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MW BASEBALL: Bluejays earn split with Norsemen

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe The Bluejays' Nate Jensen cracks a two-run home run during the second inning of the first game of a doubleheader against Mesabi Range Saturday in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Mitchell Jensen slugged a home run and delivered a solid pitching performance Saturday afternoon, leading the Minnesota West Bluejays to a 9-7 victory over the Mesabi Range Norsemen in the first game of a Minnesota College Athletic Conference baseball doubleheader.

Jensen and Stuart Rogers cracked back-to-back homers -- two of the three that Minnesota West hit in the game -- in a six-run third inning for the Bluejays, who led 8-0 and had to hold off a late charge from the Norsemen. Mesabi Range didn't collect its first hit until the sixth inning, but made things interesting with a couple of home runs at the end.

The Norsemen then claimed a 5-3, extra-inning victory in the nightcap to earn a split on the road. The second game was actually suspended due to darkness after five innings Saturday and resumed Sunday morning, with Mesabi Range scoring a pair of runs in the top of the eighth for the win.

"I was really happy with how we played in that first game," Minnesota West head coach Jeff Linder said. "We swung the bats really well and got a great pitching performance out of Mitchell. He was able to shut down a very good hitting team in Mesabi Range through the first five innings and then kept his poise when they started to come back on us."

Jensen took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the opener, as he only allowed three base runners (on three walks) through five innings and struck out four batters.

Meanwhile, the Bluejays were swinging hot bats at the plate. Rogers smashed a lead-off single up the middle in the bottom of the second for his first base hit of the season.

Eric Koob then reached on a fielder's choice (Rogers out at second) before Nate Jensen (2-for-2) belted a two-run home run to left field to put Minnesota West up 2-0.

The Bluejays strung together eight straight hits in the third inning, scoring six runs to increase their lead to 8-0. Dustin Pronk started it with a lead-off single and scored on an RBI double to left-center by Adam Munkel.

Mitchell Jensen (2-for-3) followed with a two-run blast to left-center, and Rogers (2-ror-2) made it 6-0 with a solo dinger to straightaway center field.

"The wind was blowing out and we have short fences, but those balls were still hit very well," Linder said. "We got some good things going there offensively, as everybody had good at-bats and hit the ball hard somewhere."

Koob, Trent Carlson (RBI), Nate Jensen and Orie Brown (RBI) backed the long bombs up with four consecutive singles to help the Bluejays tack on two more runs.

Minnesota West loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but was unable to add to its already comfortable advantage.

Mesabi Range then trimmed the gap to 8-3 with a trio of runs in the sixth, as Tanner Kohls broke up Jensen's no-hit bid with a lead-off single.

Adam Hanson followed with a two-run home run, and Josh Matsuhak later singled and scored on a wild pitch for the Norsemen.

The Bluejays went up 9-3 in the bottom half, as Nate Jensen drew a bases-loaded walk to plate Taylor Lupton and give Minnesota West a key insurance run.

That run was important because Mesabi Range scored four more times in the top of the seventh. Kohls and Hanson drilled back-to-back RBI doubles, and Matsuhak clubbed a two-run home run to spark the Norsemen.

However, Jensen was able to settle down and end the rally with a pair of strikeouts -- upping his total to six for the game -- with a runner on first base after a Bluejays' error to finish a strong complete-game effort.

"Mitchell did a great job on the mound," Linder said. "We've seen Mesabi Range before and they can really hit the ball. But Mitchell was able to keep them off-balance for most of the game and also find something extra to put them away after facing some adversity."

Nate Jensen (five innings, four strikeouts and two walks) and Munkel (three innings, one strikeout and one walk) handled the Bluejays' pitching duties in the second game.

Rogers went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Carlson, Pronk (RBI), Mitchell Jensen (RBI), Munkel and Brett Larson had a base hit apiece for Minnesota West, as well.

The game was tied 3-3 after five complete innings when the decision to suspend it until Sunday was made. Mesabi Range scored two runs in the top of the eighth to prevail with a 5-3 win.

Minnesota West (5-5) travels to Estherville, Iowa to play Iowa Lakes Community College Thursday at 2 p.m.

Game 1 R H E

MR 000 003 4 -- 7 8 2

MW 026 001 X -- 9 11 2

Game 2 R H E

MR 102 000 02 -- 5 5 2

MW 000 120 00 -- 3 7 1