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  • Writer's pictureThomas Breach

#6/7 Huskies Open NSIC Play with Archrival Mavericks

Originally Posted March 16, 2019

#6/7 St. Cloud State Baseball (12-2, 0-0 NSIC) opens their first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference series with rival Minnesota State-Mankato (8-3, 0-0 NSIC) this weekend in Omaha, Nebraska.

Game one of the weekend set is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 17 with games two and three at 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Monday.

The Huskies enter NSIC play with a unanimous first-place ranking in the NBCWA Central Region Polls. Mankato sits at seventh, dropping one position from the week prior.

Known as one of the best and most bitter rivalries in all of Divison II baseball, St. Cloud State and MSU-Mankato began their all-time series in 1939. SCSU is 87-137 against Mankato in their 80 years as archrivals.

Game one of the series pits Huskies All-American ace Dominic Austing against MSU-Mankato top man Jon Ludwig. The Mavs’ righthander has won each of his two starts in 2019 and is yet to allow a run in 14.0 innings. Ludwig has struck out 18 and walked just two while holding batters to a .125/.160/.167 slash line. Austing is 3-0 in his three career starts against MSU-Mankato with a 2.18 ERA and a 2.52 FIP across 20.2 innings with 25 strikeouts (31.3%), three walks (3.8%), two complete games and a .189/.231/.311 opponent slash line.

Cal Giese will tentatively make his second start of the season in game two in a tilt with Mavericks true-sophomore Cam Kine. Giese made his first start off Ulnar Nerve surgery on March 10 against Concordia-St. Paul, taking the loss after going 2.1 innings of 6-hit baseball and walking two before reaching his allotted 50-pitch threshold. Kline has won his first three outings this season, throwing 16.0 innings with a 1.62 ERA. The righthander is 4-1 in eight career appearances and six starts with a 3.94 ERA, a 3.04 FIP and a 35-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32.0 collegiate innings.

Two-time All-American Sheldon Miks goes for his third career stretch of five straight wins in game three of the set. Coming off tying a career-high with 12 punchouts against Minot State, Miks has won all four of his starts with a 2.35 ERA and a 1.62 FIP over 23.0 frames with 26 strikeouts (30.2%) and three walks (3.5%). The 6’4 southpaw holds opponents to a .200/.256/.263 triple slash for a .518 OPS while working at a 53.7% ground ball rate with a 13.6% swinging strike rate. Mankato is scheduled to throw redshirt-sophomore Trevor Divinski in the finale. One of the top three-starters in the NSIC, Divinski is 6-1 in his career with a 3.84 ERA and a 3.24 FIP over 16 appearances and 9 starts. Across 58.2 innings, the righthander has struck out 57 and walked 18 with a .727 opponent OPS.

The Mavs’ bullpen is young, especially after the loss of closer Carlo Graffeo to injury, featuring redshirt-sophomore Jimmy Larson as the top arm in relief. The Kansas State transfer is 1-1 with a pair of saves in four appearances and a start. Larson has fired 17.0 innings to the tune of a 3.18 ERA and a 2.63 FIP with 27 strikeouts, 6 walks and a .699 opponent OPS. Freshmen Collin Denk (5.14 ERA/2.39 FIP, SV) and Zach Gustafson each serve as bridge arms, while senior Bobby Gauvreau provides experience as a setup man.

MSU-Mankato boasts arguably the best three-four hitters in the Nation with DH Ty Buck and rightfielder Jordan Hart. A former highly-touted prospect out of Red Wing, Buck slashes .436/.529/.718 for a 1.247 OPS with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, 12 RBI and equal strikeout/walk rates of 11.8% on the season. Buck is protected by an All-NSIC cleanup man in Hart. The big lefthanded bat recently passed Maverick legend Josh Smith (99′) for most career MSU-Mankato home runs. Hart enters the series slashing .438/.481/.854 for a team-best 1.335 OPS with five doubles, five homers, and 17 RBI.

All-NSIC second baseman Teddy Petersen (.275/.442/.400, 11 R, 2 2B, HR) and 2016 NSIC Gold Glove catcher Tom Imholte (.386/.481/.432, 10 R, 3 SB) set the table for Buck and Hart. True-freshman Nick Altermatt has impressed in 11 starts at short, hitting .326 with an .819 OPS, two doubles, a home run and 10 RBI while spending the majority of his time hitting fifth or sixth in the order. The back half of Minnesota State’s lineup projects to be a major factor in the series, as first baseman Carter Elliott (.752 OPS, 5 RBI), third baseman Tory Miller (.671 OPS) and outfield timeshare trio Ty Denzer (.269/.424/.423, 2 2B, 3B), Tyler Berg (2-26, .215 OPS) and Jack Waletich (.551 OPS, 5 R) have struggled to open the season.

KVSC’s Thomas Breach has the call from Millard North High School for all three games of the series, with Husky Den Pregame an hour before first pitch on Sunday and a half-hour before Monday’s first pitch. Each game will be heard on the KVSC Sports Stream.

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