May 30, 2009

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Gophers fight off Jaguars

By Robert Stewart
Special to

BATON ROUGE, La. — Minnesota got all it could handle from Southern in an 11-8 victory in the first elimination game of the Baton Rouge Regional on Saturday at Alex Box Stadium.


The Golden Gophers put the Jaguars on the ropes in the top of the seventh inning after loading the bases with nobody out. Freshman first baseman Nick O’Shea struck out, but a RBI groundout by center fielder Eric Decker and a two-run double by freshman left fielder Justin Gominsky put the Gophers up, 8-3.


But Southern flipped the script in the bottom of the seventh.


The Jaguars responded with a two-run single by right fielder Brad McDavid and a RBI double by designated hitter Edmond Morton to make it an 8-6 game. McDavid then scored on a wild pitch by reliever Scott Fern, and Michael Thomas tied it up with a RBI single.


“That one at-bat pretty much sums up our whole year,” Thomas said. “We had to fight the whole year.”


But Minnesota pulled back ahead in the top of the eighth inning on a RBI single by junior Kyle Knudson, and the Gophers put two more runs on the board in the ninth inning on RBI singles by designated hitter Matt Nohelty and shortstop AJ Pettersen to pull away with.


“Today it just seemed like every time we got a good lead, they just were hitting the ball and they’d string a bunch of hits together,” Knudson said. “When you walk guys and give up free passes, it hurts.”


Minnesota’s offense quickly changed its tone after its 5-0 loss to Baylor Friday. The Gophers pounded out 18 hits after managing only nine against the Bears.


Gominsky led the way with a 4-for-4 performance and two RBI.


“I said last night the first inning [today] was going to be critical, and it was,” Anderson said. “In the first inning we did score early, we got the momentum back on our side. I thought that was huge.”


Fern picked up the victory for Minnesota, pitching one inning and giving up five hits and two runs, both earned. Sophomore starter Seth Rosin went 6.1 innings for the Gophers, surrendering four runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts.


Freshman Daniel Garcia took the loss for Southern after giving up four runs on four hits in two innings of relief. Starter Jarrett Maloy went six innings and was tagged for five runs on 11 hits.

Minnesota was in control early on. Pettersen put Minnesota up 1-0 on a RBI single and advanced to second base on an errant throw home by center fielder Toddrick Stevenson.


Second baseman Derek McCallum moved Pettersen to second on a sacrifice fly, and right fielder Michael Kvasnicka brought him home on a RBI single.


A hit-and-run by the Golden Gophers put Kvasnicka at third, and junior Knudson at first – still with only one out.


O’Shea brought another run home on another sacrifice fly for an early 3-0 Minnesota lead.


“If you eliminate two innings – first and seventh I think – we really would be in good shape,” Southern coach Roger Cador said. “We were in a position going into the eighth inning to win this ball game.”


Southern responded in the bottom of the second inning with a pair of RBI singles by third baseman Gregory Whitfield and shortstop Jesse Olivar to cut the deficit to 4-2. Minnesota stopped Southern from scoring anymore on an inning-ending double play when Stevenson struck out swinging, and Knudson threw Whitfield out at third on an attempted double steal by the Jaguars.


But Southern picked up another RBI single by junior left fielder James Armstrong in the bottom of the third scoring second baseman Romey Bracey from third.


“I went out to the mound to try to settle down Seth Rosin down a little bit,” Anderson said. “In his first NCAA tournament game as a sophomore, he was a little bit out of sorts early. I didn’t like his delivery, and I thought he wasn’t finishing his pitches.”


Three straight singles by Gominsky, third baseman Kyle Geason and designated hitter Nohelty gave the Gophers another RBI for a 5-3 lead. Nohelty attempted to steal second, but Bracey immediately took Thomas’ short pick-off throw and drilled it home to tag Eason.


“We made some mistakes out there today that haven’t been characteristic of our team,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “But it’s always important that you have to overcome yourself sometimes.”


Now Southern’s season is done after close calls against two of the best teams in their respective conferences. The Jaguars led regional host LSU 2-1 after six innings in their first-round matchup Friday.


“Three innings out of 18 innings, if we could take them away, we could walk away with two victories against the best in those conferences,” Cador said.


Southern’s players were left to wonder after their season was done.


“If we could delete two innings, we’d be dancing in the streets,” Franklin said.



Paid attendance for the game was 9,264, actual attendance was 2,057…Game time was 3 hours, 19 minutes…Minnesota will start sophomore right-hander Chauncy Handran (7-3, 4.30 ERA) tomorrow against the loser of the LSU-Baylor game at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.