NCTC opens division play on home turf

Twenty games into a 2016 campaign that began March 4, the Northland Community and Technical College baseball team will finally begin its Minnesota College Athletic Conference Northern Division schedule this week.
The compacted slate, which includes games against Itasca, Vermilion, Rainy River, Hibbing and Mesabi Range, starts with a six-game homestand on the Pioneers’ diamond: today (Wednesday) against Itasca, then Saturday and Sunday vs. Vermilion. All three doubleheaders have 1 p.m. start times.
Northland watched its record dip to 6-13 over the weekend when the Pioneers lost four times to Minnesota West in Worthington. The Bluejays won 5-3, 10-5 Saturday and completed the sweep with 8-0, 7-1 Sunday decisions. 
“We just have not been able to put all three aspects of the game together lately,” said Northland coach Barry Dowers. “I have been happy with our pitching. They are giving us chances to win games. But offensively and defensively we have been up and down.”
Outside of pitching, the Pioneers’ performance was spotty, acknowledged Dowers.  “We struggled at the plate all weekend,” he explained. “Defensively we looked really good at times, but made too many errors and dug holes for ourselves that our bats just couldn’t dig us out of. We moved guys around a bit this weekend and made some mental mistakes that just comes from trying to learn a new position on the fly.”
Still, there were some bright spots, noted Dowers. “We were able to take some positives out of the weekend,” he said. “Offensively, we are starting to improve our bunting game, which had really been poor in the early part of the season. A  few guys are making adjustments and having much better at-bats. Eighteen hits in four games won’t win a lot of games, but we had a lot of hard-hit balls right at people, too. A few of those start to fall each game and things will improve in a hurry.”
Dowers also hinted that some of the Pioneers’ problems on defense had to do with the playing conditions. “Although we had 16 errors, a large chunk of those had to do with a rough playing surface,” he pointed out. “You really didn’t know which way the ball was going to bounce. They had five singles on Saturday that, because of mis-played balls, we turned into doubles and triples for them. It was too bad because Gabe Cavasos and Owen Ellefson really threw well. Sunday we improved upon that, but still made too many mistakes.”
The conference schedule should produce a new level of excitement for the Pioneers, according to Dowers. “I am really expecting to see us play a lot better baseball,” he said.
Saturday Game 1
                                             r  h  e
Northland ……….200 100 0  3  4  3
Minn. West……..020 030 x  – 5  9  2
Pitching – (NCTC)  Gabe Cavasos-L, 6 IP, 9 hits, 5 runs, 4 earned runs, 3 walks, 5 strike-outs.
Offensive highlights – (NCTC) Owen Ellefson 2/4; Josh Davila 1/2; Dom Del La Cruz 1-2.
Saturday Game 2
                                           r   h  e
Minn. West ……000 140 5  10  16  2
Northland……..000 005 0 –   5   7  6
Pitching – (NCTC)  Owen Ellefson 5 IP, 10 hits, 5 runs, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, 6 strike-outs; Peyton Mills-L, 1 1/3 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned runs, 1 strike-out; Jered Rushing 0 IP, 1 hit, 2 runs; Matt Howell 2/3 IP, 1 hit, 2 strike-outs.
Offensive highlights – (NCTC) Josh Arriaga 2/3, double, RBI; Landon Sanders 1/1, double, 2 RBI; Gilbert Rodriguez 1/2, RBI; Logan Felch 1/2; Gunnar Olson 1/3, double; Alex Erickson 1/4.
Sunday Game 1
                                             r  h  e
Northland ……….000 000 0  0  2  3
Minn. West…….200 240 x  –   8 11  0
Pitching – (NCTC)  Brandon Harrell-L, 4 IP, 7 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned runs, 2 walks, 6 strike-outs; Josh Arriaga 2/3 IP, 3 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned runs, 1 walk, 1 strike-out; Lucas Sandsmark 1 1/3 IP, 1 hit, 1 strike-out.
Offensive highlights – (NCTC) Logan Felch 1/2; Owen Ellefson 1/3.
Sunday, Game 2
                                             r  h  e
Minn. West ……..014 001 1 7 10  1
NCTC…………….000 100 0 –  1  5  1
Pitching – (NCTC)  Matt Howell-L, 4 1/3 IP, 8 hits, 5 runs, 5 earned runs, 4 walks, 1 strike-out; Gilbert Rodriguez 1 2/3 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 earned run, 1 strike-out; Logan Felch 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 strike-out.
Offensive highlights – (NCTC) Josh Davilla 2/2; Logan Felch 1/2, triple; Landon Sanders 1/3; Josh Arriaga 1/4.