Gophers destroy D-II Bison

The 17 runs were Minnesota’s second-highest offensive output of the season.

by Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s baseball team had made a habit out of barnburners against lesser midweek opponents, going 1-2 in three one-run Wednesday games during the first half of the season.

But Wednesday, against North Dakota State, the Gophers decided to shake the habit in a big way.

Gaudy offense and stingy pitching earned Minnesota (19-14, 7-5 Big Ten) a 17-2 win over the Division II Bison in front of 267 at Siebert Field.

“I think the guys were a little disappointed that we haven’t played better on Wednesdays,” coach John Anderson said. “So I think there was a little more bounce in our step, in a sense.”

Luke MacLean’s first career grand slam and Andy Hunter’s two home runs highlighted the Gophers’ second-highest offensive output of the season.

They beat Iowa 19-7 on March 27.

Six different pitchers toed the rubber for Minnesota. Cole DeVries started and pitched 2 2/3 innings before Tim Theis came in and pitched 2 1/3 for the win.

Regular starter Matt Loberg, who has seen some rough outings of late, got two outs in the top of the sixth inning, but took a line drive off his right elbow on the second out.

Anderson said after the game that the elbow was swollen but nothing further was known.

“It seems like when things don’t go your way, it just comes in bunches,” Anderson said.

But for almost all the other Gophers, things went their way.

The Bison (21-19) scored first when right fielder Kole Zimmerman doubled in leadoff hitter Jeremiah Piepkorn from third base to make the score 1-0.

After Gophers shortstop Matt Fornasiere’s fourth home run of the season evened the score at one in the bottom of the first, it was all Minnesota.

Andy Hunter added a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the third, but the floodgates opened in the fifth.

Minnesota batted around in the bottom of the fifth, manufacturing six runs with four singles and two doubles. One of those doubles went to starting second baseman Dan Thompson, who earned his first and second RBIs of the season with the hit.

After the Gophers added two runs in the sixth, MacLean stepped to the plate in the seventh with no outs and the bases loaded. His grand slam over the left-field fence was the third home run of his career.

“I was just looking for a pitch to drive and get the run in from third,” MacLean said. “(Bison pitcher Josh Lambert) hung a change-up for me. I just tried to put a good swing on it and get it up in the air.”

Hunter’s second homer – a solo shot three batters later -brought the final tally to 17-2.

Hunter said the game was a nice “stat-padder.” But he said it was also good for the team to assert itself on Wednesday and use the game as a springboard for this weekend’s series at Northwestern.

“When you get it going, it has the feel of a normal game,” Hunter said. “We’ve had some midweek games early here that have been closer than they should have been.

“Obviously, it got out of hand a little bit, but at that point, you just stay with it and try to play the game as it comes to you.”