St. Cloud State Baseball (12-2, 0-0 NSIC) caught fire at the Tucson Invitational last week, going 7-1 on their way to earning a #6 ranking by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and a #7 nod by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). Pat Dolan’s crew also picked up four Central Region wins, improving their regional record to 5-1 in 2019.
Junior outfielder Lenny Walker earned NCBWA Central Region and NSIC Player of the Week honors for his incredible performance in Tucson, slashing .515/.541/.758 for a 1.298 OPS across 8 games. Walker cracked five doubles and his first collegiate home run, scored 7 runs, drove in 14 and only struck out once (2.7%) in 37 plate appearances. To top everything off, the Arizona native hit .588 with runners in scoring position and posted a .547 wOBA on the week.
The Huskies won their first seven games of the Invitational, beginning with a gutty 11-8 victory over Concordia-Nebraska. Sheldon Miks earned the win on a designated staff day, while Mat Meyer (4-4, BB, HBP, R, 2 RBI) reached six times and Najee Gaskins (3-6, 2 R, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 SB) recorded his second three-hit game of the season.
Blake Flint dominated in his first Huskies start against Benedictine-Mesa, firing 7.0 scoreless while scattering three hits, two walks and striking out 9 in an 8-2 victory. The All-American racked up 15 swinging strikes on 100 pitches and worked at an 88% first-pitch strike rate. Gaskins (1-4, BB, R, HR, RBI) drilled his second home run of the season, Meyer (3-4, R, 2B, 3 RBI) posted a three-hit game, and Walker (2-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI) smacked a pair of run-scoring doubles.
Dominic Austing didn’t have his best stuff in a clash with Concordia-St. Paul, but managed to gut through 7.0 innings and receive the win. The Huskies defeated the Golden Bears 15-6 behind a 7-run seventh, with senior catcher Toran Shahidi (4-4, BB, 3 R, 2 RBI) rapping a career-high four hits. Austing scattered 7 hits and a walk while striking out five and allowing 6 runs, two earned.
St. Cloud State’s lineup exploded for a season-high 21 hits in a 17-3 demolition of Bemidji State, with Walker (3-4, HBP, 2 R, 2B, HR, 6 RBI, SB) and shortstop Jordan Joseph (3-4, BB, 2 R, 2B, HR, 5 RBI, SB) each posting career-high RBI totals. All-American right fielder Mitch Mallek (4-5, 3 R, 2B, 2 RBI) had a four-hit game, while true freshman Dylan Haskamp (3-4, 2 R) and Ethan Ibarra (3-3, 3 R, 2B, RBI, SF) chipped in three-hit afternoons. Joseph and Walker each belted grand slams, accounting for the first SCSU multi-grand slam game since 1973. Zach Walz picked up his first Huskies win by throwing two scoreless relief innings, striking out one. Senior Ryan Wesely made his return from a torn UCL, firing a 1-2-3 seventh with a strikeout to finish off the win.
Matt Osterberg dominated over 5.0 innings of four-hit baseball against SMSU in a 12-2 eight- inning victory, allowing one run while walking out one and striking out 8. The sophomore worked at an 81% first-pitch strike rate with 12 swinging strikes on 87 pitches. Walker (3-4, 2 R, 2B, RBI) had another three-hit day, Gaskins (2-5, 2 R, 2B, 3B) belted a pair of extra-base hits, and Haskamp (1-4, 2B, 3 RBI, SF) drove in a career-high three runs. Zach Siggelkow earned a three-inning save to finish off the Mustangs, scattering five hits and striking out two while allowing a pair of runs.
Miks tied a career-high with 12 punchouts in the Huskies’ 4-1 win over Minot State, earning his fourth straight victory to open the season, dealing 6.0 innings of three-hit baseball, allowing one earned and walking one. The lefty racked up 16 swinging strikes on 100 pitches and worked at a 62.5% ground ball rate. Walker (3-4, R) posted his third straight three-hit game to lead the lineup.
Redshirt-freshman Riley Ahern dazzled in his first collegiate start against Morningside College, earning his first win while firing 7.0 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts. Ahern scattered three hits and two walks, inducing 9 swinging strikes on a minuscule 79 pitches, with an 85.2% first- pitch strike rate and throwing 75.9% strikes. Meyer (3-4, 2 R, RBI), Mallek (3-4, HBP, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, SB), Walker (3-5, RBI) and Joseph (2-4, R, 2B, 2 SB) each recorded multi-hit evenings in the 7-1 win.
The lone St. Cloud State loss came by way of a 4-1 decision agains Concordia-St. Paul in the Sunday finale. Cal Giese struggled in his first start since 2017 off of Ulnar Nerve surgery, managing to go just 2.1 innings while allowing four runs, three earned. The All-American struggled to get ahead of batters, working at 33.3% first-pitch strikes. Flint allowed a single to the first batter he faced in relief, then recorded 17 consecutive outs to finish off the game, striking out one. Mallek (3-4, RBI) posted another three-hit game, finishing 17-34 on the trip with 11 runs, two doubles, a home run and 10 RBI. CSP’s Josh Gaworski stifled the Huskies over 8.0 innings, allowing one earned on 6 hits and two walks while striking out four.
#6/7 St. Cloud State opens Northern Sun play this weekend against arch rival MSU-Mankato, with game venue and times still to be determined.