Minnesota advances in first two games of Big Ten tournament

Minnesota will play the winner of Michigan and Ohio State Saturday morning.

The Gophers baseball team takes the field during a game against South Dakota State at Siebert Field on Wednesday.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

The Gophers baseball team takes the field during a game against South Dakota State at Siebert Field on Wednesday.

Taylor Pearson

The Gophers still have more baseball to play this season.

Minnesota (39-13) is the top-seeded team in the Big Ten tournament and won its first two games this week. The Gophers will play again Saturday and with a chance for the championship.

Their next game will be Saturday morning against the winner of Michigan and Ohio State on Friday.

In Thursday’s game against Illinois (32-19), pitcher Reggie Meyer pitched a complete game shutout to lead the Gophers to the third round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Minnesota beat the Fighting Illini 3-0 Thursday night in Omaha, Nebraska to continue the team’s tournament run. 

Meyer threw a career-high eight strikeouts and held the Fighting Illini to just three hits while only walking one batter. It was the first complete game of Meyer’s career.

“I just wanted to give it my all and give the team a chance to win,” Meyer told Big Ten Network after the game. “The defense made a lot of plays behind me, I have to give them a lot of credit for that.”

The Gophers opened a 2-0 lead in the first inning behind a pair of RBI singles. Catcher Eli Wilson singled to center field to score the first run. First baseman Cole McDevitt followed up with a line drive that rolled into left field after grazing the Illini shortstop’s glove.

Designated hitter Toby Hanson led off the fifth inning with a rare bunt double. Luke Pettersen followed that up with a bunt of his own and later scored after Terrin Vavra hit a ground ball up the middle. 

Minnesota’s defense held Illinois scoreless for the rest of the game to clinch its spot in the next round. 

Minnesota tops Michigan State in the first round

The Gophers had 10 hits but scored three runs as their defense led the way in Wednesday’s game.

The top-seeded Minnesota edged No. 8 seed Michigan State (20-31) 3-2 to win in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament in Omaha, Nebraska. 

“I think we’ve been gritty all year,” head coach John Anderson told Big Ten Network. “The game was decided by our defense. I thought we made some outstanding plays on defense and that’s our identity.”

It was a low-scoring game, but the runs came early. The Gophers took the lead in the first inning when Vavra drove in a run with a single to right center field.

Michigan State answered in the top of the fourth inning and scored two runs off a deep shot that hit the left field wall. Minnesota responded immediately by tying the game in the bottom of the fourth when right fielder Jordan Kozicky drove in a run with a hit to right center field.

The Gophers took the lead in the fifth inning after a questionable call put a runner in scoring position. Center fielder Ben Mezzenga was called safe after stealing third, yet replay appeared to show he was tagged before touching the base. Wilson drove Mezzenga to score on the next pitch with a line drive to left field. Wilson’s RBI ended up as the winning run as neither team scored again.

Pitchers Jake Stevenson and Brett Schulze led the defense through seven innings by holding the Spartans to just five hits. Meyer was credited with the save — he struck out two of the six batters he faced in two innings of work.