Blue Hawks need a big weekendA season of road trips and doubleheader splits has come down to this weekend.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
A season of road trips and doubleheader splits has come down to this weekend.
The Dickinson State baseball team believes it needs at least a split in its four-game weekend series at Mayville State if it has any hope of extending its season into May and playing in the NAIA Association of Independent Institutions Tournament.
The Blue Hawks (17-17) are at the mercy of the AII ratings committee that is deciding between them and Dakota State for the sixth and final spot in the tournament that begins May 2 in San Marcos, Calif.
The committee expects to rule on which team will be invited to the tournament as early as Tuesday, despite DSU having six more games remaining in its regular season after this weekend — including a four-game series against Jamestown College, which it has defeated twice but has already been selected to the AII Tournament. Dakota State is 22-23 and doesn’t have another game before Tuesday.
“This is our playoff time,” DSU first-year head coach Jason Watson said. “Obviously it doesn’t work out as well because we still have Jamestown next weekend. But, there’s things in life that we can control and things that we can’t. I keep telling our guys that. When the teams are chosen for the independent tournament, there’s nothing we can do about it. We can only go out and play our game and see what happens.”
The Blue Hawks have had trouble stringing together consecutive wins this season and suffered two closes losses Tuesday at Montana State-Billings.
Their longest win streak is four, which came in March during its trip to Tucson, Ariz.
“It’s been an up-and-down season,” Watson said. “We’ve played well. At times, we haven’t played so well.”
Mayville State (21-14), meanwhile, is coming off a massive 6-5 win against North Dakota State in 10 innings on Wednesday. The NCAA Division I Bison are 22-7 and had won 16 consecutive games before losing to Nebraska-Omaha on Sunday and Mayville State.
The Blue Hawks and Comets haven’t played yet this season, and pitcher C.J. Ketron — who leads DSU’s starters with a 3.47 earned-run average and is 3-3 with 25 strikeouts — is convinced the Blue Hawks need to believe they must win take every game from Comets on their home field.
Ironically, the series was originally scheduled to be played at Dickinson’s Southside Municipal Ballpark before construction to install Fieldturf on the infield scrubbed all of the Blue Hawks’ home games.
The Blue Hawks at Comets start the series with a doubleheader at noon today at Scott Berry Field, named after Mayville State’s longtime and current head coach. Berry needs three wins to reach 850 for his career.
“We’ve got to go out there thinking we need to sweep,” Ketron said. “There’s no doubt we need to win at least three of four to make it a no-doubter for them (the ratings committee).”
DSU has the ability to do that, Watson said, if all the little bright spots that have popped up throughout the season can come together at the same time.
The Blue Hawks have just three everyday players batting over .300. Junior right fielder Jon Mendoza has a team-high .383 batting average with 29 RBI. Senior designated hitter Derek Carley is at .322 with 21 RBI and senior first baseman Travis Setere is hitting .304 with 22 RBI. Junior second baseman Justin Elizondo has a team-best 31 RBI with a .288 average.
Aside from those four, however, the Blue Hawks’ bats have been erratic.
Pitching, however, is where Watson said DSU must excel this weekend. No DSU starter has a record better than 3-3, though they’ve kept their ERAs down for the most part.
“We get hurt when we leave the ball up,” Watson said. “It seems like when we do leave it up, they take advantage of it. It’s tough, especially from a hitting standpoint, always trying to fight your way back into it. Guys learn from it.”
Watson said there is one team trait that could serve the Blue Hawks well this weekend though.
“The guys always fight,” Watson said. “That’s one thing I encourage and like to see. They never give up, no matter what the score is.”