Baseball wins series after bumbling away second game

Brett Harrison tallied seven hits in this weekend’s series. File Photo by Nick Nelson/The Dakota Student

After an impressive series win in the season opener against USC, the UND baseball team has struggled to find its footing. After a seven-game losing streak, the season got a bit brighter this weekend as the Hawks were able to take two out of three against Utah Valley and win their first series since mid-February.

UND managed to climb its way up from the bottom of the WAC standings as they moved to a 2-4 conference record.

The Fighting Hawks recorded a season-high 20 hits in a 13-7 win over Utah Valley in the Friday series opener. UND started slow offensively, trailing 5-1, before hitting a dozen straight runs in the second half of the inning. It was a full team contribution, with each player bringing in runs, highlighted by UND junior Ellery Bresnahan collecting four RBIs.

“I’m really proud of our guys in the bullpen as well; they pounded the strike zone,” UND coach Jeff Dodson said.  “That week of practice this week had a big impact on our performance tonight. We spent a lot of time on setting up situations to score and the mental approach.”

UND ace Zach Muckenhirn earned the win with a statline of six innings pitched, nine strikeouts and a single walk while giving up five earned runs. UND bullpen pitchers Zach Finley and Luke Hansen held it together to finish out the game in the bottom three innings, marking the Fighting Hawks’ first conference victory of the season.

“Got in the win column and it was good to see the guys swing the bats,” Dodson said. “We had some guys that really got off to a hot start tonight and some guys adjusting well.”

Heading into game two, the Hawks were looking to solidify the series win but fell in a final inning spectacle as the Wolverine’s tallied nine runs.

Utah Valley’s comeback started with a single with the bases loaded, followed by a walk to make the score 9-3.

The Wolverines continued their rally with a grand slam that brought the score to 9-7. After that, Dodson decided he had seen enough and changed the arm at the mound as Bresnahan took to the mound for just his second pitching appearance of the season. The lefty got a strikeout, but then UVU tallied their eighth run on a wild pitch. Bresnahan got the second out on a grounder, but a fielding error allowed two runners to come across the plate to give Utah Valley the unpredictable win.

“It was a hard one to stomach, to give up nine runs in any inning, much less the ninth,” Dodson said. “Our bullpen and our defense let us down. We’re going to have a short memory to bounce back and attempt to take the series tomorrow.”

Leaving a tough loss behind them, the Hawks showed an improvement defensively in the final game. Once again it came down to the wire in the bottom of the ninth when the Wolverines grounded out for the first out. Bresnahan had the remaining two batters strike out swinging for the 4-3 win and the series.

Bresnahan hit for five RBIs and four runs on the weekend along with pitching 1.9 innings in the final game for the win. Right behind him junior infielder Ben Reznicek tallied five runs and a single RBI.

UND makes a mid-week appearance in Brookings, S.D., to face South Dakota State to close the road trip. The Hawks will play in a doubleheader April 6, with game one beginning at 1 p.m.

Allyson Bento is a sports writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]