference win of the season.

Another aspect of the game that helps Obrecht calm the nerves is knowing that his teammates are behind him through each and every pitch, along with the seniors who provide the Wildcats strong leadership.

“The seniors have provided a lot of guidance and somebody to look up to and model my game after,” Obrecht said. “Just watching them during their games and seeing how they carry themselves and me trying to mold my game after that [is important].”

In WSC’s second game of the day against the Beavers, solid pitching backed by excellent defense was again the recipe for success in a shutout victory. Freshman Cade Herrmann recorded four strikeouts over five scoreless innings to earn his first win of the year and take the pressure off of the Wildcat offense. Grant Carl, Mitch Gullickson, Aaron Ras and Josh Renken all threw an inning of scoreless ball for the Wildcats to silence the Beaver offense.

“We’ve been phenomenal defensively,” Koch said. “When you pitch and play defense, you’ve got a really good chance to win games. I think we have two errors in the last five games so when you can play defense behind guys that are filling up the zone, it’s crucial.”

Offensively, Logelin was again the first Wildcat to cross the plate, reaching base on a walk before eventually scoring on a BSU fielding error to put WSC up 1-0. Logelin pounded a two-run homerun in the second to increase the Wildcat lead to 3-0 before Brendan Madsen made it a 4-0 lead with an RBI double.

Bisenius scored Jake Lorenzini on a base hit in the fourth to make it 5-0 in favor of Wayne State. Lorenzini scored the final run of the game for WSC when he doubled in the eighth and made his way to the plate on a BSU double play.

The pair of victories improved Wayne State’s record to 11-7 on the season and 2-3 in NSIC competition.

“I thought our focus and preparation was a lot better [this week],” Madsen said. “We knew what we had to tweak and fix and I thought we did a good job with flushing the Crookston series and moving on to the next series.”

After Friday’s doubleheader, WSC was back in action Saturday for their second doubleheader in as many days. Both games provided fruitful results for the ’Cats, who defeated Minnesota Duluth 8-3 in the opener and 2-1 in the back end of the doubleheader to increase its win streak to four games.

In the first game against the Bulldogs, junior right-handed pitcher Aidan Breedlove toed the mound for the Wildcats. Breedlove hurled five innings and allowed three runs on five hits while recording five strikeouts. He is now 4-2 on the season.

Offensively, WSC was active early, notching two runs in the first inning and three in the second. Logelin and Kyle Thompson each recorded doubles to put the Wildcats on the board, followed by a two-out, RBI single from Andrew Hanson.

In the second, Madsen reached second on a double, stole third and scored on a Bulldog fielding error to give WSC a 3-0 lead. Logelin grinded out a 13-pitch at and doubled to left, eventually scoring on a single from Thompson. Thompson worked his way around the bases, finding his way to the plate on a failed pickoff attempt to make it 5-0 in favor of Wayne State.

Duluth plated three runs over the next three innings, but WSC put the game to rest with insurance runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. In the fourth, Bisenius plated Madsen on an RBI single. In the fifth, Hanson scored on a bases loaded hit by pitch to make it 7-3 WSC. The scoring concluded in the bottom of the sixth when Lorenzini drew a bases loaded walk that scored pinch runner Colin Chick to increase the Wildcat lead to 8-3, the eventual final.

“The sweep against Bemidji really got us going and I think that gave us confidence headed into the Duluth series to really handle business,” Koch said.

In the second of two games on Saturday, offense was limited on both sides, but WSC got just enough of it to come away with a narrow 2-1 victory.

After the Bulldogs scored in the top half of the first inning, Logelin reached second on a double and was driven home on a single to left from Thompson to knot the game at 1-1 headed to the second. In the bottom of the second inning, Madsen drove home catcher Garrett Graveline to give WSC a 2-1 lead. Because of another impressive pitching performance, two runs would be just enough for Wayne State to earn conference victory number four on the season.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hunter Wienhoff threw 138 pitches over seven innings and worked out of jams in both the sixth and seventh to earn his fifth win of the season. Sophomore left hander Aaron Ras recorded a perfect inning of relief in the eighth for the Wildcats before Hasty shut the Bulldogs down in the ninth to earn his third save of the year.

“[Going forward] our pitch counts need to stay down,” Koch said. “Hunter had 138 pitches and people probably want to throw me in jail for doing that.”

The finale of the three-game set was on Sunday, with the ’Cats eking out a 4-3 win on a walk off base on balls to complete the sweep of Duluth and earn their 14th win of the season.

Junior right hander Lawson Zenner was handed the start for WSC. Lawson struck out the side in the first inning in midst of a five-inning day in which he gave up three earned runs and recorded five strikeouts.

Duluth managed two runs off Zenner in the third, but the WSC offense responded in the bottom half of the inning with two runs of their own. Madsen was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on two Bulldog balks to bring the Wildcats within a run. Later in the inning, a Hanson double scored Thompson to even the score at 2-2.

The Bulldogs earned another run off Zenner in the fifth, but the ’Cats again found an answer. Logelin reached first on a single, then stole second and found his way to third when Duluth catcher Reid Rubio airmailed the throw to second. Thompson ensued by driving Logelin home on an RBI single to right to make the score 3-3. WSC stranded runners at second and third to end the inning.

“Personally, I think the main improvements I need to make is to just keep things simple and don’t press too much at the plate,” Madsen said. “If we keep playing fundamentally sound baseball, take advantage of the other team’s mistakes and have some timely hits we will be fine.”

Andrew Staebell relieved Zenner and tossed three innings of hitless ball to keep the Bulldogs at bay. Ras struck out the side in the top of the ninth to give the Wildcats an opportunity to win the ballgame in the bottom half.

Lorenzini doubled to left in the bottom of the ninth inning to represent the winning run for Wayne State. Lorenzini then advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt. Duluth opted to intentionally walk the next two WSC batters to load the bases but set up a potential double play.
That strategy was thwarted when Bisenius earned a five-pitch walk to bring Lorenzini home and cap a dramatic 4-3 victory for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats did now allow more than three runs in any of their five victories last week. A significant part of that is the impressive performances the pitching staff has put together.

“We really emphasize controlling the strike zone,” Koch said. “Early in the season, we walked a lot of guys and gave up a lot of free bags and ever since that first couple weeks of the season, we’ve done a really good job of pounding the zone and forcing opponents to make contact.”

Doubleheader games are scheduled for 12 and 3 p.m. today at Pete Chapman Baseball Complex. The Wildcats will then travel to Aberdeen, South Dakota for a three-game weekend series against Northern State starting on Saturday at 12 p.m.

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