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After breaking losing streak, DSU in search of momentum

Dickinson State's Nate Demarais pauses between pitches April 7 at Astoria Field. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)

It started on April 8 in the second game of a Sunday doubleheader against Valley City State.

It made a prolonged stop in Mayville a week later.

It culminated last Saturday against University of Winnipeg, a team that had driven eight hours from its snowy home, and had won only five contests before the week began. Then the Wesmen came into Astoria Field and swept the Blue Hawks in a doubleheader.

It was, at the conclusion of that sultry Saturday, a seven-game losing streak for Dickinson State baseball, all in the North Star Athletic Association.

It couldn't, thought third baseman Sagan Osborne, get a whole lot worse than that. After the conclusion of that second game, a contest where team tension was high, in-part due to a blown 6-1 fourth-inning lead, head coach Jason Watson held a nice, long meeting.

"We realized this is probably rock bottom, losing these two games," said Osborne, first on the Blue Hawks with 10 home runs and 45 RBI. "Basically, the talk was, it was just, it's now or never."

From a 4-0 start to the conference schedule in late March, to a 3-11 stumble over their next 14, the Blue Hawks (19-23, 9-11 NSAA) were in grave search of a way to stop the bleeding—they did the next day, sweeping Winnipeg to salvage a split of the series.

Winning those two, one in come-from-behind fashion, healed some internal wounds, said Watson.

This week, it hasn't been kumbaya, but the attitude has been better. There's a hope and a feeling that those two wins could be a spark, a season salvager going into their last four games of regular season baseball against Viterbo this weekend.

"We've had a very up-and-down season. We've had some good times. That last stretch there

was very tough for us," Watson said. "Sunday we did some good things, we found a way to win. This weekend, we've got to show up with the same mindset and the same drive—playing for the team and the guy next to you."

The Blue Hawks on Sunday didn't play perfect baseball. There were plenty of baserunning mistakes, and in the second game, they had to score four in the seventh and one in the ninth to overcome a five-run second by the Wesmen.

But there was a sense of togetherness that wasn't there the day before or for the weekend before that. Perhaps, hopes Watson, that was a product of a calm approach from the coaching staff to all the losing, as opposed to a blow up moment.

"What I've learned over the years, is the more emotional you get, the more it takes out of you. I'm too old to get mad," said Watson, laughing. "I love this game, these guys love this game. Those are the things I try to relay to them. I say, 'You guys need to be appreciate what you have.' At some point it's going to be gone."

The Blue Hawks currently sit in a fifth-place tie in the NSAA standings with Waldorf. With these four upcoming games against Viterbo, which sits a game behind the Blue Hawks, there is still much to be decided.

"There's been some crazy stuff happening this year in the conference," Osborne said. "We'll see what happens. We'll do our part and hope other people can help us out."

Second time around

There seems to be, Watson noted, always a rotten inning mixed in for the Blue Hawks.

More often than not, that trouble for DSU pitchers comes in the third or fourth inning.

For the season, runs in those two frames are way up. They've given up totals of 38 and 33 in the first and second, respectively, and 38, 37, 27 in the fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.

The third inning jumps all the way to 61, followed by 52 in the fourth.

The answer as to why is as painful as it is simple.

"That's the second time around normally for the opposing team. They've already seen you once. They're able to pick stuff up, they've seen your pitches," said Watson. "That's when we get into a little bit of trouble."

There's no real solution to such a problem, said pitcher Sean Getchell, just a commitment to keeping the hitter off guard.

"We just need to mix pitches better, hit out spots better. Hitters later in the season are catching on, what pitches are coming, what we're throwing," said the senior. "They scout, everybody scouts. They know what's coming."